Through the years, manufacturers have competed in a variety of spectra across the automotive industry, but performance car companies see the track as the only legitimate proving ground to back up their claims. From the Ferrari F40, to the Porsche Carrera GT, to the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder, elite supercars have only found their true worth in relation to their competitors by battling it out on the circuit.
These legendary supercars have cultivated their history by being the best of the best of their time, and now it’s rare to find any or all of them in one place. But McLaren Philadelphia’s Spring 2017 track day got them all out from their climate-controlled garages and into their true element.
New Jersey Motorsports Park played host to the event as our clients took over Thunderbolt Raceway with their favorite track cars, new and old. The tech garage had all the colors of a candy store, with the treats to match as well. Nearly every model of modern McLaren was present, from the MP4-12C to a pair of the ultra-limited MSO HS, but variety was tasted with Porsche greats like a 918 Spyder and one-off Carrera GT, as well as an immaculate Ferrari F40 seeing some track time alongside a 2005 Ford GT.
The early morning held an impromptu private car show with clients pulling into the paddock to show off their latest purchase or to reacquaint with friends and their cars. But once the flag dropped on the first driving session of the day, it became all business with a competitive edge.
The advanced drivers took to the track first, exhibiting confidence and skill in a way that put the cars to their intended use. 675LTs shredded apexes with more savagery than grace, with the peacocking active aero providing an exciting display while also functionally cutting down lap times. Coming along in their wake was one of the MSO HSs, flipping its dynamic wing into an airbrake as it came down from speed through Turn 1 of the Thunderbolt course.
But the lap times weren’t counted. Or if they were, personally by each driver, they weren’t rewarded for them in any tangible way. No trophies, no podiums, no oversized checks. That way, the spirit of competition stays high but it’s still all just for sheer enjoyment.
Novice drivers then stepped out onto the track, possibly for their first session ever, or at least on the NJMP course. For drivers of vehicles like the 675LT, Carrera GT and other high-powered performance cars, it qualifies as the optimal situation for acclimating yourself to the limits of the car. The laps were paced, but more aggressively so as each lap was completed, raising the bar as drivers gained familiarity with the setting.
The rookies then handed over the track to the most capable group of the day: the hypercar session.
Characterized by dedicated track performance and price tags that multiply other supercars, the McLaren P1s and Porsche 918 Spyder proved their superiority and settled their scores during a handful of shorter sessions throughout the morning. Since most of the hypercar drivers had other cars to keep them going in other sessions, this session could have amounted to hardly more than a handful of parade laps. But contrarily, it was far beyond that.
The P1s hunkered down into Race Mode and the 918 clicked the dial over to its own track-optimization mode, and an unbelievable spectacle ensued. The two most technologically-insane hypercars in a generation reenacted scenes reminiscent of Top Gear‘s dramatic showdowns on the track, all in real life.
The twist in the movie came as rain ominously invaded southern New Jersey, providing a new challenge to those who had finally come to grips with the track. However, the light rain fell steadily through lunch time and into the afternoon, and never quite moved out, leaving some more inexperienced drivers to call it quits for the day. Some advanced drivers took the opportunity for a few more open laps, but with no one to chase, the sessions didn’t last.
Cars began slushing off to the exit, and others waited around to be loaded on trucks. With some sessions cut from the schedule, the highly-anticipated track day that was firing on all cylinders suddenly sputtered to an end.
But for now, it keeps everyone anxious for the next one, likely taking place in Fall 2017.