The street-legal Senna is a mighty machine, but a McLaren 650S GT3 race car still beats it around Silverstone.
At the McLaren Senna’s debut, McLaren suggested that this road-going car is as quick around a big circuit as a GT3 race car, adding that “during early testing, mule vehicles were built with GT3 racing-specification rear wings and fitted with additional Gurney flaps to increase downforce, but were unable to fully replicate the power of the final McLaren Senna wing design.”
The Senna is certainly quicker than a 720S—and for a price tag well beyond a million dollars, it better be! And in our Performance Car of the Year testing, we called the Senna “more GTE race car than road car.” Of course, that doesn’t make it the exact same thing as an actual race car, as seasoned McLaren 650S GT3 driver and Top Gear presenter Chris Harris found out.
While it’s true that Harris has at least a year’s worth of racing experience behind the wheel of the 650S GT3, compared to maybe a few track hours in the Senna, the fact that he could run the 650S race car around Silverstone nearly seven seconds quicker than the Senna proves that a “race car for the road” still isn’t the same thing as a purpose-built race car.
In Harris’ experience, what the race car lacks in straight line speed it makes up in nearly everything else: braking performance, front axle grip, downforce, and body control. Which means, once those wide slicks are up to temp, the GT3 McLaren can always brake later, exit the corner faster and blast flat out where the Senna would simply understeer off. But that’s the tradeoff for wearing license plates. As for those looking for something closer to an FIA-spec racing car? They can always opt for the track-only Senna GTR—or hop into a GT3 race car as a pay-to-compete “gentleman driver.”