McLaren+ Fan Day
A special day for McLaren+ Papaya members.
Just 15 lucky fans were selected, worldwide, to recieve a very special day at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking. I was fortunate enough to be one of them. It was an unforgettable experience and I'll try and capture some of it here if I can.
The day started by arriving in style, being driven around the lake to the front entrance. This is always a 'wow' moment, the lake, the building, the boulevard, the cars. Some of the fans had travelled from China and Greece to be here and one of our delegation was overcome with emotion, breaking down in tears before we even entered the building. Being a fan, I can totally understand that. This team means a lot, regardless of how competitive they are currently.
The drive into the facility is spectacular!
We made our way through the boulevard and were permitted to take some photos. Frankly we could have been there all day but we were ushered to have a welcome drink at the immaculate juice bar. There is a real 'Papaya punch' as you enter MTC, orange is everywhere.
We had our photo taken with an F1 car, complete with the current Papaya livery. We then headed off on a 'mystery' tour that took in some fascinating areas of the facility. We were privileged to see the McLaren Applied Technologies simulator. It was great to get some anecdotes about how the various drivers use it and have their preferences. And interesting to hear that some (like Sergio Perez) have struggled with their motion sickness there! We also got to see the production line at the MPC. A whole line of cars was dedicated to building the astonishing McLaren Senna. They put it up on the ramps for us, so we could see it clearly.
Walking to the McLaren Production Centre.
We also got to enter the race bays. This is where the race cars are prepared. We got to see them working on the cars for the French Grand Prix and were afforded - very - close up appreciation of the current car (Chassis No. 2, Fernando Alonso). I have to confess, most of us touched the cars, because, well you have to don't you? No photographs were permitted for that part of the tour! To be able to get that close is something not many get and I'll never forget it.
Walking back to the juice bar, past some impressive trophies.
Back at the juice bar we managed to get some time with John Allert, the Chief Marketing Officer. He gave a very impressive speech to us. I think most of us were very humbled with what he had to say about us fans and I personally appreciate the effort he made to give his time to us, you can tell he is a very passionate McLaren man. He awarded a special Honda medal (made for Ayrton Senna) to one of our number, and that tells you everything you need to know about the warmth and sincerity of the guy.
He introduced a short video called 'fearlessly forward'. I won't spoil it for anyone and I hope it will be shared in public soon. All I can say is it's a major 'goosebumps' moment for anyone with a passion for McLaren! It's a very powerful distillation of the man, the company and its ethos.
We had lunch with the team and managed to get some time with various team members and marketing staff who kindly took the time to chat with us. It's great to hear some insights into life as a team member. Everyone was so knowledgeable, friendly and patient with us.
Q&A with Stoffel and Lando.
We were then told we had a couple of people who wanted to pop in and see us. Stoffel and Lando then came down the stairs! Our friendly host Kris Lawton asked some great questions and then the floor was opened up to us to ask them questions. It was such a great moment and I was right at the front for it! Stoffel was very relaxed and very candid with us and Lando is great fun, they have both been extremely generous with us and were more than happy to oblige with autographs and photos. Each of us got an 'official' photo with them which is something I think all of us will treasure. I will offer one story from this; someone asked what Stoffel thought when he got the nod to drive an F1 car in Bahrain 2016 and he said as he left the pits he thought to himself 'don't screw this up', it was a funny moment (note that I have made his statement more polite).
Rob Bloom the Group Digital Director had a insightful talk with us. The team were very keen to let us know how much they appreciated the support of the fans, often in the face of some very vocal criticism and trolling. If you're a fan, you're wanting to know when things will improve for McLaren - all I can say is these guys are more than aware of the issues and working insanely hard to move forwards but it's not an overnight job
We were then told that we would be the first members of McLaren+ Papaya. This is a membership you cannot buy and it's not something you'll hear McLaren talk of. This is awarded to those who have followed the team loyally. And the benefits of its membership cannot be bought - as we had all witnessed today. We were each awarded a signed (and individualised) letter from Zak. This was something that I think many of us are struggling to process - all I can say is it's a supreme honour, that we value dearly.
McLaren+ Papaya privilege
McLaren has 7.7m followers on digital platforms, and 15 of us were there, by invitation getting the very best VIP treatment. It was a mind blowing day. We were very lucky, I take none of it for granted and for those other McLaren fans reading this, I hope you get a similar experience one day. Sign up to McLaren+, keep your support loyal and positive (respecting other teams) and you just never know.