Inside The McLaren Technology Centre: My Trip To Woking
It all started off in a typically understated British fashion: “Hey Ted, any chance you might be in London soon? We’d love to have you by the McLaren Technology Centre.”
Damn right I would be interested.
Based just outside of London is one of our star photographers, Nat Twiss, who courageously volunteered to tag along. I negotiated a pickup from Heathrow in exchange for extending the invite to him…and a few dozen Bloody Marys. Sure enough, soon after my direct flight from LAX to LON, I was in his hatchback roaring south-westward toward Woking.
Twenty minutes later, we were at the gate.
“Morning Gentlemen, you’ll be driving around to the Director’s parking lot. [Points at map] Just follow the road around the lake and you can’t miss it. Walk inside and you’ll be meeting with Amanda McLaren. Might remind you that she is Bruce McLaren’s daughter,” explained the moustached gatekeeper.
“Woah,” Nat and I said in unison.
Walking into the McLaren Technology Centre, we were greeted by a single woman with a warm smile. Behind her was an expansive main hall, seemingly devoid of people. The building, for those unfamiliar, was designed by renowned architect Sir Norman Foster in the ’90s. It still looks about a century ahead of its time—somehow both cold and warm, not unlike an Apple Store.
“My name’s Amanda, I’ll be showing you around today.”
The next three hours were spent touring every inch of the facility, but not in the traditional sense of the word “tour”. This was a walkthrough of a life’s history, of many racing careers—filled with personal anecdotes along the way.
“Oh, that’s James’ car. He was such a love. He used to come ’round during the holidays, of course back then I was just a young girl quite keen on horse riding—it didn’t quite hit me ’til later in life just how important he was to the world of motorsport. To me, he was a handsome man with a beaming smile who used to tear around with my Dad,” explained Amanda in front of Mr. Hunt’s M26 Formula 1 car.
The main hall is filled with a chronological exhibit of the most important cars made by McLaren. It starts with the first race car ever touched by Bruce in the ’50s, all the way through last season’s Formula 1 rig. It is, without question, a sight to behold.
Continuing past the main hall delivers a staggering lesson in architectural scale. To your left you’ll find a wind tunnel, to your right a sizable cafeteria (which is sealed off from the rest of facility and filled air moving at a lower pressure to reduce the hunger-inducing waft of food smell.
Every millimetre of the building has been over-thought, over-engineered, over-cared for, and it shows. For instance, you won’t find a single seam on any of the building’s mileage of railings.
That massive wall of windows that looks out over the lake? It’s supported by the same strut designs that were used on the F1 LM’s rear wing. Why? Ron Dennis didn’t like the size of the columns that Sir Norman had designed, so he made them smaller and put McLaren engineers to work on the problem.
It is, in every sense of the word, a ludicrous building.
A very special thanks to Amanda McLaren and the folks in Woking for making this tour possible, and providing us with these lovely images