With it’s center driving position, 627hp BMW V12 motor, and true three-pedal manual transmission, the McLaren F1 is arguably one of the most driver-focused production cars ever built. The car cemented itself into the history books on March 31, 1998, when former Le Mans winner, Andy Wallace, got behind the wheel and set a blistering top speed world record of 240.14mph at the famous VW proving grounds (also known as the Ehra-Lessien).
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of that monumental achievement, McLaren decided to reveal previously unseen behind the scenes footage from the record-setting runs. It’s one thing to see the final result saying “McLaren F1 sets a world record with a top speed of 240mph,” but it’s more interesting to see how it all came together. It makes you appreciate how difficult it is to push supercars into unknown territory. For example, in order to reach the record speed, engineers had to remove the rev limiter to get an additional 1,000 RPM out of the engine.
The F1 was so far ahead of it’s time that the record it set would remain untouched until Bugatti and Koenigsegg released the Veyron and CCR in 2005. It’s worth noting that the Veyron had 1,001hp, and the CCR had 806hp coming from their forced induction engines. The F1 “only” had 627hp coming from a naturally aspirated 6.1L V12 sourced from BMW. Although, the F1 was the first production car to utilize a carbon fiber monocoque chassis and other high-tech and expensive materials like kevlar, titanium, and even an ounce of gold in every car built. This resulted in a curb weight of just 2,425lbs which, would feel like a go cart compared to the 4,300lb Veyron.
Richard Hammond and the Stig had a mile long drag race between the more powerful Veyron and the F1. The Veyron won the race, but only on the top end. Had it been a half mile race the F1 clearly had it beat. The point being that the F1 was a special kind of supercar and truly one of a kind. I remember first hearing about it reaching 240mph and thinking how amazing it must’ve felt to be behind the wheel with your right foot to the floor as you push the car into the uncharted waters over 220mph. Since experiencing it firsthand isn’t going to happen, at least not yet, the next best thing is to live vicariously through Andy Wallace on that record setting day.