Not necessarily McLaren’s prettiest car, but those dramatic scoops and wings are all about setting quick lap times. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Not necessarily McLaren’s prettiest car, but those dramatic scoops and wings are all about setting quick lap times. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The first two South African-owned McLaren Sennas have arrived on local soil and were unveiled at Daytona’s soon-to-be-completed new showroom at Melrose Arch last week.

Only eight Sennas are coming to SA — two of them being the track-only GTR iteration of which only 75 are being built around the world.

“The Senna is the ultimate track car that’s still (just) road legal, and that’s why we named it after the greatest Formula One (F1) driver of them all,” said Jolyon Nash, McLaren’s executive director of global sales and marketing, who attended the SA launch.

The Senna has been developed with the single-minded purpose of being the ultimate McLaren track-concentrated car for the road: legalised for road use, but not sanitised to suit it.

The car is named in honour of late Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, who won all three of his F1 driver’s championships and 35 Grands Prix between 1988 and 1993 with the McLaren team.

The two-seater supercar is the most extreme road car McLaren has built and the latest model in the McLaren Ultimate Series, with an aggressive appearance epitomising McLaren’s “form follows function” design philosophy.

The mid-engined coupe is largely based on the McLaren 720S, but powered by a tweaked version of the 4.0l twin-turbo V8 boosted to produce 588kW of power and 800Nm of torque, feeding the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Along with its claimed 340km/h top speed, the Senna can achieve the 0-100km/h sprint in 2.8 seconds and, perhaps even more remarkably, reach 300km/h in just 18.8 seconds.

The active rear wing works in conjunction with active front aero blades. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The active rear wing works in conjunction with active front aero blades. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

McLaren’s main focus was to achieve faster lap times, and the Senna utilises a lightweight design along with extreme aerodynamic elements and RaceActive Chassis Control II for improved downforce. A carbon-fibre monocage chassis and carbon body panels are integral in making the McLaren Senna the lightest road car McLaren has built since the iconic F1, at 1,198kg.

The aero tweaks include a large adjustable double-element rear wing that’s operated electronically and also acts as an airbrake, a double-element diffuser, an F1-inspired roof scoop, front and side air intakes, and rear air louvres. With its active front and rear aerodynamics, the car generates up to 800kg of downforce.

The innovative new RaceActive Chassis Control II hydraulic suspension system works in harmony with the active aerodynamics, with a Race mode that increases roll stiffness and reduces ride height to lower the centre of gravity.

 The interior consists largely of exposed carbon fibre and Alcantara. Behind the two seats is room large enough for two helmets and race suits, reflecting the car's track-focused design. 

“The McLaren Senna has an uncompromised performance focus, honed to ensure the purest possible connection between driver and machine and deliver the ultimate track driving experience,” said Mike Flewitt, McLaren Automotive’s CEO.

Production of the £750,000 (R13.5m) Senna is limited to 500 units, all to be hand assembled at the McLaren Production Centre from Q3 2018 — and all have already been allocated to customers.