Track experiences for driver betterment
In our daily lives, all of us relate to cars in some way. For most, they represent the most basic of needs in today’s busy life. Commuting to work, running errands, as well as journeys with family and friends. They are times overlooked in what we ask them to do for us. For most people, they can only get noticed when they break.
It’s that familiarity, though, that basic understanding of what a car is at its core that enables all of us drivers to build upon and break out of ignoring the common car. Now, more than ever, there exist so many outlets of car-oriented hobbies, lifestyles, and events, that it is likely something that can ignite a new passion that you might not have known you have for cars. Given the right mix of elements, and the opportunity to experience cars in new and exciting ways can change you.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt just a tinge of wanting to slot ahead of the slow or waywardly distracted driver aside or ahead of you. There it is. While the daily commute is best left for a more courteous posture for your fellow man, equally ensnarled in traffic, there is an ever-increasing array of socially acceptable ways to properly nurture that interest.
I know, because these events have added needed joy and escape to my own life multiple times over the past few years. Having been given little chance to survive esophageal cancer a decade ago, and beaten the odds, I treat myself to these highly concentrated bits of adrenaline, excitement, and achievement. My advice is to allow yourself the same rewards.
But, the sheer exuberance of such things can ring hollow without camaraderie. I sat down with McLaren’s North American Marketing head, Andy Thomas, during the wonderful Pure McLaren experience as it made its stop at two-thirds sunny Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Andy passionately describes and supports an event that not only provides the unique opportunity to drive in a spirited manner on this world-renown race track but do so in a setting with like-minded people.
This is the second year that the customer event Pure McLaren is taking place in North America, and the fifth year overall since its inception in Europe. This is an amazing confluence with McLaren flexing its time-to-market of a broad and rapidly improving product portfolio over those same five years. No other force in this car market has introduced stunning examples of high tech sports cars that keep pushing the edge. Everyone has sat up and taken notice. But few would have guessed this could even happen.
McLaren Automotive’s namesake, Bruce McLaren enjoyed success as a driver in Formula 1 until his life was tragically cut-short in 1970. Bruce’s racing legacy inspired those around him to form a team honoring his name. Eventually, road-going cars were developed which led to McLaren Cars/Automotive in 1985. From here, the unicorn of cars, the F1, sprang. Unfortunately the success of the F1 did not parlay into more success. This led to the company essentially being dormant from 1994 to 2010.
And that is where the story could have ended, had it not been for the passion of a few inspired believers, and a dose of capital. The Kingdom of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund coupled with a motorsport enthusiast prince, seems to have had no doubts in the foundation of McLaren as an automotive power, and completed moves to make this happen. Shortly after that in 2011 the dawn of the new era arose with the MP4-12c, aka 12c. And in those short 8 years, light-speed in the car business, the list of new car models has stunned the industry.
Which brings us to today. Part and parcel with this Cambrian Explosion of McLaren species evolution, is the ecosphere that surrounds it. Through a triumvirate enterprise, consisting of Racing, Technology, and this Automotive division, there is a synergy to all they do. Being entirely housed in bull-pen atmosphere beneath nicely attended-to green space near Woking, UK, this affords them an unparalleled opportunity for sprinting towards their goals.
As Andy explained to me, the designers sit amongst the engineers and together are but a short walk to the factory floor. Not your ordinary factory, mind you and not your ordinary floor, either. Lick-able comes to mind. But there is no “take a message” or “I’ll get back with you” in this close-quarters workspace. Cut to the chase, make it happen, and move on. This approach is only strengthened by the support of the investment mentioned above principles who also want to see this product churn continue.
So we arrive at today. Now this is where we can all come in. This is the pay off, at least my take from an uber auto enthusiast perspective. Amongst my friends this is how I talk about my take on the burgeoning scene of enthusiast experiences such as Pure McLaren. Forget for a moment those that might not ever care to dip their toes into having fun with a car. Now take the remaining folks, like us, that either know they have a desire, or would like to evaluate this desire, or possibly already well into ownership. If you’re like me, you might think that this last part, ownership, is out of reach. Don’t think of it that way. If you’re not in the segment where a drive event might equate to a McLaren sales conquest over Ferrari on this very day, well that’s not the end. A drive event can still benefit both McLaren and you. I call it planting the seeds. Before I started seeking out avenues of track excitement, I hadn’t thought of it like this. But, my advice is to think of it as an aspirational goal. Once my current phase, with three offspring in college at the moment, is transitioning into empty nest phase, this is where the seeds will sprout. With proper planning, ownership could be attained.
But, how does one know that seed will eventually become a mighty McLaren? This is where Pure McLaren will form your future buying decision. Simply put, no one knows if this is a fit for you until you approach this in an informed manner. Not out on a test drive, potentially doing things that might get you a ticket or worse cause harm. No, take it to the track. Gratifyingly, Andy’s team have wisely chosen the best tracks in North America for everyone to gain a full and curated experience to do so, adding to those existing venues in Europe.
