Today we visited the McLaren Technology Center and I was absolutely amazed! I have seen plenty of pictures of the facility in the past but it was completely different in person. When we signed in at the front gate we were given a special keycard that gave us access into the gate and the doors to get to the lobby. After you walk in through the visitor doors and descend on a spiral staircase, you have to walk down a very long, all-white hallway that goes underneath the building and then take an elevator to the lobby.
The elevator puts you right in the middle of the building, and there are F1 cars on display everywhere! Prost, Senna, Lauda, Hakkinen and Hamilton all have their championship-winning cars displayed in the lobby. From there all of the work bays are glass so you can see everything! Well, almost everything; there were quite a few places we weren't allowed to see and a "secret" floor that only a few people are allowed on. Our 'tour guide' was Jenson Button's head engineer, Jakob Andreasen.
First we saw the gym - probably the nicest gym I've ever been in! We got to try out the "F1 Trainer" which is a machine used to work the neck muscles. It was very cool! From there we got an explanation of how the brake dyno works and got to see them doing tests on different rotors. That was really interesting; the brakes were glowing bright red and were way over 1000 degrees! Right next to the brake dyno we got a sneak peek of the wind tunnel - not the inside, just an outside view, but it was still pretty cool and, like everything else, absolutely spotless.
Then we went to see some old cars being prepared to go out on the track soon. There was one of Alain Prost's cars and Lewis Hamilton's 2008 championship-winning car that will be out at Silverstone later on this week at the same time we will be testing on the opposite side of the circuit. From there we went to lunch. Yes, there is even a restaurant inside the factory. The food was great!
After lunch we saw the room where all the engineers that don't travel to each Grand Prix sit and watch the telemetry and even make calls about strategy and setup - directly from the factory. There were about 25 computers and five televisions in this room! Jakob then took us around the office areas. There must have been over 50 people in the two sections we saw working on different components of the car, probably 20 just on aerodynamics alone. There are over 1000 employees working at the McLaren Technology Center everyday, and 500 of them working on the Formula One cars! It really was an amazing experience.
We have a few more tours and an interview on Wednesday with Midweek Motorsports, which you can listen to on www.radiolemans.com and then we begin practice at Silverstone for the Walter Hayes Trophy race this weekend. I'm really excited to get back into the car.
Special thanks to Jeremy Shaw and Jakob Andreasen for organizing our tour.