McLaren MP4-12C (2010): the Airbrake in action

Published: 21 September 2009

McLaren’s new MP4-12C, née P11, is undergoing Nurburgring testing ahead of launch in a year’s time. Yes, there’s a l-o-n-g wait for the 12C – it doesn’t go on sale until spring 2011 – but that allows us plenty of time to soak up its detailed engineering.

These new spyshots reveal the new McLaren’s air brake in action for the first time. In its quest for lightness at all costs, the Airbrake is in fact mostly powered by passing slipstream rather than a bulky motor.

How the McLaren MP4-12C’s Airbrake works

Brake at high speed, and the 12C’s air brake pops up to add further downforce over the rear axle. The driver can select it manually by pressing a button on what McLaren calls the Active Dynamics Panel. Very Ron.

The clever bit is here. A small hydraulic piston deploys the air brake through a few degrees where it contacts with the slipstream passing over the car.

This is enough to shift the centre of aerodynamic pressure down so the bottom of the wing is forced to move by the passing air – meaning there’s no need for a heavy and bulky motor to power the air brake into its fully raised position. Woking types claim it’s half the weight of a typical spoiler motor.

What does the 12C’s air brake actually do again?

Over to the engineers. ‘The Airbrake moves the centre of pressure of the 12C rearwards, whereas it would normally move forward under braking,’ says the blurb. ‘It improves yaw stability under braking and allows the brakes to work more effectively due to increased downforce.’

>> For the full detailed story on the new McLaren MP4-12C, CAR’s epic 13-page photoshoot and interviews with McLaren Automotive chief Ron Dennis and prospective owner Jay Leno, buy the new November 2009 issue of CAR Magazine out now

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet