Dan Trent profile picture Dan Trent 5 years ago
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Are Track-Only Hypercars Completely Pointless?

Too extreme for the road, too fast to race – what exactly is the point of super-exclusive, track-only monsters like the Ferrari FXX K and the new Brabham BT62?

Remind me later
Brabham Automotive is the latest player in the hypercar track toy game
Brabham Automotive is the latest player in the hypercar track toy game

Odd concept, the track-only hypercar, isn’t it? Or at least it is to those of us not operating in that world. Because you’d have assumed a major motivation for supercar ownership is the opportunity to show it off, something you’re going to struggle with if you can only drive it on private track days with other people just as rich as you are. And therefore unlikely to offer you the kind of ego-massaging adulation you’d get from the camera phone-wielding masses in Knightsbridge.

What the F XXK is the point of cars like this?
What the F XXK is the point of cars like this?

Then there’s the whole ‘why not buy a racing car’ aspect. Because to my mind – admittedly as an outsider – if I were looking at spending seven figures on something I can’t use on the road and that drives like a racing car I’d want… a racing car. I was lucky enough to recently get the full talk around the Brabham BT62 and explanation of the supporting driver development programme you buy into with the car from David Brabham himself. All very impressive. But why put all that effort in if you’re not going to race?

It's a GT racing car ... you can't actually race. The point being?
It's a GT racing car ... you can't actually race. The point being?

It’s tempting to dismiss programmes like the Brabham, Ferrari Corse Clienti, Aston Martin Vulcan and Pure McLaren GTR events as little more than posh track days. Ones where you tuck your paunch into a racing romper suit, do a few laps and then sit around in your Nomex comparing timepieces over a fancy lunch while your car is tucked away into a transporter to be shipped across the world for your next 20-minute session. Because the suspicion remains that these are little more than ego-saving exercises for people too scared to go racing for real. Or, more generously, those smart enough to realise they could spend a lot of time and money for little more than embarrassment at the hands of the young hotshoe pro they share the car with. You can have the fanciest motorhome in the paddock but, at the end of the day, the timesheets don’t lie.

You hear a lot of talk of ‘safe spaces’ these days but maybe that’s what these events are about and the cars really designed for. That could be for the six-laps-and-lunch types. Or for those who can - and do - make full use of the coaching, factory support and other resources to help them raise their game for their racing activities out there in the big, bad world of proper motorsport. Pays your money (OK, a lot of it in this instance) and takes your choice.

You might think this is what you want ... but is this really what you want?
You might think this is what you want ... but is this really what you want?

Is that such a bad thing? By their nature people able to afford this kind of luxury lead busy lives and may not be able to commit to a full race programme. Nor are they dumb. And if your Senna GTR, Brabham, FXXK or Aston Martin Valkyrie can give you a sense of the speed and glamour but without the stress, time commitment or public scrutiny it begins to make some sense. Especially if the car itself retains its exclusivity, mystique and (most importantly) value for the moment you decide to move onto the next thing.

Is it all about hanging out with like-minded (and funded) souls?
Is it all about hanging out with like-minded (and funded) souls?

This, I think, explains the McLaren Senna. I’ve just got back from driving it round Estoril (don’t hate the player and all that) and the chance to do so back to back with a 720S reveals just how much faster it is than a regular ‘street’ supercar. Yes, I actually just described the 720S as ‘regular’ but that’s what the Senna does to your frame of reference.

You’d still be faster in a proper racing McLaren on slicks and all the rest. But lashed into the Senna in your Alpinestars and HANS device, it has enough of the ‘because racecar’ attitude to make you feel a step beyond regular road-going supercars. And, whisper it, it’s actually quite easy to drive, at least at a speed that makes you feel like a hero. A proper GT3 car on the other hand makes real demands of its driver. The Senna flatters them. And instead of leaving it in the pit garage you can stuff your helmet and race suit behind the seat, raise the ride height to road configuration and go rev it loudly outside bars and restaurants like you could any other supercar.

Onboard in the McLaren Senna round Estoril

Because let’s all be honest with ourselves for a moment. Competing seriously as a racing driver at any level is hard work, time consuming, expensive, stressful and, even with all the talent and support in the world, you risk coming away with nothing. Playing at being racing driver is a lot more fun, whether you’re sticking an anodised towing eye on your hot hatch or signing up to a manufacturer supported track hypercar programme. And that’s the spirit McLaren has engineered into the Senna, a car named after a racing hero that’ll make you feel like one on the road and track. Without needing god-given talent or a liveried race truck following in your wake everywhere you go. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the point.