Inside the McLaren Technology Centre

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The McLaren Technology Centre

Last week I had my first chance to visit the McLaren Technology Centre.

I met Communications and PR head Matt Bishop (also former F1 Racing editor) for lunch and a tour of the factory – he pointed out some of its most extraordinary features and little-known facts.

The first thing I can report is yes, true to the word of the teams’ agreement, the mechanics had downed tools for two weeks and were on compulsory vacation.

I caught of a glimpse of a partly-dismantled MP4-24 where the mechanics had apparently stopped mid-work, tidied everything away, and headed out the door for the mandatory two-week break all the teams are sticking to.

Hamilton’s next car

At the entryway to the building sits an example of every Ron Dennis-era McLaren that has won a world championship (with one notable exception – the MP4-20 – I’m sure you can guess why in the comments!)

There’s also a carefully restored example of the first car raced by company founder Bruce McLaren. Behind it sits a bright orange beast that one Lewis Hamilton makes a beeline for every time he visits the factory.

A McLaren F1 is rare enough but this is an F1 LM – based on the car that won the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours. The price tag in currency isn’t fixed but Hamilton has been told what he needs to do to get his hands on it – win three world championships. One down…

“What a lot of people forget about Lewis is he lives and breathes McLaren,” says Matt. “He’s been with the team since he was 11.”

“He goes up and has a look at the car whenever he comes here. He cups his hand against the window and peers inside.”

Pacific carp

The building itself is as stunning a construction as the cars inside it. The wind tunnel is out of action because of the shutdown – “but even if it wasn’t you couldn’t hear it from outside”, Matt explains.

Wind tunnels produce enormous heat and the vast lake that borders the MTC is used to keep it cool. This means the lake is 3-4 degrees warmer than other nearby bodies of water.

Anyone who has a pond in their garden knows the curse that is algae, and that is a particular problem for McLaren’s warm lake. Ron Dennis’s solution was to import a variety of pacific carp that eats the algae, which are shipped in from time to time to keep the green weed down.

Details like that – like the lowered air pressure in in the canteen to keep food smells escaping into the rest of the building – are McLarenesque solutions to practical problems.

The same lake water flows around the lower levels of the building down elegant steps. When the wind tunnel is being used regularly, the flow gets quicker.

“What was the flow like when they were working on a fix for the 24?” I ask Matt.

“Niagra Falls,” he replies.

McLaren Technology Centre pictures

NB. The images above were supplied by and were not taken on the day of my visit.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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99 comments on “Inside the McLaren Technology Centre”

  1. Flying Wombat
    10th August 2009, 12:07

    People always go on about Ferrari being the most passionate team, but I think McLaren staff clearly have a deep love for their sport and their team.

    And can I just say how cool their factory is? I know that not everyone liked Ron Dennis, but you can’t deny his vision of what a factory should look like is amazing.

    1. Yeah, i’d say that they have the equally deep passion for this wonderful sport.

    2. Cridland [Cridcomment @ gmail]
      10th August 2009, 22:08

      not everyone liked Ron Dennis, but you can’t deny his vision

      Agreed! I don’t think he gets anywhere near the credit he deserves for what he’s done for the sport. Seeing how Hamilton seemed to turn his back on Dennis during his own moral crisis this year is always going to give me an uncomfortable feeling about the brilliant driver…. No matter how talented he is, none of it wouldn’t have happened without risky investment from Ron Dennis.

      I loves me some Dennis, and I loves me some McLaren, OK? I grew up in a town that had some futuristic and remarkable buildings… Things that required public money to build. So don’t take what follows the wrong way!

      But –

      > And can I just say how cool
      > their factory is?

      It’s not really fair to call that a “factory”. The volume and types of materials that flow through there are disproportionate to almost every other place that you could describe as manufacturing center.

      There are probably men reading this blog who have personal garages with more engines coming in-&-out the door in one year than does the McLaren F1 team.

      It’s a stunning, elegant, and rarefied facility, and its product is handcrafted for a very small number of tremendously wealthy people. As we admire the place, we shouldn’t imagine that one day, every ‘factory’ will be like this.

