I know, a silly, liable, and ridiculous statement to make don’t you think? Even more so when you consider who designed and engineered the McLaren F1 and who I am. The brainchild of the brilliant Gordon Murray and the obsessive Ron Dennis.
However, I can’t just be the only one, and I’m sure there are many who think the same. Why?
Because, the McLaren F1 is an unbalanced, fatally flawed super car.
The Overview & Evidence
Indeed, the McLaren F1 has claimed lives. Unfortunately, 3 died in one crash in Germany on an Autobahn when an Executives son, decided it would be a great idea to take the car for a spin with his friends. Unfortunately, the spin ended up being the unfortunate reality of the crash, the car splitting in two pieces and all occupants dead.
Yes, I agree, it is a incredibly fast car, and people just don’t know how to handle it. A 17 year old male is capable of writing off a shopping trolley let alone a car that is capable of 0-60 in 3.2 seconds etc.
This isn’t about speed. It is about design and balance. The speed contributed to the crash of course, no doubt. I don’t dispute that at all, but that’s the end result and culmination, not the root cause.
Rowan Atkinson has had 2 crashes in his. In fact I don’t know if he still has it. Does he? And yes, I know, the propensity of an individual to show off, accelerate when they shouldn’t and get themselves into an awful lot of trouble very quickly is easily done and the cause in most accidents.
Is this was Rowan did, twice? I’m sure there have been many more accidents that have been hushed up. And don’t forget production numbers of these cars were incredibly low. They were supposed to make 200 but ended up making around 150 road cars. So imagine statistically a few crashes or right offs being magnified significantly into larger numbers and that could be catastrophic if it was mass produced.
Yes, again, I know what you’re thinking, what about all the Lambo’s and Ferrari’s that ended up wrapped round trees or lampposts. A valid but superfluous point because Lambo’s and Ferrari’s can be driven by certain types of people in certain ways. Those that bought a McLaren F1’s are proper driving enthusiasts; they are not the type to buy a car just to impress down the golf club.
Look at what happened when Ferrari 458’s caught fire. No one blamed the drivers. It was a design fault where glue in the wheel arch wasn’t temperature resistant to cope and caused a fire.
Conversely although not as much as you may think, when a car splits in two, don’t you think serious questions should be asked as to why? I agree, Enzo’s and others have split into two as well. And designers could argue that this is the design to absorb the impact and preserve the safety cell. With the Enzo’s this has been the case. With the Mclaren F1 it wasn’t the case at all.
The Design & Problem
Ok, I’ve skirted round it long enough, what is the problem? Well, there are contributing factors as to why a driver may feel the car is unforgiving or tank slap happy in a variety of ways. One among these is the central position of the driver. This can be disorientating I accept. And the added weight of passengers can cause a problem, as indeed with any car. But, it is the nature of the cockpit layout, and the orientation and the way the weight is distributed that brings us to the crux of the problem.
McLaren boasted upon the cars inception that it had a very low polar moment of inertia. They triumphed this has a positive handling characteristic. In fact, it is the cars Achilles heel, quite literally. The polar moment of inertia on the car is roughly indicated by the red dot.
In fact it may be a little further forward than that but it doesn’t escape the point. Most cars today have their polar moment of inertia situated over the rear wheels. In essence, the polar moment of inertia carries three vital facts with it. 1) It is the point at which anything can pivot upon it is axis, 2) it is where fundamentally all the weight of the car is focussed and thus 3) it is the cars weakest point.
On the road, this translates into a number of shortcomings’. All of which can be explained further, once McLaren read this and threaten me with court action.
I am not out to cause trouble honest, and I think McLaren are brilliant. Well, they would be if they would relax a little. I am merely pointing out that we all make mistakes, as indeed I may find buy standing up and writing this article. None of my mistakes have so far cost lives. I’m sorry to say the McLaren F1 has an inherent design flaw that has cost lives, and they should have acted upon it.
What about the McLaren F1 GTR ?
The McLaren F1 GTR was longer and had a different polar moment of inertia which contributed to better handling and added more strength further back along the chassis.
Mark Scotchford ©06/06/2013