It was the day after Ayrton Senna had been so tragically killed at Imola, so understandably the folks from McLaren weren’t exactly bubbling with joy. They all still had a huge soft spot for Ayrton, despite him not having driven for McLaren for a while.
At 200mph+ the F1 also had a peculiar and slightly worrying desire to turn left when you backed away from the throttle…
But this particular test had taken literally years to set up, so we all got on with it as best we could. For the next three days we drove the wheels off the then brand new McLaren F1 – up to and across the North Yorkshire moors and back, along the Millbrook mile straight, down the 2.2-mile runway at Bruntingthorpe and over as many great roads that we could find in between.
Gordon Murray joined us for the second and third nights, Jonathan Palmer was present the entire time; it was his job to demonstrate and ultimately sell the F1 to its would-be owners. And at one point there were at least 8 staff from Autocar magazine in attendance, hoping for a go behind the wheel of what was then the most incredible car the world had ever seen.
What I remember most about driving the F1 was the raw, and frankly ridiculous level of acceleration it generated, and the noise its V12 engine made in the mid to high ranges. The induction hammer was almost deafening, but was also 100 per cent wonderful to listen to.
Oh yes, and at 200mph+ the F1 also had a peculiar and slightly worrying desire to turn left when you backed away from the throttle, which we discovered at the end of the runway at Bruntingthorpe, where the F1 hit 211mph.
Gordon Murray later put it down to this particular F1’s rear wing needing a bit more development, and he said something else about the centre of pressure changing too quickly over 200mph, which few of us understood much about. All we knew was that we’d driven, and fully road tested, the fastest car in the magazine’s history.
At the time we all thought, we genuinely believed, that the F1 was it, and that no one anywhere would ever make a faster road car. Never. And now look where we all are..