      1. Flying Wombat
        10th August 2009, 22:35

        It’s a stunning, elegant, and rarefied facility, and its product is handcrafted for a very small number of tremendously wealthy people. As we admire the place, we shouldn’t imagine that one day, every ‘factory’ will be like this.

        Thats a fair point ;-) Poor choice of words on my part. Whatever you want to call it though, it is undenyably slick. When I launch my plans for world domination, I want my HQ to look something like this!

        1. Cridland [Cridcomment @ gmail]
          10th August 2009, 23:05

          When I launch my plans for world domination

          Can I have an application form to be one of your henchmen? I only drink on weekends.

          Also, to appreciate the buildings in my hometown, you need to consider a few interiors.

          Also, those hallways are very reminiscent of the laboratories of the 1971 film “Andromeda Strain.”

          The building looks clean, but it doesn’t look warm…

          I still wanna work there!

  2. Is the reason that there is every world championship winning Ron Dennis era McLaren exept the MP4 20 because the MP4 20 never won a championship?

    1. I didn’t understand the little joke up there, cause the MP4 20 never won the championship… it was driven by montoya and kimi in 2005.

      1. Could it be because it was designed by mike coughlan, all that spygate stuff?

        1. Or is it the idea that it was a championship winning car but suffered a lot of reliabilty issues which arguably cost them the championship to renault and alonso.

          1. mp4-20 was designed by adrian newey.

      2. IT was the most beautiful car ever built in history.

        many people wouldn’t mind going to bed with it!! :)


        1. I beg your pardon, but the most beautiful F1 car ever designed was the Lotus 88, by Colin Chapman. Alas, it was never allowed to race an official GP.

    2. Oh sorry i didnt propaly understand the question, its why is the mp4 20 in there.

  3. I live not far away from another norman foster building but Mclaren’s factory looks amazing, especially the aerial shots.

  4. amazing, no doubt they’ve the best facility!!!

  5. wow… Just wow…

    That’s not all dedicated to just running a Formula One team… Is it?

    1. The vast majority is running the F1 team however they do make the Mclaran SLR’s there as you can see from the pic they also have the catering and sell eletronics but that is mainly F1 related anyway

      1. nothing like the vast majority….no more than a 3rd only…which is why contary to a post up there somewhere, it most certainly is properly defined as a factory. Stand on the roundabout one day and see the streasm of deliveries coming and going if you doubt that.

  6. this post is amazing!
    don’t you also have a contact from maranello? heheheh

    1. I know they had a delegation from ferrari come and tour certain parts of the place as a goodwill gesture last year…it was featured in McLaren’s in-house magazine “Racing Line”

  7. It sure is a great building.

    I think if we did a comparision of team buildings this would be clearly on top!

  8. So, i read it a couple of times, but don’t get the fact why the 4/20 isn’t in the building.

  9. Hi Keith, just a few thoughts as I’m reading.

    When I first found your site, it was very informative but I kind of thought, that this maybe just started as a hobby, (correct me if I’m wrong as I don’t mean to make little of your site, it’s brilliant!)

    It seems as though your “hobby”, again correct me, has brought you to some of the coolest places ever. You have met some people that most of us may never have a chance to and you get to be on the telly! And you get to chat to a few characters in us fanatics aswell!

    I just want to know, how does it feel to have the greatest hobby ever!


    1. Thanks Spud! I’m fortunate to have got some great opportunities out of creating F1 Fanatic and of course, I love it to bits.

      When I was driving into the MTC they have a special road for guests that goes around the front of the building, overlooking the lake. As I drove along it I realise it was the same stretch Hamilton had driven the MP4/23 along at the post-championship celebration. (Pics here) That felt really cool!

      1. F1Fanatic Issue 29 now available??? think thats not the link

        1. Fixed the link!

      2. was there an f1fanatic magazine?!

