In the early days of sports car races, competitors would drive their cars on public roads to the track, fight at high speed, and then (hopefully) the same vehicle would take the driver to a festive dinner. In retrospect, this was the ultimate test of a man and his machine, as both had to perform in two arenas.
Such a nostalgic getaway is what I planned for the new McLaren 620R, the first car in its class to deliver true motorsport credentials in a fully road legal package. I would drive her on the freeways of the southern California coast to a race track in the desert.
I have a bit of a history with the brand (finishing third at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 in the original McLaren FTGTR), so I tend to look at their impressive street machines in terms of ultimate performance, not just in terms of performance. terms of lust. worthy collectibles. Thanks to the automaker’s formidable Formula 1 program, a torrent of technology is being tested on the world’s most prominent stage, some of which then find a second home on these road missiles.
Based on their multiple championship-winning GT4 race cars, the McLaren 620R has taken all the best elements and repackaged them into a road-to-race variant that doesn’t have to comply with any competition restrictions. Simply put, that means he’s technically faster than those racing at Le Mans.
As I walked out of Los Angeles, I laughed at the looks the 620R was getting from everyone. My devilishly flashy car came in McLaren Orange with white racing stripes and a WTF sized rear spoiler. Sometimes I wish I could have flashed a sign that said “on my way to a race track, so don’t judge”. But let’s be honest, in today’s age of hypercars, supercars, concept cars, and virtual cars, the exaggerated functional aerodynamics and overall vibe of the 620R are quite relevant.
My destination was Thermal, the amazing members-only driver’s club just outside of Palm Springs. I was lucky enough to have access to their world class facilities for a few turns which is a good thing as this rocket needs space to take off.
Being fair, road riding quickly shifted to comfort mode, almost casual in its absorption of bumps and the way the steering returned the surfaces of the road. It was so easy I almost forgot I was in one of the fastest production cars in the world. Well, there was a constant reminder: the stripped down interior of a race car with its carbon fiber racing seats, the lack of carpeting and cup holders, and anticipatory energy flowing through the cabin. . The ride was a bit like a tough dinner with a hot date to get to the fun part.
The Thermal team welcomed the 620R and myself, and with the tire pressure set for a track session, I turned the two center dials to their sport mode setting (one for handling, the other for the powertrain) and let the car effortlessly transform from a road car to a race car.
A bit of a caveat here: The moment I put a racing helmet in a car on a track, I raise my expectations for the experience. And boy, boy, as I became the first left-hander to come out of the pits, I knew Lassie was home. At every turn the corners were extremely tight and the car took on a confidence-inspiring set, allowing me to go on the throttle without hesitation as I tried to tease her into making a mistake. The return of the steering wheel was engaging and matched the energy of my inputs and pressure, especially as I stepped out of the left hairpin tight. Mechanical grip and traction control allowed me to crush the throttle on the exit, and as I threw myself into particularly difficult axles at high speeds, the balance of aerodynamic performance inspired absolute confidence. I really had the feeling that unless you abuse the laws of physics, the 620R has a grip threshold that most people will outweigh their bravery to go to that limit!
The 7-speed SSG gearbox is indeed transparent as advertised, and as I was screaming through the gears in the straights, all 611 BHP, I wanted to scream at myself to match it! It’s not that the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 is unusually loud. This is more than the effect is amplified by the frequency of delivery and the fact that the prominent roof shovel forces the air with a huge hiss just behind your head.
It’s all well and good to take off like a scalded cat, but if you can’t stop the car, regain your balance, and execute a quick corner entry to the next corner, that’s just for the show. This is what makes the 620R’s stopping power so impressive. With technology shared with the Senna, the carbon-ceramic rotors have an aggressively soft feel that translates into the ability to modulate input speed to the perfect spot to release the brakes and maintain high speed at mid-range. -coin, which is always the goal.
Lap after lap in the afternoon desert sun, with temperatures soaring outside, everything about the 620R remained cool. This is thanks to the aggressive aerodynamic package which not only helps downforce by cleaning the air as it passes over the car, but also forces it where it is most needed in the ducts. engine and brake cooling. Admit it, I was the only sweaty component in the package, but loved every second. If I hadn’t promised McLaren that I would return the car with a relatively decent rubber, I would still be on this track.
McLaren only sells 225 copies of the 620R worldwide, of which 70 are destined for the United States. If you can get your hands on one, you can start at $ 278,445. It’s definitely not for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. Instead, it’s a statement of uncompromising technology and performance that will take you to a very special place. That is, if you are up to it. So you deserve to take him home like a champ.
Justin Bell, a former racing driver, won the GT2 class at Le Mans in 1998 and the GT2 World Championship in 1997. Today he is the host of “The Torque Show” and various web and television shows. on auto racing.