For 2019 the opportunity for driving on IMS has passed you up. But fear not, now that you are aware of how immensely important this might be to your future happiness, take note of the remaining scheduled events.
These cater to primarily US, UK and Europe situated customers. Should you need to be creative in slipping this in say with a significant other, one way to frame such things is you can wrap one of your usual holiday trips around these, and kill two birds; that’s what I do.
- June 28 – Hungaroring, Hungary
- July 9 – Donington, UK
- August 30 – Hockenheim, Germany
- September 27 – Thermal, California
- October 11 – Silverstone, UK
- November 10 – Circuit of the Americas, Texas
- November 26 – Bahrain
Because of my fervor to enjoy my second lease on life, I find myself at the fortunate position to be able to say that I have experienced Indy, Thermal and Silverstone tracks first-hand and can attest that these are seminal places to begin your journey into this lifestyle. It’s nice to have goals, so for me that will mean that COTA, also known as America’s F1 venue, is firmly on my list of tracks to check-off.
And if that was not enough, Andy was gracious in sharing Pure McLaren’s interest in adding perhaps two more venues to the Americas. At present talks are underway and working towards next year seeing the emergence of Laguna Seca as another premier experience destination. Though not quite as far along, Pure McLaren experience feedback shows that high on the list of desired tracks is Road Atlanta. Stay tuned for both of these developments to unfold. I’m excited for sure.
Prepare. Commit. Belong.
Hopefully this sets the stage for how you should approach any one of the delightful events on the schedule. Remember all the staff’s effort into each of these goes to make your visit fun, exciting, and full of fellowship. But with an eye towards bettering you as a driver. That means, you have responsibilities. You have responsibilities to know that all high-speed track time can only happen under the very skilled control and instruction of motorsports professionals. You must better yourself by being ready to actively participate. Pure McLaren does not like some other makes, offer a “ride along” only option. What this does is it means that every paying customer is there in a capacity that requires them to be vigilant in being safe, and incrementally improving, but only as your matched driver instructor is confident you are ready to move on. It’s worth noting that McLaren matches you to instructor with the anticipation of forming a relationship through multiple Pure McLaren experience sessions. The goal is for the same instructor to have a more personal tie investment in your skills progression.
Your fellow Pure participants will naturally fall into either owner or prospective owner categories. Logically it follows that owners will have a leg up on the prospects just naturally by knowing the basics of their cars, and having street time or previous track time as well. Don’t expect to be at their level in your first few laps. This is a progressive journey, and take in each level as it comes to you.
Since you might not have a loaner 570GT before the event to get familiar with, there are other things you can do to prepare. Brush up on some track basics. Read or watch some general videos on proper seating, how to think of accelerating, and braking into and out of turns. Watch some in-car footage of prior people’s Pure McLaren experiences. This will help not start from absolute zero when you arrive.
McLaren offers a variety of of options for each venue session. The way to think of these are in two categories. Firs is the type of experience. You have a choice between Road and Track. That is drive McLaren cars designed for the road or drive cars designed for the track. Of course the other aspect is BYOMcLaren or use one of theirs. But beyond that, do you want to improve more basic road skills, but in a track setting. Or do you aspire to a bit more track-oriented exposure with cars meant for the track. Both of these have a progression of courses. The entry level to getting exposure to these is the Pure McLaren Experience. It’s a half-day of instruction and track time, with the potential to drive the 570S, 600LT, or 720S, though these might vary by venue. These will get you an hour of on track time, split across three sessions. This is where you should begin your journey with Pure McLaren.
Now, I won’t presuppose your next course selection. This will be entirely up to you, your interests, and what your coach says you are ready to do. Some of you might be equally happy with my advice above, and wrap a year or two’s worth of vacations around the Pure McLaren schedule, and just keep doing just the same entry-level each time, but while you get to check off successive tracks along the way and fill out your bucket-list-bingo card.
As the specifics change, and not knowing when you found your way to this article, I urge you to head over to the Pure McLaren website at https://cars.mclaren.com/experiences/pure-mclaren to read up on the latest course offerings and pricing.
Once you’re done for the day or three of exercising your grin muscles, there is one more aspect to the experience that makes these proper lifestyle offerings. The hospitality can extend into the off-track time as well. McLaren offers include coordinating lodging, hotel to track shuttles, and dining where everyone can discuss the days’ unfolding events. Andy mentioned that an impeccably fine hotel, and quality restaurants are offered.
My final thoughts are that more than any other make, McLaren is literally and figuratively firing on all cylinders, in product execution and creating a vibrant owner and potential owner base that share the outwardly obvious drive and passion for creating and enjoying the finest performance cars. They have and continue to deliver the complete package.
James grew up in an Indiana community where the auto industry was at its heart. His first car was an Olds 442, and many of his classmates had their father’s hand-me-down muscle cars. Met his wife in college. They have three children. Survived esophageal cancer. Is passionate about enjoying his second chance and his automotive interests further that goal.