        1. Afraid not! When I first started the site I put new content up once a week in ‘issues’.

          Things have changed a bit since then…

  10. What a truly amazing place – it must be fantastic to work there. It’s really pristine and futuristic.
    What I notice is how much more communicative McLaren are than the other teams, or is it that people just comment on their videos, etc, more than other teams? I’ve never heard of people visiting the Ferrari centre, or the Brawn centre (whereas McLaren seem quite open about inviting people to theirs) and McLaren are always posting videos about the races and the technology on their website. I really like that open approach they have.

  11. Must add, the pictures are incredible, and thanks for posting this Keith. You are so lucky to have gone there.

  12. Keith,

    why is it being said that Valencia is the perfect track for KERS ? How is that more so there than, say, Budapest ?

    1. I’m not Keith, but I can hazard an answer… there is more track from the grid to turn 1, allowing the KERS cars more time to shoot into the lead.

  13. Beautiful building. Too bad theres no money in F1. :-)
    Dedication…Devotion…turnin all the night time into the day.

  14. Prisoner Monkeys
    10th August 2009, 14:29

    As much as I don’t like Hamilton, I kind of hope he gets the car. He sounds like the world’s biggest kid when he’s in eyeshot of it. I guess Michael Schumacher really dampened the idea of multiple World Championships for me, probably because he won them so early in the season; if all of Hamilton’s championships would be like last year’s, I wouldn’t be bothered by it too much, even if I think he’s a tool.

    1. Why do you think it’s okay to be so offensive all the time about Hamilton? It’s really unpleasant and repetitive.

      1. Hughes, Equally unpleasant (and repetitive as well!) it is when you get so defensive all the time about Hamilton!! :)

      2. i think some people are STILL very annoyed that he’s had quick success and he won last year’s championship.

    2. You would think that with all his money, Hamilton could just buy the car……

  15. Great building, I see all the pictures were supplied by McLaren, were you not allowed to tack any photos at all?

    1. Either that or Keith’s helicopter was in the shop and therefore wasn’t available that day for aerial photography :)

      On a serious note, I can well believe that a) the team don’t allow cameras for security reasons and b) the team are SO thorough about their public image that they don’t want someone’s crappy happy snaps (no offense K!) and therefore only allow official shots without people getting in the way :)

      I live barely a mile down the road – wish I could hit Bish up for a tour too :(

      1. I live barely a mile down the road – wish I could hit Bish up for a tour too :(

        What in the name of Jesus Christ were you doing all these years????? You’ve got undoubtedly the best ever European building ‘barely a mile ‘away, yet it took keith’s article for you to wake up?? :) POPE plz don’t mistake me, i think the MTC is better than your “official” residence at St Peter’s basilica at vatican :)

      2. If you’re a member of the McLaren fan membership program, they do offer occasional tours for club members. I’m in the club but have never looked into tours since I’m on the other side of the Atlantic.

    2. PJA – I didn’t ask to do pictures because I was mainly going along to meet Matt and have a chat with him. I wanted to focus on getting the most out of that instead of trying to do lots of other stuff. Another time, perhaps. It is a stunning building.

  16. I didn’t get the MP/4-20 reference either. At a guess, did you mean the 2007 car, the MP/4-22?

    One nerdy point: negative-pressure ventilation is a standard feature of building design for kitchens (and bathrooms) and has been for many decades. But on the subject of McLaren precision, I did hear that Ron Dennis was personally involved in dictating details such as the precise order of the cables in electrical cable trays hidden above the false ceilings!

    1. Also Ron had all the fire exit signs made in the Mclaren type face and the depth of stairs in the building is diffrent from standard depths becuase Ron said so!!!

      1. Ron Dennis is a PERFECTIONISTWe’ll not find many people like him. sad to see him leave f1 :( but at least his ideology remains in place.

  17. Did you mean to say MP4-23? Cause isn’t that in Germany at the Mercedes HQ?

  18. So Keith, will you clear up this mp4/20 comment you made?

    1. maybe he meant mp4-19b, cuz i’m here :) but i would love to be an exhibit at the MTC any day. keith must be one of the luckiest people in the world!!! not many people get invited to MTC. BTW keith just wanna ask one thing, how did the food taste at Absolute Taste ?? finally is there a lewis hamilton gold-plated accelerator footpedal, with a little Pussycat Dolls logo stamped on it?? just curious :)

      1. Cridland [Cridcomment @ gmail]
        10th August 2009, 21:46

        gold-plated accelerator footpedal, with a little Pussycat Dolls logo

        Hey! Who told you about that?

