It was back in August last year when I took a couple of days off from a hectic Speedhunting schedule to unwind and reset my brain. Since I was in the area, it would have been rude not to use the familiar surroundings of Nürburg village as my base for a few days…
The Nürburgring and the area surrounding it is beyond superlatives. It is the most important motoring region in the world. Staying at the Lindner Hotel with a room that opened out onto the Green Hell itself, I spent the morning relaxing on the balcony, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the day. It was the sounds that day in particular that caught my attention. Throughout the course of the morning, the sound of a high revving combustion engine echoed around the hills. The sound was unlike anything I had ever heard before or since for that matter.
I’m the sort who struggles to wind down, so after twenty minutes sitting in my room, I took to the roads in an attempt to pass the time before the Nordschleife opened its gates for us tourists. Even on a Monday afternoon, in the middle of August, the Nordschleife is no less intimidating. No photograph or video that I’ve ever seen has accurately portrayed the inclines, descents and off camber nature of the course. I sat trackside at Pflanzgarten for quite a while, just taking things in. The track was quiet save for a camouflaged Civic Type R doing some filming.
With time ticking closer to opening hours, I made my way to the car park at the Nordschleife’s entrance where I found more cars present than I had expected. With around half an hour before the track opened to the public, I parked my car in the shade and headed towards the ticket office to top up my ring card. As I got closer to the office, based beside the barriers which allows entry on to the Nordschleife, I noticed two things. The first was that there was a crowd of people gathered, but I couldn’t see what they were surrounding. It was then that I heard the feint hum of an engine idling. As I got closer, I immediately recognised the distinct nose of McLaren’s latest project, the P1. Not knowing how long the car would be in place, I sprinted back to my own car, grabbed my 5D MKIII and put a 35mm lens on it before rushing through the crowd and started shooting.
The car, being observed by several members of McLaren staff was clearly waiting to head out on track. The driver, was accompanied by a passenger. Whether an engineer or a prospective buyer, I don’t know. All I can say is I was massively jealous of his present situation.
Situations like this can be a little bit awkward. At the time, this was only of maybe two or three P1s in the world, so it would be completely understandable if the present McLaren staff would be a little bit protective of what was a priceless piece of technology. As I edged closer to the car, I was expecting the inevitable tap on the shoulder, but it never came. Judging by the looks on their faces, they were happy to let people get their photographs in. This is a company full of confidence and when the P1 eventually edged out of the pits and vanished up Dottinger Höhe, it was clear why they had nothing to hide.
This could be the most important performance car built to date. Make no mistakes, lap times are irrelevant from the moment you witness one being driven in anger.