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McLaren Technology Centre Tour

On Wednesday 2nd August 2023, I was given the opportunity to visit the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking for a private tour. Built in 2005, the Technology Centre does not allow access to the public unless a friend or family member works there. Paul Freeman a McLaren Manufacturing Engineer, is a friend of my Auntie and Uncle so thanks to them I was able to get a tour, which I am extremely grateful for!

Paul’s job within the company is to produce the metal parts for the Formula One cars using a Wire and Spark Eroder machine, he is a night worker and has worked there for over four years. Paul is one of two people at McLaren who can work this particular machine so is a vital part of producing the car! He explained how he controls it all from a computer programme by imputing the design, the machine can then run continuously using wire as thin as a fishing wire precisely cutting through the blocks of metal. The wire is able to cut and rethread itself when necessary until the piece is complete. McLaren use metal materials that are stored on site, ready for use.

When we arrived at the 57,000 square metre Technology Centre we were greeted by Paul before driving down to their base. It felt like we were entering another world with the centre looking like a spaceship from the outside, it reminded me a lot of the Marvel universe! The inside didn’t cease to amaze me, as we stepped out the lift we were met with Lando Norris’ Formula One car from last year! The view behind it, which could be seen from the giant glass windows spanning the whole length of the Technology Centre, was almost as beautiful, as it overlooked the artificial lake and grounds surrounding the centre. The lake isn’t only for aesthetic value, containing heat exchangers it helps cool the electrics and building along with dispersing the heat created in the wind tunnel; emphasising McLaren’s value for commitment to protect the environment.

Before I start with the interesting stuff I’ll mention the far less exciting part. I wanted to check out the disabled toilet, unfortunately it was small, and the only adaptation were handrails so I personally wouldn’t be able to use it.

The first part of the tour was a showroom of McLaren cars used over the years, from the McLaren M23 driven by Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 to current day models. As well as the racing cars, road cars are also produced at the McLaren Technology Centre. The first model made was on display and we were told is now worth around £2million with the cheapest being around £200,000! We were told that when a road car is purchased the owner can get flown in by a helicopter, and when we were there we saw one flying in! There were also offroad, Formula E and supercars on display with the ‘Speedtail’ reaching an astonishing 250mph! I recently saw the Formula E cars in action at the London E-Prix. Seeing it up close, I was a big fan of the orange and blue livery. The final cars were in a line of four being made up of Formula One cars driven by: Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 Championship winning car! This Norris one was my favourite of the whole tour with the light blue and orange livery topped with his classic number 4. To be so close to these such legendary cars was a real honour!

Behind the cars were the factories where they are made, we were not allowed to take pictures, but I did see an Oscar Piastri seat ready for what I assume would be worked on the next day. As the working day was over we couldn’t see much as the place was left spotless, but it was crazy to think that’s where all the hard work goes in to get the boys on track with a fast car.

Next on display was the trophies won by McLaren over the years, the hall of cabinets was very long with each crammed full, I was amazed with the amount won! There were trophies from F1 legends such as Lewis Hamilton, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and many more. Lando Norris’ most recent trophy after coming second in Hungary was spotlighted having its own cabinet, seeing it up close was mind blowing and the detail was beautiful. Unfortunately after searching multiple times we were unable to find Norris’ Silverstone trophy, but hopefully he will be adding a lot more to McLaren’s legacy especially now we are seeing drastic improvements with the MCL35! Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip had signed the guest book back in 2005 when she opened the centre for the first time.

The next thing we saw was a McLaren life-size car made of Lego, it was made from over 468,000 pieces! I have a mini McLaren Formula One car that only has 1434 pieces, and that took me weeks, so I can’t imagine how long this one took! Alongside this was the bike that McLaren upgraded for the One Show's charity challenge, this allowed blind people to be involved in the BBC Children In Need fundraising bike ride across the country; Paul said that he made a few parts for the bike.

Sadly after COVID the public aren’t allowed access to what Paul said was the production centre where the cars are put together, so the last production department we saw was the Wind Tunnel. We couldn’t go in there but saw it through a small window, this is where the F1 cars go to be tested against different strengths of wind to see how they react, this information can then be used in real life race situations.

We visited the McLaren canteen which was huge! The view was again beautiful overlooking the lake and scenery outside. While we had a little rest Paul told us how rewarding working for an F1 team was, he can see what he is working towards most weekends when they’re out on track!

On the walk back to the showroom we went past a ventilator, Paul explained that during COVID-19 when F1 had been shut down the workers were still going in to make pieces for COVID ventilators, they didn’t assemble them at the Technology Centre but made the pieces made were a vital part in saving people’s lives! I would have never expected this from a car company, it was heartwarming, and they didn’t get the recognition they deserved!

The final thing we saw in the Technology Centre was a giant 60 spinning outside in front of the lake shining in orange and blue, this marked 60 years of McLaren and of course was a perfect photo opportunity! McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s office was above this so would’ve had a fantastic view!

Before we left I was given a huge surprise of a signed Lando Norris McLaren hat along with a book all about last year’s season from Paul, I was absolutely speechless and is something I will treasure forever! I would like to finish by thanking Paul for going above and beyond making my visit special and one I will never forget!


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