  19. Amazing building. Who wouldnt want to work in a place like that!?

    Be interesting to see what some of the other teams have. Remember looking at pictures of the Tyrrell ‘shed’ a while back – things have changed a bit! :)

  20. Extraordinary ! as a Mclaren fan, I love these pictures.
    Looks very “spacial”
    Ground control to Major Ron

    Ron is much happier here in his laboratory instead of having to deal with that rabble of FIA, Lou, Flav, Max, Todt Newman, Miss Meuw and the whole lot

  21. The MP4-20 never won a world championship…

  22. I assume Keith meant the MP4/20 does sit in the lobby amongst other championship winning McLaren’s, as Ron Dennis said, Kimi was the “champion” that year, and that the title itself is just a badge.

    1. On the MP4/20 – sorry I might not have been very clear above, but Matt’s closest to nailing it.

      Every recent McLaren car in that room was a championship winner. The MP4/20 was also in there, even though it didn’t win a championship. But there is a reason why they chose to include it…

      1. Oh I see what you meant… no, your wording wasn’t very clear!

        They probably included the MP4/20 in the collection because it is the fastest McLaren of all time, and arguably the fastest F1 car.

  23. I dunno why the Scottish Parliament Building won the 2005 Stirling Prize :( MTC is the best building in the whole of europe imho & ron dennis deserves every possible accolade for consulting Norman Foster and his company for the construction. i’ve never ever seen a building like the MTC, it is a modern engineering marvel. Ron must be throughly complimented for achieving his life time dream

    This was the mclaren factory in 1986(guess who was visiting :) )

    1. proud to be a mclaren fan & member of the british empire & commonwealth. mclaren technologies is the pride of Britain & her commonwealth.

  24. Good to see that mclaren are using CATIA :) other PLM softwares are crap, NX included. guess what?? BMW uses NX :)

    1. You could see that in the picture!?

        1. What a catch. Hysterical!

          1. but curious to know why they are still using the legendary V5. but of course surface modeling is the best in v5 compared to v6. wondering what software they use in CNC, guess it’ll be predator or maybe even edgecam.

  25. Wind tunnels produce enormous heat and the vast lake that borders the MTC is used to keep it cool. This means the make is 3-4 degrees warmer than other nearby bodies of water.

    A large body of water is called a “Lake”, not a make.

    1. omg what a spot!!! :)

    2. Fixed it :-)

  26. I got a nice book about the MTC when i attended a regional launch of McLaren Automotive. although i am not a fan of the F1 team, I am a fan of Ron Dennis’ school of thought, and next time I’m in the UK, i will be visiting their place. Because despite what team you actively root for in F1, i think McLaren are a symbol of the modern Era, and soon it will be evident that they will be the symbol of technological progress, not just in automotive but other sectors as well.

    1. great Post Keith… like usual keep up the great work. anything i can do to help???

  27. Great article Keith. A very magnificent structure and interior. It’s almost futuristic and well worth whatever was spent erecting it.

    1. Thanks Oliver – no idea how much it cost actually, anyone?

      1. An amazing place; a far cry from when I used to occasionally deliver to McLaren’s place in Colnbrook in the early 70s. A figure of $600 million for the Technology Centre I’ve seen.

        1. Paul is right….I did a wiki search and they say $600 US (estimated)

          1. *that would be $600 million

      2. It was well over 250million pounds. And that was pre recession money. :-)

      3. Hi Keith,

        I was working in Woking at the time of the build. The Financial Times did a brilliant piece on the project to build the MTC which came in under budget and ahead of time. This was credited to Ron’s attention to project management and proper change control procedures. Interestingly, all construction vehicles were washed on and off site daily.
        Keep up the excellent work.

  28. Was the mp4-20 the first car built in the new facility? other than being kimi’s championship car that’s tne only other thing i can think it might be.

