Featured: Inside The McLaren Technology Centre: My Trip To Woking

Inside The McLaren Technology Centre: My Trip To Woking

Ted Gushue By Ted Gushue
February 3, 2016
8 comments

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

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Saeed Abu-JaberVincent ChiaroTed GushueStephen StuartMatthew Lange Recent comment authors
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saeed.abujaber@gmail.com
saeed.abujaber@gmail.com

Hello!

Great article Ted, and beautiful pictures.

I am in love with the first picture, the Yardley McLaren close up and was wondering if it is in any way possible to get a hi res copy so as to print it and hang it in my living room, its a beautiful picture, I am a graphic designer so the whole typography/colors are very much my kind of eye candy.

Thank you!!

Vincent Chiaro
Vincent Chiaro

Great writeup! I also had the pleasure of receiving a tour there but not by Bruce’s daughter. 🙂 It was an incredible experience and something I’ll continue to tell my children about when they get older. When I did my tour, it was while the P1 was in production and some of them were just starting to be delivered to customers. We got to go down on the assembly line for an upclose view. Massively inspiring to see and talk to some of the technicians working on these cars. I can’t remember whose car we happened to be looking at… Read more »

Stephen Stuart
Stephen Stuart

Not to be picky, but i am not sure that James Hunt would have “torn around” with Bruce… James didn’t drive for McLaren until 6 years after Bruce died…

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

I live a couple of miles from the MTC so my main thoughts on the place are cursing the traffic it generates on my commute to work. At least the traffic is occasionally punctuated by a new McLaren out on test or an F1 heading to the MSO department for servicing. That being said I was invited to show the Daytona at the McLaren employee car show a few years ago (notourious Ferrari hater Ron Dennis was out of the country apparently). We got to go round the MTC although not the guided tour Ted got. The car we were… Read more »

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

Nice place.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

The McLaren Technology Center .. along with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios are amongst the finest modern architecture to be found in the UK . The cars at the MTC are an absolute joy to behold . Whats coming out of there of late though … both on track and off are a completely different story . Sad … with such a glorious past at their fingertips … how the mighty have fallen hard of late .Or as I’ve said many times when it comes to the F1 vs the current MP4/12C derivatives … With all the lessons the McLaren… Read more »

Andrew Salt
Andrew Salt

For me that would have been a sensory overload experience. Amanda would have had to wheel me out on a stretcher.