The McLaren Senna’s design has one purpose – pure and brutal all out speed

1y ago


This past weekend McLaren finally unveiled their latest ‘Ultimate Series’ hypercar with the reveal of their all-new hardcore track weapon, the Senna. Moments after the reveal the howls of derision could be heard in space as a number of voices came together to mock one single aspect, the way it looks.

Now, I’m here to tell you why the Senna is not ugly at all for a number of reasons. Firstly hypercars are not exactly known for setting the world alight when it comes to aesthetics. Almost all hypercars feature a plethora of scoops, slashes, vents and fins which interrupt flowing lines while serving a significant aerodynamic purpose. Take the P1 for example. Yes, it was a good looking car that could be described as handsome. But pretty? Not in a million years. If you want a beautiful car, you merely refer to the yardstick by which all other cars are measured, the Lamborghini Miura.

We can all agree that the Senna is no Miura in the looks department. This is because its looks are purposed to focus solely on mind-bending speed and face-bending cornering ability. After all, McLaren describes the car as “the ultimate road-legal track car” for a good reason.

Downforce by design

McLaren states that the when the Senna is viewed from above, its core is shaped to mimic nature’s most efficient shape – a teardrop – with the external bodywork permanently bolted on around this structure. The company claim that it’s impossible to follow a single line from the front to the rear of the car without passing through a functional air intake or vent, all of which contributes to complete air flow functionality throughout the length of the car.

Mass Aero Efficiency

Every single element of the Senna’s design is a pure tech geek fest. From the front splitter to the double diffuser at the rear, everything has a purpose and a reason for the way it’s designed. Take the aero blades in the front air intakes. These work in tandem with the active rear wing by tilting to increase the downforce or by flattening to reduce it dependant on the throttle position, speed and steering and braking input.

And don’t think that the rear wing is just for show either. It sits some 1,219mm away from the tarmac when the Senna is stationary. It is hydraulically actuated with a planform surface area of 6,500cm, it continually adjusts to give optimum downforce and balance the aerodynamics of the car while chiming in as an airbrake under heavy braking.

Ultra Advanced Cooling

The rear clamshell of the car has been designed to meet the requirements of both aero efficiency and vital cooling. The prominent gurney flaps that sit ahead of a line of louvres to direct air away from the rear of the car by forcing it down the sides of the bodywork instead.

This results in an area of low pressure that draws the hot air generated by the cars radiators and engine bay, with the louvres ensuring that this airflow does not impact the efficiency of the rear wing.

Low-Pressure Zone

The treble-outlet ‘slash-cut’ exhaust has been carefully positioned on the car’s sloping rear deck, below the rear wing but above the diffuser to cause minimum interference with airflow.

This setup ensures that the hot gases generated are safely kept away from the all-important rear wing allowing for an uninterrupted airflow.

Downforce and Minimalist Design

At the back of the Senna, the LED rear lights are designed as a single-blade structure to minimise their interference with airflow. Beneath this is the imposing double diffuser which is crafted as a single piece of carbon-fibre.

This starts under the rear axle of the car and increases in height to accelerate air out from under it at speed. In doing so, it creates its own low-pressure zone that pushes the Senna into the ground at speed giving it increased stability.

Reshaping the Air as it Sees Fit

All of these aero elements that make up the pure and brutal design of the Senna come together to reshape and manipulate airflow to push the car into the ground at mind-bending speeds. When done correctly this allows the car to literally fly into corners at never before seen speeds rather than the unwanted opposite effect of literally taking flight while attempting a high-speed corner.

At the time or writing, we know that the Senna produces a staggering 789bhp from its 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Aside from this reveal McLaren has kept all of the important acceleration numbers to itself along with the essential amount of downforce the car generates.

During the Senna’s launch, Car and Driver questioned McLaren vehicle director Andy Palmer in respect of the level of load that the massive rear wing can support. As usual with these things, no answer was given. But it was confirmed that Palmer showed “no visible dissent” when it was suggested that the peak downforce figure could be greater than the 1198kg weight of the car itself. This all means that the Senna could be the first roadgoing car to boast the theoretical capability of driving on the ceiling.

Despite the power deficit, the Senna with all of its aero mastery has 197kg less weight to lug around. It also has the very latest tyre and brake tech at its formidable disposal meaning we’d put our money on it when goes head to head with its more powerful predecessor, the McLaren P1.

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