Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was on hand to officially open this years Toronto AutoShow. An early stop on his show tour was at the McLaren stand, in association with Pfaff Automotive Partners. The Mayor sat in the 2013 McLaren supercar, but at $355,000, he may need to check his piggy bank.
The stand was hosted by Horst Bulau,former Olympic ski-jumper and now McLaren sales executive: “We are the new kids on the block.” he said. “In seeking to establish a new road car brand, all publicity is welcome.”
The dazzling C12 red carbonfibre spyder and silver coupe cars on display have had an encouraging start in Canada, selling one a week in 2012 across the nation, matched against Ferrari in the supercar market. Initial teething troubles with electronic issues and the satnav system have been overcome and a more powerful engine has improved the balance of the car. Writing in Motor Sport Andrew Frankel says: “.. as a supercar to go head-to-head with the best that Ferrari can offer, I’d say it is now and at last supremely fit for purpose.”
Ron Dennis, boss of McLaren, long dreamt of establishing a British-built presence in the sports car market, with a reputation to match their World Championship racing pedigree. Legend has it that Dennis is the ultimate neat freak, insisting in the early days that the screwheads on the team-truck shelving must all be aligned. He also saw to it that his crew were turned out in freshly-laundered matching team kit. Not for him the ‘oily-rag’ image of the nineteen fifties.
This attracted sponsors to McLaren who have long shown how it should be ‘done right’ in the racing game. McLaren was founded fifty years ago by the brilliant New Zealander Bruce McLaren, who was a regular competitor at Mosport in the sixties, before he was sadly killed in 1970 in a testing accident at Goodwood, England.
A key part of the McLaren road car story is the involvement of Ricardo, the engine builder based in Shoreham, Sussex, England. The M838T, the 12C’s 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 puts out over 600 horsepower. Ricardo built a turnkey state-of-the-art factory to supply the McLaren motor. Meanwhile back at the McLaren HQ in Woking, Surrey, Ron Dennis has had the factory interior painted white throughout so that any dirt will show up immediately.
If success on the track helps to sell the road cars then McLaren did not have a banner year in Formula 1 in 2012. Mistakes in the pits and mechanical failures cost McLaren dearly, leading to a falling out between Ron Dennis and his star driver Lewis Hamilton, who opted to sign for Mercedes for 2013. Jenson Button leads the team this year, bringing smarts and experience, if not ultimate pace. Button is newly domiciled in Monaco where he is seen out training on his bicycle.
Former F1 driver Mark Blundell will return to the track this year with a McLaren 12C in the British GT series, driving for United Autosport.
A racing presence builds the brand image and is a valuable source of customers when moving the McLaren metal.
Written by Rupert Lloyd Thomas