You can’t get away with naming a car after legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna unless it’s seriously good.
Fortunately for the boffins at McLaren, they knew the Brazilian racer pretty well – he drove for their F1 outfit for five seasons, from 1988-93. Which brings us onto the latest iteration of the Senna GTR, described by the British marque as its “most extreme track car yet”. Is it worthy of Ayrton’s legacy?
Given that Senna is one of the best-loved, most iconic names in motorsport history, that’s a difficult question to answer. But the new version of the car that bears his name is undoubtedly quick, unshackled as it is by road or racing regulations.
By ignoring those pesky rules and focusing solely on performance, McLaren says it has produced its quickest track car ever, with the fairly obvious exception of its F1 cars.
The net result is a faster, lighter and more powerful Senna GTR, fitted with a four-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine capable of kicking out 825 hp. At its lightest, the car tips the scales at 1,188 kg, equating to a staggering power-to-weight ratio of 694 bhp per tonne.
For an eye-opening comparison, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport – recognised by Guinness World Records as the fastest road-legal production car on the planet – delivers a measly 627 bhp per tonne.
But the Senna GTR is oh so much more than just a blunt-force instrument. There’s finesse lurking within, too, with all kinds of technical wizardry aimed at making it accessible to drivers of all abilities (although the price tag of £1.1 million plus taxes might put a few people off).
Indeed, the engineers tasked themselves with allowing 95% of drivers to be able to access 95% of the car’s performance.
One such clever tweak comes in the form of the car’s aero package. The Senna GTR boasts a completely different downforce curve to its goody-two-shoes sibling, the road-legal Senna.
This allows it to generate more than 1,000 kg of downforce (compared to 800 kg on the original Senna). Just as significantly, the GTR is able to access the same level of downforce as its predecessor, yet at 15% lower speeds – all the while still benefiting from reduced drag.
Another enhancement sees the GTR ditch the original Senna’s variable ride control system, which allows the driver to change ride height depending on whether they are on the road or at the track.
Obviously, the GTR won’t be driving on any roads, so in come aluminium double wishbones, springs, uprights and anti-roll bars. The suspension package was developed from the GT3 cars in McLaren’s customer racing programme.
Mike Flewitt, chief executive of McLaren Automotive, describes the Senna GTR as a “perfect example” of the marque’s dedication to providing motorists with the ultimate in track-driving excitement and performance.
“The McLaren Senna was designed from the outset to be an extreme track car, but the 2018 McLaren Senna GTR Concept suggested how much … further we could go,” he adds.
“Now, free from the constraints of road car legislation and motorsport competition rules, we have pushed the limits of what is technically possible to advance circuit driving capability to another level entirely.”