A McLaren F1 road car has broken the High-Speed Circuit lap record at MIRA
averaging 168mph (270.36km/h) round the 2.82-mile (4.53km) banked circuit. The car was
driven by Peter Taylor, an independent test and development engineer, who has been
associated with the F1 project for many years.
With a lap time of 1min 00.56 secs, the F1 comfortably exceeded the
previous record of 161.655mph (260.15 km/h) set in April 1967 by the Jaguar XJ13
sports-racing prototype. The XJ13 built with the express purpose of winning the Le
Mans 24-hour endurance race was driven by David Hobbs.
At the time, it was the fastest lap of any closed circuit in the UK.
However, with the subsequent opening of GMs Millbrook proving ground complete with
its banked circular high-speed bowl, the UK record rose to 186.97mph (300.9 km/h) courtesy
of a Lamborghini.
However, MIRA still holds one important speed honour; the maximum at
Millbrook is 186.97 mph on the bowl whereas the F1 raised the top speed on the longest of
the three straights on MIRAs high-speed circuit to 196.2mph (315.75 km/h). And that
was on a wet track!
As he completed the record-breaking run during a break in routine
development of customer options for the McLaren, Peter Taylor said:
"Our objective was quite clear: we wanted to break the existing
record rather than go for the ultimate lap time. The track was wet and there were damp
patches on the banking. The photographs and video footage will show the huge plumes of
spray being thrown up from the tyres.
"On the straights the car was extremely stable, as straight as a
die. But where the banking was wet the car was near the limit of adhesion.
"On a dry track Im sure there would be more in hand
certainly more than 200mph (322 km/h) on the straights and a lap speed of 170mph-plus (275
km/h). But, for today, what we achieved was a job well done. Im delighted and
Im very honoured to have been given the opportunity to do this for McLaren and
The idea of attempting to break the long-standing MIRA lap record was
mooted by Jack Poyser, MIRAs proving ground manager, almost five years ago when
McLaren was developing the F1 at the Nuneaton-based automotive technology centre. It
gained impetus in June 1996 when an F1, again driven by Taylor, was demonstrated during
MIRAs 50th anniversary Open Days and comfortably exceeded (even by relatively
primitive stopwatch timing) Hobbs 161.655mph.
Many times during testing at MIRA the F1 exceeded the Jaguar record.
However, without the sophisticated and accurate Datron timing equipment used during
Decembers record-breaking run, the times remained unofficial. Everyday pressures of
routine development work simply meant that there never seemed to be an opportunity to
accurately time the car and establish the exact speeds achieved.
Until McLaren heard that Mr Poyser would celebrate his 65th birthday on
December 21 and retire from MIRA after 12 years as manager of the proving ground
Gordon Murray, McLaren Cars Technical Director, said: "Our
relationship with MIRA over the years has been excellent, not only with Jack and the
proving ground staff but with many other parts of the organisation. Having spent a lot of
time with the F1 on the proving ground we, as members of MIRA, particularly wanted Jack to
retire on a high note. And what could be better than a new High Speed Circuit lap record?
"We therefore made XP5, the pre-production prototype that was
built to production specification, available during a customer option development
programme to attempt the record. We had to accept the track condition that the weather
threw at us. In the event, they were not too bad, although a dry track would have been
The record was set at 12 noon on Wednesday 16 December, just three days
before Jack Poyser officially retired from MIRA. He said:
"I have witnessed many memorable events during my time at MIRA.
But todays new lap record by the F1 will always be very special
"Outright speed is not so important today as it was when Jaguar
set the old record. But it is still a measure of progress, development and refinement.
Remember that David Hobbs was driving a car designed from scratch to win motor races. The
F1 that set the new record could, quite literally, have been used for the school run this
morning and for shopping at Sainsburys later this afternoon!
"I think you can call that very significant progress
Establishing the new MIRA record took just a couple of
gentle laps at 150mph for Taylor to familiarise himself with wettest parts of
the high-speed circuit and then two flying laps.
The first flying lap (when the car actually ran slightly faster than
the official record) was made to complete the checking of the on-board timing equipment
triggered by a track-side beacon. Details of the 1min 00.3 sec lap (169mph) were recorded
by the on-board video camera and by Taylors running commentary. But, because the
timing equipment was not set to display the lap time until it had been photographically
recorded and witnessed by MIRA officials, the second run was made.
On the second flying lap the time (1 min 00.56 secs) was successfully
recorded and it was handshakes and congratulations all round before the car returned to
its workshop for a wheel change and continuation of the routine development work!