First Drive: The McLaren 765LT monsters around Silverstone Circuit
It’s with a reasonable amount of trepidation that you approach Silverstone Circuit on a cold, wet September day. With the rain beating off the ice block kerbs and butter-slippery white lines, this famous track makes for quite the undertaking. And it’s even more fearsome when you’re here to drive McLaren’s latest track-ready supercar.
The 765LT is the latest car in the Woking-based manufacturer’s Longtail series. Born from the firm’s involvement in racing and now applied to its ultra-lightweight models, the Longtail name only graces the very fastest, most focused cars that McLaren builds.
It’s 80kg lighter than the 720S with which it shares much of its fundamentals, thanks to an increase in the use of lightweight materials for its crash-course diet. There’s a full titanium exhaust system, more carbon-fibre body panels and even trick polycarbonate glazing as you get in motorsport, all incorporated in the quest for unashamed lightness. It tips the scales at just 1,229kg dry, in fact. The kerbweight of a Ford Fiesta is 1,144kg.
But whereas a Fiesta makes do with 123bhp, the 765LT deals out 754bhp from its 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Zero to 60mph takes under three seconds. Zero to 124mph? That’s achieved in seven seconds dead. They’re frankly astounding figures from a car which, thanks to a number plate on each end, can still be driven on the public roads.
However, for now, we’re not on the public roads. Silverstone’s International Circuit – a slightly shorter but no less complex version of the full GP lap – lays ahead and the McLaren’s cockpit waits.
Get into the cabin and – save for the racing harness – everything feels recognisably ‘McLaren’. The seating position is excellent with the steering wheel right up and into your chest, while the relatively simple display ahead is informative without being distracting. Pressing the red starter button causes the engine to cackle into life, almost giggling unhinged in full knowledge of the savagery it’s about to rain down its driver.
Push off and loose material pings off from the wheelarches. The windscreen wipers are fully on too – sadly the rain has only let off, rather than fully disappear – and for now, we remain in Sport mode, which allows the car to move around a little and only brings in the electrical safety net if things get too out of shape. I’m quite glad about that, too.
Even a light breath on the throttle shows just how much power this car has. Before long, 150mph down the main hangar straight is flashing up on the dashboard and as the confidence grows, 170mph comes up too. Thankfully, slowing down is just effective thanks to the LT’s excellent brakes and confidence-inspiring pedal feel. With ceramic discs and calipers taken from McLaren’s Senna hypercar, they’re a standout part of the whole experience.
But boy, do you need to be on your toes. In the wet, and despite being switched to more wet-weather-apt Pirelli P-Zero rather than ultra-slick Trofeo R tyres, the 765LT requires proper concentration and proper focus. It’s exceptionally well balanced, of course, but the greasy surface and all 754bhp being dealt to the rear wheels means it’s not tricky to get the back end of the car stepping out. However, the amount of grip it’s capable of generating in the wet is nothing short of astounding and tidy driving is rewarded by genuinely mind-scrambling corner ability. If it’s like this in the wet, the 765LT must be unstoppable in the dry.
And it feels more urgent than the standard 720S, too. The seven-speed gearbox has been recalibrated for the LT to deliver a more immediate power application and it shows; get on the gas and there’s a hammer blow of acceleration responding to your throttle press. The engine noise builds and builds too, echoing around the cabin. It’s an all-around experience.
Coming up behind another car it’s easy to see the rear wing in action. Produced at McLaren’s Composites Technology Centre in Yorkshire, it’s a thing of beauty both in appearance and action alike. To see it adjusting to speed is quite remarkable and only goes to make the 765LT look even more like a movie car than it already does.
Zipping past and the gearchanges snatch into place with a real wallop. Not only do the upshifts whip-crack with each pull of the paddle but so do the downshifts. It’s another part of the experience which feels fully mechanical, much like the steering. McLaren has always had an exceptional knack of nailing the way a car turns in and the 765LT is no different.
The Alcantara-trimmed wheel gives access to sensationally well-judged steering setup with feel, weight and precision all diced up and served in a single, involving and brilliant combination. It allows you to accurately place the car without trying too hard yet doesn’t leave you feeling disconnected nor alienated from the event at hand. It ties the whole affair together and makes the laps of Silverstone even more enjoyable and even more of an experience for the driver. In fact, the laps tot up fast.
And like that, it’s time to roll back into the pits. Just 765 examples of the 765LT will be made (you can see what they did there) and all of 2020’s allocation has already sold out. Going off this experience, each owner is not only going to have the keys to one of the most exciting cars on sale today, but one of the sharpest and most involving track-ready supercars ever made.