After spending the majority of my ownership waiting for my McLaren MP4-12C to get fixed, I’m ecstatic to finally have a sorted car — and I’m determined to make the most of it. Unfortunately, other than driving at illegal speeds on public roads, my options for experiencing my supercar’s performance potential is limited, thanks to the restrictions against track driving in the terms of my McLaren’s life-saving extended warranty. Fortunately, I think I’ve found a way around this — since autocrossing technically isn’t driving on a race track.
Listed in the exclusions of my warranty includes article five, which states: Track days: Any failure incurred or caused as a result or following a track day (unless the event is officially organized by McLaren ltd).
Obviously, providing a warranty to any used car that is being tracked regularly would likely result in huge payouts — so I understand the restriction. I’m also not holding my breath that McLaren will invite me to one of their organized events anytime soon — but I’m pretty sure they won’t mind that I took my 12C to an autocross.
These events, set up in parking lots or other wide-open paved areas, are short, technical courses that are laid out by cones. The actual run lasts less than a minute, and speeds rarely get into the triple digits. The tight course is mostly a showcase of driver skill, and fairly low-stress on the vehicle itself. Most importantly, since a parking lot with cones isn’t a track, I’m assuming it won’t void my warranty.
So I decided to give it a shot — and when I arrived in the morning for my tech inspection, I felt pretty confident that my McLaren was the fastest car in the group. There was a new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 competing as well — but my McLaren accelerates slightly quicker, and its marvelous active suspension system much more advanced. The one variable I didn’t consider was the driver, and that critical element got my McLaren handily beaten by the Camaro — as well as a Honda Civic.
Yes, a 180-horsepower Honda Civic Sport, not even a performance oriented Si or R model, put down a faster time than me in my 600-hp supercar. Other than my proclivities towards blowing engines, I’d like to think I’m a pretty competent track driver– but an autocross is very different. It’s like taking the 20 turns in a 3-mile road course and compacting them into a half-mile sprint — with only cones to point you in the right direction.
A better set of tires would certainly help my McLaren’s performance, and it’s worth mentioning the Civic driver is a national autocross champion. Despite the slight embarrassment, I still had a lot of fun, and my McLaren mercifully didn’t break. My friend made a few runs, and since he actually knew what he was doing, he put down a quicker time in one heat than the Camaro ZL1. It was also full two seconds quicker than my best time, which is pretty impressive considering he had never even sat in a McLaren before. Clearly, I have a lot to learn …