  29. so nice. probably the best place to work EVER! with a gym and a pool! by the way Keith, what’s the ‘autoclave’???

    1. It’s not a gym, it’s a “fitness and wellbeing centre” :-)

      An autoclave is what they use to create the carbon fibre components for the car. It’s basically a big oven in which pieces of carbon cloth are baked together using a resin to bond them.

      1. michael counsell
        10th August 2009, 23:21

        Is the idea of a “fitness and wellbeing centre” to attract people who would be put off by the thought of going to gym. Once they start going they then say they are going to a gym, but its not like other gyms…

      2. More often thant not, in a vacuum also.

      3. thanks. looked complicated!

        It’s not a gym, it’s a “fitness and wellbeing centre”

        ha much like how they call a motorhome a ‘brand center’ lol

  30. Keith,
    I think it’s great that you have got to do these kind of behind the scenes visits lately; Ferrari at Silverstone, now the MTC.What’s next, Bernie’s paddock motorhome? Then I’d be impressed!

    I went to the Red Bull Technology HQ in Milton Keynes about a year ago for an interview. At the time it felt kind of surreal bring there, but from your pictures I hasn’t got. A patch on the MTC. I used to dislike Mclaren for their corporate image around the late 90’s but now I must say I really admire the way they seem to conduct their business in that minimalist, clean cut kind of way.

    1. keith pleeeeaassee do an interview with Bernie! would be so cool.

  31. Is the MP4/20 there because it won the most races in 2005?

    1. We have a winner!

  32. it’s like something out out of star wars, so cool!

  33. “What was the flow like when they were working on a fix for the 24?” I ask Matt.

    “Niagra Falls,” he replies.


  34. “McLarernesque”…’ve invented a new word Keith.

    Quite an impressive tour Keith…I have seen other features on the building but this was excellent. Kudos to whoever supplied you with the photos.

  35. Magnificent….

  36. It may be a magnificent piece of architecture but I wouldn’t say that it looks like the cosiest office in the world. It looks cold and built just for the image. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Mclaren hater, I just personally wouldn’t want to work in such a place. It kind of reminds me of the movie “The Island” ( with all those futuristic buildings and fake front-end.

  37. so Keith – all important question no one has asked – what did they feed you for lunch? Was it any good?! :)

    1. Yeah it was rather special (actually MP4-19 asked me about it above I just didn’t get round to answering).

      We had a spinach and goats’ cheese tart to start – creamy and thick with flavour. The main was salmon which I never order at restaurants – I don’t really like it – but this was stunning, juicy and sweet-tasting.

      Dessert was caramelised rhubarb with a vanilla creme brulee – which, frankly, was sublime! There were some macaroon-sized chocolate souffle biscuits on the side, which dissolved into tiny fragments of intense chocolate when you popped them in your mouth…

      Damnit I’m hungry now!

  38. UNBELIEVABLE! What a factory they have there, i’m green with envy keith. I think it’s way better than Ferrari, also the people who work there.

  39. Wow what an amazing and world class facility.There is a huge pasion for tha sport at Mclarren. I am d die hard follower of the team since last 10 years I have seen transitions Mika hakkinnen to Lewis Hamilton. This is a total team game everybody contributes to the success of the team and Mclaren being no exception
    I Wish best of luck for their endevours.

  40. on a bit of a downer note… Mclaren were supposed to have made the museum open to public access as part of the original planning negociationa. This STILL has not been done. Keith, next time tyou talk to Mr bishop, challenge him about that huh?
    and dont take any excuses…its there, more or less ready to use if they put anything in…THEY JUST DONT WANT TO….they used the spygate thing as an excuse,saying they didnt have the funds to do it as per the agreement…but they still have the obligation.
    pees me off a bit to be honest…it should be open to the public, as Ron has always said, a deal is a deal!!!!

  41. sweet. are there any bigger resolution pics?

  42. You lucky man, Keith. I’d give my left *mumble* to visit McLaren.

    It’s mega-impressive. And that wind tunnel looks like something out of a space-age movie.

  43. Are visitors allowed in McLaren technology centre?

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