A birthday road trip with a pair of McLaren F1 GTRs

To celebrate 20 years since the debut of the McLaren F1 GTR – which won Le Mans on its maiden outing – no fewer than 16 examples were summoned to the 73 Goodwood Members’ Meeting for a (very noisy) demonstration parade. We joined two of the Gulf cars on their birthday road trip…

Hitching a ride

The two cars in question (a navy short-tail and a powder-blue long-tail) form part of the astonishing, Gulf-themed ROFGO collection we visited a couple of years ago. Stored at the headquarters of Classic Driver dealer Duncan Hamilton, the duo must be trailered down to Goodwood as neither is road legal – and since we were heading down to Lord March’s estate anyway, we thought this was as good a ride to hitch as any.

Millimetres to spare

It doesn’t take long to winch the cars onto the trailers, although there are some nervous faces as the ground-hugging front splitters edge over their respective ramps with just millimetres to spare. Once the cars have been loaded up and fastened down, the costly convoy navigates the narrow hedgerows surrounding the Hamilton hideaway, and makes tracks for Goodwood.

Family gathering

On arrival, the rendezvous was just as impressive as you might expect, and then some. Not only were the duo’s sister cars on the scene, but also the 1995 Le Mans-winning Ueno Clinic-liveried machine, and the Harrods car that was driven to third in the same race by Derek Bell – who was reunited with his faithful steed for the parade laps. Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell-Walter took the reins of the ROFGO cars, a pairing whose joint CV includes a Works drive for Aston Martin at Le Mans in 2013.

Exercised machines

For many, the McLaren F1 parade was one of the stand-out highlights of the 73rd Members’ Meeting. The intervals between the release of each car meant the wails of the bulletproof BMW V12s could be heard at all points of the circuit simultaneously. Perhaps the best viewpoint was from the chicane exit, where the monstrous power and torque was tangible – not only audibly, but also by the way the seasoned drivers would wait until the car was perfectly straight before firing it towards the horizon, or risk a heart-stopping moment of oversteer that only the most experienced wheelmen could hope to gather.

Hometime

After two days of crowd-pleasing exercise (and a few nights catching up with their siblings), the F1 GTRs must return home. Thankfully, Goodwood isn’t the only event hosting a party for them this year...

Photos: Tim Brown for Classic Driver