McLaren Track Day 2022 : Circuit Training
Sepang Circuit, Malaysia - When McLaren Singapore drops you an invite to take part in its track day event with the newly-formed McLaren Owners Club Singapore at the Sepang International Circuit, there’s only one thing to do.
Say yes (enthusiastically), pack a day bag, head to the airport at the crack of dawn and catch a 7am flight to KLIA, then catch a shuttle to the Sepang Circuit, before dashing back to the KLIA for a 5pm flight back to Singapore that same day.
There isn’t much else that could dissuade us from this track session, short of border closures or a natural disaster, so the Ed. and I packed our cameras and headed to the airport at first light.
I’ve never travelled abroad without packing a suitcase or a duffel, but such is the life of an automotive journalist. In my case though, I should qualify that I’m carrying some emotional baggage – a lack of racetrack experience.
Understandably, I was ecstatic. But still, it was harrowing to think that I’d be piloting a plug-in hybrid supercar with a combined system output of 680 horsepower. The Artura’s S$1.2 million dollar price tag (before COE) added to the fear of pushing it to its limits of speed and grip.
Of the three McLaren models available, I had the pleasure of driving the McLaren GT and the new Artura, much to my editor’s chagrin. He already drove it around the Ascari Circuit in Spain, so he was relegated to ‘just’ the McLaren 720S.
My first stint around the Sepang raceway was done in the McLaren GT, under the tutelage (and watchful eye) of an instructor. I’m no stranger to the GT, but from my prior understanding of track driving, it’s an entirely different ball game from driving on the streets.
There are no lanes to speak of, only racing lines. There are no speed limits, but there are braking zones and entry speeds to contend with. To top it off, load transfer becomes a very real thing when you’re gunning it on track.
To drive on a track demands a heightened level of attention, finesse, bravery and skill. Good thing I had plenty of espressos earlier that morning to keep my buzz on.
After riding shotgun for a lap to get familiarised with the track layout, braking zones and racing lines, it was my turn behind the wheel of the GT. As I gingerly made my way to the pit exit, I was acutely aware of the length and breadth of the car as I nosed my way onto the straight just before turn 15 of the track.
No GPS, no music. Just the soundtrack of a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. One that let out an almighty bellow as I depressed the throttle when we turned onto the main straight of Sepang.
On my first run, I clocked out at 210km/h in an effort to be conservative, but that turned out to be a mistake. The GT is no slouch with 620hp/630Nm on tap, but the braking zones were set up for more powerful machines (we had a few customers who’d turned up in 765LTs), so it was a struggle to modulate my brakes as I’d slowed down too much into turn 1.
As my right foot hovered between shaving off speed and putting more power down, I was told that my braking had to be progressive and linear. There isn’t any room for coasting on the track. At all times, my foot had to be on the brakes or on the throttle to minimise the risk of unsettling the car. Throttle inputs have to be progressive, not sudden or again, you’d risk unsettling the car.
Then came the racing lines, which were pretty self explanatory. You don’t want to turn into a corner too quickly or too late. Best practices dictate that you should clip the apex of a corner, while maintaining some pressure on the throttle, before powering out onto the next straight.
Keeping it neat and tidy through a bend keeps the car straight and true, allowing you to retain the momentum you had on entry as you exit the corner at speed. A session around a go-kart track is a good reference point. Thankfully, I’ve had several.
After just two laps in the GT, I was primed and ready for my turn in the Artura. Like before, I’d be accompanied by an instructor. Also, I’d be doing my two laps before handing the reins over to him so he could show me the car’s full breadth of ability.
In the Artura’s Comfort mode, the engine regulates between using the twin-turbocharged V6 and its 95hp/225Nm axial flux electric motor. The engine isn’t roused to action unless you put the power down and that’s just what I did as I exited the pit lane and fired onto the track.
After my first sighting lap in the Artura, I put the car’s handling and powertrain maps into Sport mode and blasted down the main straight at 230km/h. Even for an inexperienced newbie like myself, the plug-in hybrid sportscar was perfectly manageable around the 5.54km Sepang Circuit. The carbon ceramic brakes were tremendously strong, the steering response is sublime and you aren’t caught out even if the power gets the best of the rear wheels.
Make no mistake, it is a very quick vehicle. With both the V6 and electric motor in play, I had a considerable 680 horsepower and 720Nm at my disposal. More than enough for a brief moment of oversteer under overzealous throttle inputs, although it was nothing a dab of corrective lock couldn’t fix.
I’ll say this for the McLaren Track Day – it is heaps of fun. Driving the Artura, or any one of McLaren’s cars quickly around a track for the first time is a surefire way of making you feel like the toughest person on track. There’s an euphoria that you simply can’t get from driving a supercar on the streets.
But then the instructor took me around the track and my joy quickly fizzled out as he literally schooled me. He clocked above 260km/h and made very very short work of the circuit… a lot of it sideways as he demonstrated how tractable the Artura could be at the hands of a skilled helmsman!
Clearly, he’s had loads of circuit training prior to this. On the other hand, I’m still recovering from the track daze after the track day. Humbling as the experience was, I’m glad it’s one thing I can cross off my ‘To-Do’ list.
PHOTOS McLaren / Jay Tee
Engine 2993cc, V6, twin-turbo, electric motor
Electric Motor Axial Flux e-motor, 7.4kWh
System Power/rpm 680hp/7500rpm
System Torque/rpm 720Nm/2250rpm
Transmission 8spd Speed Seamless Shift SSG dual-clutch
Top Speed 330km/h (electronically limited)
Fuel Consumption 4.6l/100km
Engine 3994cc, V8, twin-turbo
Transmission 7spd SSG dual-clutch
Top Speed 326km/h
Fuel Consumption 11.9l/100km