It was 27 years ago in 1992 that Mclaren F1 got introduced to the world, designed by magnificent and one of the most renowned personalities in the automotive world: Gordon Murray. To this day Mclaren F1 remains the fastest production car in the world. A quarter of a century after he’s about to introduce what must be the spiritual successor to the F1, the “T.50”. It still follows the signature three-seat layout and a naturally aspirated 3.9 liter Cosworth engine V12 engine producing 650 horses. And being able to rev up to 12,100 rpm it might create another record still. The T.50 uses a host full of aerodynamic tricks that make it an impressive story, it revisits one of the most controversial F1 cars ever. Furthermore, the T.50 is lighter by 340 pounds than the Mclaren F1 weighing at 2160 pounds.
"You don't start with much downforce in the first place, which is what I did with the McLaren F1—which is essentially one of the reasons why it did 243 mph." -Gordon Murray
Back in the late 60s when Formula One was getting way too competitive. The teams started using aerodynamics for their benefit, making the cars carry the most speed through a corner improving their lap times. A simple air spoiler for front tires and another one for the rear and you have traction on all the 4 wheels sorted. Lotus is one of the first ones to sneakily use the ground effect skirts which would separate the air going beneath the car and slow it down quite a bit. Creating a big gasp of low pressure sucking the car down. What Murray did with Brabham BT46B in 1978 was place a clever fan that would work from engine’s power, placed at the back of the car which he “said” was to cool the engine back then. But what it really did was suck the air from underneath the car. The car was later withdrawn from the championship because of the legality of the fan.
"What we do when the fan fires up, and we want more downforce at lower speeds, is we open the slots and spool the fan up to maximum, and we remove all the dirty air and the boundary layer, and that means that the air has to follow the surface. It's forced to follow the surface to fill the vacuum that was left there." -Gordon Murray
How does the “fan” Formula One car become relevant again? The T.50 uses the same fan concept to draw air from underneath the car. While the fan on the BT46B used its engine power, T.50 uses an electric motor to run the fan. The car is able to produce enough downforce that would make Murray skip a fixed spoiler. The association with F1 still exists as Murray and his team have been using the Racing Point Formula 1 team’s wind tunnel for developing their car. The fan has multiple uses such as cooling, creating downforce, efficiency enhancement and drag reduction. It would be also interacting with the top surface of the car aerofoil. The fan on the T.50 is able to work on different modes that are selectable by the driver such as High Downforce, Streamline. Vmax and Test mode which checks all the aerodynamic surfaces when stationary. Adding to all these impressive things the fan can do it only adds 2.2 pounds to the car!
Of course, being a road-going car it doesn’t have to abide by motorsport regulations. The company also mentions that the car doesn’t need the skirts for the fan to work. Also while braking the car adjusts its spoiler and fan to produce maximum downforce possible for grip and stability. They claim the stopping distance improves by 33 ft doing 150mph to 0 and that’s very impressive. Vmax mode on the car actuates the electric-starter motor which provides an additional 30 horsepower for 3 long minutes. Gordon says the Streamline mode makes the car a “virtual long-tail” and adds that the car does that with a “slug of air out the backfilling the trailing weight.”
“I wanted to get back to a nicely balanced and styled car again, not with these big swoops and ducts and holes.. ..It seems to me every time a new supercar comes out, there's a competition to see how complicated the aero can be on the top surface. I don't like that really." -Gordon Murray
As compared to the supercars coming out right now the car uses an elementary approach to design, picking some of the ques from the Mclaren F1 as well. How Gordon Murray designed the aerodynamic system around the fan is the reason why it does away with the use of complex use of aero surfaces and hence making the car look simple. The car would be finally revealed in May next year and only 100 T.50s would be built, most of the cars have already been claimed but some of the slots are still open. Deliveries would begin in January of 2022 and will be finished before the year-end. A worthy successor to the Mclaren F1? Gordon Murray's T.50 sure is.