Perfecting dynamics with Formula 1 principles
Since 1997, we have been developing and using an immensely powerful driving simulator to predict and refine dynamics, safety and performance. Widely regarded as the most sophisticated in the industry, details of our simulator remain a closely guarded secret, even within the McLaren Technology Centre.
From Formula 1 to road
Our Racing team rely heavily on McLaren’s sophisticated simulator for the testing and refinement of their cars. So it was a natural step for us to use the same tools and techniques for the development of the MP4-12C. Used intensively throughout its development, our engineers could refine the 12C’s design by building and testing the car in a virtual world before a single piece of carbon was moulded.
A powerful design tool
We not only used the simulator to develop and fine-tune the engine, gearbox and tyres, but also the aerodynamics, braking, steering and suspension. Not constrained by the costly and time-consuming process of having to build multiple components that may not meet our expectations, the simulator allowed us to really concentrate our development time on optimising the 12C’s driving experience.
Advanced safety testing
Long before we even built the first carbon fibre MonoCell, we’d already put it through hundreds of passive crash test simulations. Using advanced simulation techniques to predict the outcome of collisions meant that when the 12C took a real crash test, it passed first time – which is almost unheard of.
Man and machine
Before the first 12C prototype was built, McLaren Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin helped the engineering team assess and develop the car using the simulator. Being an ex-racing driver and having studied mechanical engineering, his mix of experience, knowledge and finely tuned instincts provided an invaluable contribution.
Tested beyond the limits
“As well as working intensively on the driveability and feel at normal road speeds, you spend a great deal of time driving at or above the car’s limit, so the ability to drive on the edge consistently and reliably in all conditions is essential.”
One day Chris could be in the simulator discussing brake pedal feel, and the next on a frozen lake in Sweden, testing the electronic stability calibration. He was able to give the development team the accurate and detailed feedback they needed on the engine, gearbox, tyres, aerodynamics, braking, steering and suspension to make sure the 12C drive surpassed our ambitious targets.
Intensive prototype programme
Although the simulator allowed us to test the capability of the car in different road conditions, it does not replace real-world testing. To complement our simulation techniques, we built dozens of prototypes for an exhaustive test programme. Different engineering teams assessed the 12C’s durability with specialised testing around the world, including extreme weather: from the high temperatures of Bahrain in the summer, to the freezing Arctic in winter.
When the testing programme moved into a more ‘aggressive’ phase, we naturally followed our Formula 1 Racing team’s principle of ‘Why test one thing when you can test many?’ With the support of teams of specialists, we’d maximise track time during the day, then separate teams would work on improvements overnight. We ran this gruelling part of the schedule for almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for six weeks.
We’ve continued this process of fine-tuning, resulting in the 12C’s pure mix of dynamic performance, comfort and durability.