It’s all fine and lovely owning a supercar in Tokyo, one of the busiest cities in the world. With almost everyone else driving around in a supercar you’d stand out more in a beat up Corolla than you would in a shiny exotic.
But supercars aren’t just for showing off, especially not McLarens. These are cars honed by motorsport technology and holding them back by using them to drive to and from the shops would just be cruel. So one day every year McLaren organises a track day for their customers at the legendary Fuji International Speedway to allow owners and their cars a day free of traffic and road regulations.
Around 70 McLarens took part this year, up from the 53 cars from last year’s event. That’s due to McLaren delivering more cars this year and also a sign of the enthusiasm of McLaren customers to take their cars on to the track.
While I was slightly disappointed there were no F1s this year, there was good reason. The owner of the silver F1 recently took delivery of his P1 GTR so wanted to take that on to the track instead. In total there were 2 GTRs as well as 6 ‘regular’ P1s. There were at least a dozen 675LTs and more 12C, 650S, and Sports Series cars to count.
Compared to Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, McLaren are still a relatively small company. Let’s not forget McLaren Automotive is only five years old. Last year McLaren sold only 90 cars, compared to Ferrari which sold 720 cars in the same time.
That means McLarens have an air exclusivity about them, even more so than the Prancing Horse and the Raging Bull in Japan. But that also means the McLaren owners’ community is very close. You could see and feel it from the atmosphere at the day. An owner described it as more like a family than a group of friends getting together.
The Track Day was scheduled to start at 9am but this being Japan, most got there a lot earlier. Throughout the day cars went out on the track in groups. So the 12Cs, 650S, and 570S/540C went out together. The 675LT and P1s went out in small groups, while the two P1 GTRs went out with the whole of the Speedway to themselves.
One thing I noticed seeing and hearing McLaren’s road, and two track cars, being driven hard on track was how different they sound to when they’re being driven on the road. I always thought McLarens, with their turbo V8s, didn’t sound all that aggressive. Well, with the exception of the LT and P1 of course.
But on the track even the baby 570S sounded epic. Maybe that’s proof despite these being road cars, they’re at home on the track. I also have to tip my hat to some of the owners who drove their cars to their limits. There’s nothing quite like seeing a dozen or so McLarens fly by at great speed, slam on the brakes for the corner, hearing tortured tyres, and seeing them squirrel on the wet track.
Most drivers didn’t really push 100% because at the end of the day it’s their cars and they had to drive back home in them. But that didn’t mean they were shy in going around the track. The cars took turns going around for most of the day.
The driver of the gulf livery P1 GTR, or rather P1 LM as it’s the road legal version hence the number plate, was the MVP of the day. What was supposed to be a casual drive on the track soon became a race thanks to him. Most drivers were happy staying behind each other but not Mr. Gulf GTR who literally overtook every single car in front of him, including the silver GTR. He even lapped some other cars.
While there were no official lap times recorded on the day but on a random lap the silver GTR clocked the Fuji Speedway at 1:44. I imagine the Gulf GTR driver could’ve done a faster lap.
With cars going in and out of the track, there was always something to see on the track and in the pit garages. McLaren had over 20 garages for their cars, meaning it was quite a walk to get from one end to the other. I’m not complaining, but a golf cart or a shuttle would’ve been handy. Luckily most of the best cars were grouped together at one end of the pit garages.
As the day came to close, the 70 cars went around the circuit for one last time. Not in groups, but all together for a parade lap. It was definitely a sight to see. The 2 P1 GTRs led the pack with the ’regular’ P1s following behind. The 675LT Coupe and Spiders behind them with the rest of the McLaren family.
When they finished their parade lap they came together on the main straight for a group photo shoot. This was where the ‘family’ feel of the McLaren owners was most evident. Everyone went on to the track to a shot of all the cars together, and no one cared. I don’t think you could do that at most places.
It was certainly a very special and incredible day. The cars, the people, and the track all made for a very memorable occasion. Thanks to McLaren Japan and to all the owners that let this pokey writer near their cars and didn’t make me feel alienated.