‘The McMurtry Spéirling points to a whole new take on how we should go racing’

McMurtry’s record run up the Goodwood hill fired Meaden’s imagination

Dickie Meaden opinion

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t attend last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. To be honest I’ve been so many times I didn’t think I’d miss it. And I was correct. Right up until I glanced at social media and saw the McMurtry Spéirling’s manic run up the super-tricky hill climb course.

Not since Nick Heidfeld’s record-shattering run in a skittish, wailing McLaren F1 car have I been so completely blown away by what I’ve seen. I must have watched the footage of Max Chilton’s incredible drive a hundred times since, yet it still leaves me breathless. Oh, how I wish I’d been standing at the edge of the course to see it punch by, nailed to the narrow strip of tarmac by fan-assisted downforce and trailed by a hazy rooster tail of dust and exclamations from the gobsmacked crowd. 

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of this column, I tend to have a somewhat Grinch-like attitude towards fast EVs, but I’m utterly smitten by the Spéirling. In fact, I love it all the more because you simply couldn’t conceive, design and package a car like that if it used an internal-combustion powertrain. 

> McMurtry Spéirling fan car claims Goodwood FoS hillclimb record

As such it’s an antidote to the way in which fast road and competition EVs have been pitched to people like us thus far. Even VW’s wild, all-conquering ID.R was rather predictable – very much the case of a big manufacturer crushing the life out of an opportunity through sheer weight of investment and engineering resource. 

By contrast McMurtry and its Spéirling epitomise a modest yet no less mighty approach. One in which the brilliance of an innovative idea and the energy of a small team of tenacious engineers can seemingly come out of nowhere to create something genuinely mind-blowing. 

Until now my main issue with EV hypercars has consistently been that they’re almost always big, dumb and dead behind the eyes. Repeating the same old supercar tropes with way more power, blink-of-an-eye acceleration times and exorbitant asking prices just seems a bit dumb. Especially when the reason we’re all being forced to accept electric is the pursuit of zero carbon emissions. Whatever your view on climate change and the car’s contribution to it, sticking to such hackneyed profligacy is anathema to that aim. The Spéirling is a shining example of how it should be done.

McMurtry’s ‘moment’ at Goodwood felt pivotal to me, because it genuinely seems to spearhead a shift in how the future of fast and – crucially – fun cars could be shaped. Seeing such a minnow unleash an idea that simultaneously excites us and tests our ability to embrace, or at least explore, a new way of approaching how to have fun in fast cars feels hugely exciting. 

The Spéirling points to a whole new take on how we should go racing or tackle trackdays. If you’re lucky enough to have a weekend fun car, it also informs how we could continue to relish those just-for-the-hell-of-it drives we currently enjoy in our ICE cars.

McMurtry Spéirling

Of course, the little car that smashed Goodwood’s hill record to smithereens is a creation of remarkable extremes, but the notion of a small car that is capable of extraordinary things is really not different to what the Lotus/Caterham Seven has been doing for more than half a century.

What I love about the brand that McMurtry is fast creating is its originality and authenticity. The Spéirling is such a credible (and incredible!) car I find myself wondering what their take on a Seven would be. Calm things down a bit from the 1000bhp/1000kg bullet that stole the show at FoS and you could still have something with amazing performance. Half that power in the same machine would be a Caterham R500 equivalent, which is still crazy fast on the road.

I’m imagining something with a removable bubble canopy so you could drive with or without a roof. I’d like two sets of wheels – one for road tyres, one for trackday slicks. I’m also thinking an adaptation of the Spéirling’s ‘downforce on demand’ fan system that could be switched off to give you more playful Caterham-like handling when driving on the road, but switched on for face-distorting cornering G on trackdays. Most importantly I’m imagining one in my garage.

Sadly it’s unlikely McMurtry’s nascent road car will be affordable for mere mortals, though perhaps they can surprise us, just as they wasted no time in stripping VW of its short-held FoS hill record. I’d love to think I could own a McMurtry-badged sports car one day (whatever form it might take), but the very fact I aspire to have one has reminded me that falling in love with a car should have nothing to do with its powertrain and everything to do with its passion and execution. 

To everyone involved in the Spéirling project, congratulations for capturing that lightning in a bottle. You’ve taken a record, but given us hope. 

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