EXPERIENCIALLY PURE

EXPERIENCIALLY PURE

What’s it like to drive a luxury McLaren? The car was meant for both road and track, according to our automotive expert Michael Satterfield of TheGentlemanRacer.com, who takes it for a spin in the Pure McLaren experience.

 

 

Photography courtesy of TheGentlemanRacer.com

British supercar maker McLaren hosts driving events for McLaren owners at some of the most exclusive racetracks in the world, from the Belgium countryside of Spa-Francorchamps to the legendary Mount Panorama of Bathurst to the Circuit of the Americas. Home of the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Circuit of the Americas is one of the most exciting and challenging tracks in the world. Pure McLaren, the official track driving program of McLaren Automotive, allows owners to not only drive their car around a race track, but also gives them focused, in-car instruction with professional racing drivers so they can better understand how to maximize the performance of their McLaren.

Recently, I was invited by Pirelli to take part in a one day Pure McLaren experience, where I would be handed the controls of the track-focused 600LT. Not only would I learn more about the car but also  receive some much-needed seat time on one of my favorite tracks I have ever driven. Pirelli is the official tire supplier for McLaren, producing unique tires that are co-developed between Pirelli and McLaren to make sure they are the perfect fit for each car.

Upon arrival, I can tell this isn’t the typical track day, as a McLaren Senna is parked out front across from a 570S GT4 along with several other supercars. The VW Jetta press car I was driving was nice, but it did look slightly out of place next to the new Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 458 Pista. Walking into what is usually a garage at the track (I just recently toured these garages for the Formula 1 Grand Prix), was now a very well-appointed lounge and check-in desk. I registered and received a quick briefing on the schedule of events, and noted my next activity was lunch. Lunch was served in a suite overlooking the track. At the same time, the morning session was still out running, and the over one-million-dollar Senna, which belongs to local Austinite Josh Snowhorn, was being prepped to go out on the track that afternoon. Seeing a Senna in the wild is rare, but seeing one being tracked hard by its owner is truly amazing.

After our meal, we were directed to the driver’s meeting, where we were told that due to an accident earlier that week, there would be two chicanes added on the long back straight. That meant I wouldn’t be getting near the 201 mph top speed of the 600LT Coupe I would be driving. Back downstairs, the cars were lined up on pit row, 570S, 600LT, and 720S, as well as a few customer-owned cars like the Senna. I met my driving instructor, found a helmet, and off I went. The 600LT Coupe, 592 hp, paddle-shifted, rear-wheel-drive, is a beast. The first 600LT I drove was at the Arizona Motorsports Park (the Spider), but I had recently driven the 600LT Coupe in Dallas and loved the raw race car feel that it had, even on the street.

The first few laps I drove were to get used to the car and track, I could put it in manual mode, but had to keep on the traction control and driver aids. After warming up, I got up to speed, hitting 145-150 mph in the straights, although the chicanes cut down on the top speed we could achieve. Unlike some track days at Pure McLaren, you can pass (with permission), and soon I was getting the signal to pass some of the other cars in the group. Even though it was just an owner’s track day, there is something exciting about overtaking another vehicle, especially on a Formula 1 track. I would have several stints behind the wheel, alternating with another driver.

With each lap, I was getting faster, learning the track, and being coached on the perfect line. While we weren’t allowed to keep lap times since we weren’t technically racing, I don’t have any official times, but we definitely shaved several seconds off my first few laps. After my last round of driving, I swapped seats with the pro to see how I should have been driving the car, harder and in anger. The 600LT had so much more to give, but it’s a challenge to get comfortable when you are racing around a track in someone else’s $240,000 car. After wrapping up my session, a P1 GTR in James Hunt livery was pulled around for some special rides, and the GT4 cars were also coming out of the garages. McLaren, a maker of some of the most exclusive and expensive cars in the world, manages to have events that don’t feel pretentious and stuffy. It has staffed their company with genuine car enthusiasts who are passionate about their brand, and it shows.

If you are a McLaren owner and would like to see when the next Pure McLaren experience is happening near you, visit Cars.McLaren.com.

FROM THE TOP DOWN

FROM THE TOP DOWN

Just in time for summer, the new Vantage Roadster offers plenty of fun for the luxury driving enthusiast. Join our curious car seeker Michael Satterfield of GentlemanRacer.com, as he gets behind the wheel and channels his inner James Bond.

BE YOUR OWN 007

When Daniel Craig, as 007 James Bond, gets behind the wheel of an Aston Martin  in the film, No Time To Die, you know that adventure is just up the road, literally. Like the film, a spin in an Aston Martin is a thrill a minute.

So it’s no surprise that Aston Martin just dropped the top on their most obtainable car with the release of the 2020 Vantage Roadster. Joining the Vantage Coupe, which has been exhilarating drivers since 2018, the Vantage Roadster rings in the 70th anniversary of the Vantage nameplate, the latest in a long line of open-air sports cars offered by the iconic British marquee.

