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Old 10-08-2009, 07:20 AM
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Testing and simulation

McLaren has developed one of the most sophisticated driving simulators in the world. It is an immensely powerful tool that can be used to predict handling, performance, and a multitude of other dynamic properties.

The simulator was initially designed to improve the performance of the Formula 1 cars. But it has also been used intensively in the design and development process for the 12C, where modelling offers the opportunity to test likely outcomes without having to build a component that might turn out to be inadequate. It saves both money and time and it is perhaps the most effective technology transfer from Formula 1 to road cars; the handling and suspension of the McLaren MP4-12C was developed using exactly the same tools and techniques as the McLaren Formula 1 cars.

The crash test requirements are a good example of how simulation helps speed up development. Long before the first Carbon MonoCell had been constructed, the design had been through hundreds of passive crash test simulations. When the time came to submit a real world crash test, the 12C passed with flying colours.

“Outside of McLaren, it is almost unknown to meet our standards out of the box,” said Dick Glover, “but simulation worked out perfectly for us. It is difficult enough to achieve first time success like this with just a relatively predictable, ductile aluminium structure yet McLaren managed first time out with its MonoCell and added aluminium structures. We are very proud of that.”

Simulation didn’t stop at the design stage. Although over 20 prototypes have been built for an exhaustive test programme around the globe, the simulator remains a key tool and a differentiator from most competitors.

Different engineering teams have cars undergoing specialized testing including hot weather in Bahrain in the height of the 2009 summer, cold weather testing in the Arctic, engine development, gearbox calibration, electrical testing and ride, handling and durability programmes.

Before the first prototype was available, the dynamic test team, aided by professional racing driver and McLaren test driver Chris Goodwin, tested early parts on the simulator as well as a development chassis and various engine mules. When dynamic testing started, development and constant refinement of engine, gearbox, tyres, aerodynamics, braking, steering and suspension began in earnest to match all projected values and targets.

The testing programme moved into a more ‘aggressive’ phase following the principles of Formula 1 testing where a car and dozens of people maximise track time during the day and work on improvements overnight. The principle is ‘why test one thing when you can do ten’. Prototypes went to a test track for six weeks with all the experts and suppliers. The car followed a rigorous regime of testing almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week for six weeks. This turbocharged programme accelerated the development time.


Production

The production process for the McLaren MP4-12C will enable McLaren to build on its recent success of record production volumes and quality for a luxury supercar with the SLR.

The McLaren Production System brings a large scale lean production mentality into a small-scale, flexible operation. The process is championed by Production Director, Alan Foster’s experiences at Japanese and European car manufacturers.

“Quality is the most important thing to customers,” said Foster, “and quality management is a fundamental part of building a McLaren. For my team it is an absolute passion. It doesn’t matter whether a customer is spending ten thousand pounds or a million, it is their money and they rightly expect to have pride in their purchase and be satisfied with it. Our goal is to ensure that we exceed customers’ expectations,” he concluded.

12C volumes will remain low, but will require a change of mindset for McLaren’s production line teams as the company moves to higher volumes. But the build process will still focus on craftsmanship, a hand-built philosophy but with a lot of science behind it. Quality gates will ensure that a car cannot leave a work station until everything is completed perfectly.

McLaren will maintain its high standards of final approval before a car can be released.

The build of prototypes has already proven the robustness of this approach because investment in the manufacturing assembly fixtures that will actually be used in production has already prepared the team and shown the build process to be on track. The 12C station cycle times have already been reduced by almost a further 20 per cent through knowledge gained from building the prototypes. In short, the risk has been removed from the production process so that final production quality will be guaranteed.


Aftersales, retail distribution, personalisation

Not only is McLaren establishing a new company, a new production plant, an all-new high performance sports car engineered and developed in house... it is also building a global network of retail distribution partners.

This small number of super operators will deliver the dedication and purposefulness necessary to ensure an ownership experience for the 12C that is as good as the car itself.

Ease of repairability, low-cost of servicing and maintenance, and availability of parts are of paramount importance to this customer relationship and have been key targets since the beginning of the 12C project. McLaren aims to offer segment leading performance here too. The principle being that a high performance sports car should not just be a pleasure to drive, but also to own; a car that is efficient to run and own retains its residual value and ensures its owner becomes a repeat purchaser.

Early planning indicates that 25 per cent of sales will be made in the UK, 25 per cent in the USA and the remainder to the rest of the world, notably Germany and mainland Europe, the Middle East and some Far Eastern countries. Although the McLaren MP4-12C has a comprehensive standard specification, customers for such an exclusive car want to have the ability to specify bespoke items, interiors and special equipment for their own car. McLaren has extensive experience of meeting these needs for McLaren F1 and SLR customers.

For example, the 12C will be available in a broad range of exterior paint colours and interior colours and configurations, while carbon fibre components and lightweight forged wheels will reduce weight yet further.


In summary

Motor racing began the McLaren story, but the latest chapter sees the company take that inspiration and develop it further on the road – and track.

McLaren has a heritage that spans 45 years during which time it has won 163 Grands Prix, 12 F1 World Championship Driver’s titles and eight Constructor’s titles.

McLaren achieved the most dominant season ever in F1 (15 wins out of 16 races in 1988) just as it dominated the Can-Am championship winning five titles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. McLaren has also won three Indianapolis 500 races and the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours at its first attempt in 1995.

McLaren remains the only manufacturer to win the F1 World Championship, the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans – the ’triple crown’ of the motor sport world.

On top of McLaren’s racing record it can lay claim to a road car heritage spanning 20 years, having produced the fastest production road car in history, the McLaren F1. Success does indeed breed success and McLaren intends to continue in this vein.

“McLaren Automotive is well on the way to offering not only an extraordinary new sports car but also to building an innovative new company,” explained Antony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive Managing Director.

“It is an exciting time for all of us at McLaren. We have built a new company, we are constructing a new global dealer network and a purpose-built production plant and, of course we are launching the first pure McLaren car for more than a decade. The best way I can describe the McLaren MP4-12C is to say it is not a ‘but’ car, it is an ‘and’ car:
  • It offers class-leading performance and class-leading economy and CO2 emissions
  • It has small dimensions and great packaging
  • It is well-equipped with high safety standards and is lightweight
  • It has dramatic dynamic potential and the ride quality of an executive saloon car

“When we embarked on the 12C project, we set ourselves ambitious targets. After all, building a car that matches the performance of competitors is not good enough for us. With a McLaren badge on the front, it needs to be the best.”

“So we developed everything from scratch because it was the only way we could ensure we met our ambitious goals and did not compromise the car – a new chassis concept, new engine, new gearbox, new suspension system, new telematics system; everything is new. As exciting as it has been for us, we hope the 12C will prove even more exciting for our customers,” Sheriff concluded.

“I am really proud of what the whole McLaren Automotive team has achieved with the 12C,” said Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive Chairman.

“We respect and admire our competitors in the high performance sports car market, just as we do in the world of Formula 1, but I also believe that fierce competition drives technology and innovation and produces ever better products.

“With the McLaren MP4-12C we are determined to deliver the best car in its sector by almost any measure. It is our philosophy to push what is possible in car design and engineering and bring innovation and engineering excellence to the performance car world. We have an incredibly dedicated team at McLaren who continue to drive this company to ever greater achievements, and the 12C represents the passion within, as the first of this new range of performance cars from McLaren,” he concluded.
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