27 things Gordon Murray told us about the T.50 | Top Gear
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27 things Gordon Murray told us about the T.50

Everything you need to know about his McLaren F1 successor, in his own words

  1. It’s the first true successor to the McLaren F1

    “I don't think anybody truly understood the McLaren F1 formula. And I don't think anybody's done a McLaren F1 since the F1. Honestly, I really don't. It's for lots of reasons, the most logical one is that it was absolutely a clean sheet of paper car. Nothing was carry over, and one of the reasons why it became iconic is that every component is engineering art. And as light as it could be.

    “If you're Ferrari or McLaren, or even the smaller guys like Koenigsegg or Pagani, you've already got a powertrain, you've got driveshafts, you've got an engine, a gearbox, you've got hub carriers, wheel bearings, wishbones, an air-con system. If you want to do a new car and you want it to be commercially successful, you're going to use all that stuff.

    “OK, the Aston Martin Valkyrie is bespoke, but its targets are so totally opposite. The Valkyrie is designed to beat a F1 car or go around the circuit quicker than anybody else. Full stop.”

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  2. The McLaren Speedtail almost killed it

    "We almost stopped the whole project when McLaren announced the Speedtail. I got the team together, we'd only just come up with the concept, and McLaren announced a three-seater, central driving position sports car. I told them ‘be prepared to stop because McLaren is surrounded by F1s, they have the template right in front of them, they can sit in it, drive it, measure it, scale it.’ And then when we saw it. We went ‘fine’, the project's on again because it couldn't be more different."

  3. The T50 is benchmarked against his Alpine A110

    "For the F1 we benchmarked the Honda NSX because that was the best ride and handling compromise I'd ever driven at that point. Up until now, the best handling car I'd ever driven was a Lotus Evora - that's including all the supercars - and then I bought my Alpine and it's even better.

    "So we benchmarked that, put it on the rig and measured torsional rigidity. It's fantastic to drive - passive dampers, coil springs, double wishbone suspension and an absolute rigid focus on weight. I wish I had a manual 'box and it'd even better."

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  4. The design is all about purity

    "I'm getting a little bit sick and tired of these supercars that appear with huge holes in the side and back - the BMW i8 was the first one - and they tell you it's all about moving air from here to there. Give me a break, really.

    "I wanted to get back to something like the F1. You know it's 30 years old when you see it, but it's retained a certain balance, it's proportions are good. It's aged, but it's aged gracefully. This time around the proportions are the same, because the architecture is identical. Actually, it's 15mm wider for crash regs and it's 60mm longer, but it's still a smaller footprint than a 911 and I've managed to keep it clean."

  5. Gordon’s Cosworth V12 has nothing to do with the Valkyrie’s Cosworth V12

    “Ours has nothing to do with the Valkyrie engine (pictured) whatsoever, apart from fantastic background knowledge. I went out to three people for the motor and we went with Cosworth. I’ve worked with them before, my first Grand Prix win was Cosworth, and after doing the Valkyrie they must have learned a hell of a lot. So we’ve got the next generation. It’s got a lot more titanium in it, it’s 60kg lighter than the F1’s engine.

    “If you want to boast that you’ve got one horsepower per kilogram, you need a big engine, and electric motors and batteries, and suddenly you’ve got a 1,250kg car. And then you need wider tyres, and bigger brakes, and bigger driveshafts. Keeping things light is a virtuous circle.”

  6. It will be comfier than you think

    "The F1 is quite soft, I bet the natural frequency is below most fast German saloon cars these days. The T.50 is also very compliant. I mean the F1 is basically a Sports GT - it's got luggage space, air-con, it's got a sound system. The T.50 will be the same.

    "I'm hoping people are going to be using this car properly because it's got more luggage space than the F1, a bit more cabin volume, a bit more interior stowage, better air con, better lights, better brakes, better gear change. I've tried to make it do everything the F1 did but slightly better."

  7. When Gordon explains aero, it makes sense…

    "One of the problems with any downforce, whether it's fixed wings or ground effect, is the downforce goes up with the square of speed. So something like a Valkyrie is going to have to run hugely stiff springs to just support itself at 170mph.

    "So really where you want the downforce is having fun at 70, 80, 90mph, and when you get to 150mph or so you actually want to bleed it off because you just get uncomfortable. You're down on the bump stops. You've got no ride height left. And then at 200mph it's ridiculous. Any one of the supercars suffers from the same thing.

    "So to counter that we've got a reasonable amount of downforce, but we can enhance it or lose it with the fan. That's the basic premise. So in auto mode, when the fan's off, you've just got a conventional ground effect car like McLaren, Ferrari or Aston.

    "The other auto mode is braking - we monitor car speed and deceleration and when it decides you need assistance, the wings pop up to 45 degrees. And the fan spools up to maximum speed, about 3000rpm, and valves in the diffuser open. That removes all the dirty air, the boundary line, which forces the air to follow this really aggressive diffuser. And that's boundary load control, that's the trick, and we double the downforce. Braking from 150mph that means you can stop 10m shorter, which is a hell of a lot."

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