Power for the Roadster comes from the same 503hp, 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission that can be found in the Coupe. With a 0-60mph time of just 3.7seconds and a top speed of 190mph, the Roadster won’t fall far behind its hardtop sibling thanks to a weight-saving Z-fold roof and extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber.

Shedding the roof didn’t cost the Vantage Roadster any of its sporting pedigree, retaining the same dynamic driver controls and chassis/powertrain modes found in the Coupe, but specially tuned for the new Roadster. Meaning that the Vantage Roadster can pull double duty as a comfortable daily driver and exotic performance car, changing personalities at the flip of a switch.

TOP DOWN EXCITEMENT

For those daily driving needs, the top frame has been designed to take up minimal space, allowing top down motoring while still fitting a full-sized golf bag and accessories in the trunk.

Aston Martin President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Andy Palmer, said of the Vantage Roadster, “Open-top Aston Martins are always firm favorites with our customers, so it’s very exciting to introduce the Vantage Roadster. For many, driving with the roof down is the true definition of the sportscar experience as it truly brings your senses to life. Vantage has always delivered the purest of thrills, but in Roadster form that adrenaline rush is set to go to the next level.”

For 2020 Aston has  introduced the iconic Aston Martin vane grille as an option on both the Coupe and the Roadster, giving buyers a more refined option over the track-inspired “hunter” grill that has been with the car since 2018. There is also a new range of optional wheel designs, and for the true sports car enthusiasts, an optional 7-speed manual transmission is offered in the Coupe.

The recommended retail price of the Vantage Roadster starts at $161,000, with deliveries scheduled  beginning this spring. So, what are you waiting for?

COLLECTIBLE COOL

COLLECTIBLE COOL

The ultimate driving machine, before there was such a term for it, was the Rolls Royce. Here, our roving editor Michael Satterfield takes a spin in the instant classic that remains true to its pedigree to this day. Off we go…

Photography courtesy of Park Place Rolls Royce

ICONIC STATUS

The 1970s and 1980s was a time of incredible change, when the microchip revolution, mobile phones, and cable networks revolutionized the world and created countless newly minted millionaires. When most think of the luxury cars of that era, the decade of excess, they immediately think of the Lamborghini Countach. To project style and sophistication, however, it was the Rolls-Royce Corniche, preferably the convertible variant, that won favor. The Rolls-Royce motto is The best car in the world, and if you ever have the chance to drive one, you will quickly understand why they are willing to stake that claim.

The Corniche was an icon long before the 80s, first sold in 1966 as the Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward two-door drophead coupé. Rolls-Royce would make it a standalone model in 1971, giving it a new, much shorter name. The Corniche, named after the Grand Corniche road along the French Riviera, owes its longevity in part to its regal and timeless design, which remained nearly unchanged until the end of its production in 1995…and also attributed to Rolls-Royce’s reputation for reliability. A highly modified Corniche coupe even competed in the grueling Paris-Dakar Rally in 1981. It was, of course, sponsored by Christian Dior’s Jules aftershave, introduced in 1980, as a high profile marketing promotion. The Corniche would also make appearances on popular television series of the era like Magnum PI, MacGyver and, yes, Dallas.

With the Corniche being such a pop culture icon, it was natural that the car would often be driven by the rich and famous. Celebrities like Michael Caine, Frank Sinatra, and Zsa Zsa Gabor all owned Corniche convertibles. Even today, 25 years after the last Corniche was assembled at Mulliner Park Ward, celebrities like Celine Dion, Sean Combs, and Lady Gaga have been spotted driving classic Corniche convertibles. Who could resist, then or now?

 

TIMELESS APPEAL

The Corniche is now considered a collector’s car, so I reached out to Kyle Crews, a car collector from Dallas who happens to own a beautiful Nutmeg and Tan 1973 Corniche convertible. The car has just 21,000 original miles and was purchased from the estate of the original owner. It sat for several years, so a light restoration was required, mainly just servicing belts and hoses. In fact, the interior was reupholstered in the original Connolly leather, so it looks and smells like new again. Crews even had the original 8-track tape player restored to perfect working order, keeping the car as true to its factory specifications as possible. Getting 8-track tapes would prove the real challenge.

“To me, the Corniche represents the best of the hand-built Rolls-Royce automobiles,” said Kyle Crews. “The styling is timeless. For a heavy car, it handles wonderfully, and although the earlier Corniches had some engineering quirks, if you understand the personality of the cars and maintain them properly, they will run forever.”

Driving a Corniche with the top down on a pleasant day when it’s not too hot–or too cool–to enjoy the open ride is indeed magical. The steering is surprisingly responsive, the ride is smooth, and the power is as Rolls-Royce intended it, adequate. For a car that is nearly 50 years old, much like someone who has maintained their physical appearance, it still has a regal look and a presence that is undeniable.