This year marks 25 years since production of the incredible McLaren F1 first started. The carbonfibre hypercar was, and still is, one of the purest and most focused drivers’ cars ever made. Its central driving position, naturally aspirated six-litre V12 and manual gearbox demonstrate that perfectly.
Famously though, the F1 long held the record for the fastest production car, and on the 31st March 1998 at Ehra-Lessien in Germany the car reached a speed of 240.14mph. To celebrate a quarter of a century of the F1, McLaren has released behind-the-scenes footage from the day the record was set.
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The driver for the high-speed runs was Andy Wallace, a man well qualified for the job having won Le Mans 24 Hours, the Daytona 24 Hours three times, the Sebring 12 Hours twice. He later raced the McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans in 1995 and 1996.
Wallace introduces the video and helps explain the situation surrounding the record attempts. He chats about the experience in disbelief, not about what the car was capable of, but he now seems amazed at just how casual he was about the situation. He speaks about how he wouldn’t be so willing to just jump in a car and attempt to break the record now.
His relaxed nature is clear from the period footage. After his first run he asks the engineers for more revs, explaining to them it was limiting the top speed. He also calmly commentates on the runs, announcing the speed as it rises without any drama and histrionics. Dressed in a denim shirt, even his attire is casual. That said, he does stil wear a helmet for the record attempts.
The final run in the video sees the F1 top out at 391kph (242.9mph), and Wallace wryly says ‘But anyway 391’s quite fast, isn’t it?’ As the car starts to slow he then declares his admiration for the F1 saying: ‘I still say this is the best car ever built ever. And will probably never be beaten.’
Its top speed may have been surpassed now, but the F1 is still one of the most captivating and iconic hypercars there has ever been. Given that status, the incredibly high, multi-million pound values of the car today seem almost reasonable.