Wild plan to bring World Championship to Surrey
McLaren has today unveiled an absurdly ambitious plan to bring a round of the Formula 1 World Championship to the streets of its hometown, Woking.
The team believes that a street race around some of the Surrey town’s most famous and celebrated spots would raise Woking’s profile, enabling it to join the ranks of Monaco and Singapore as one of Formula 1’s most glamorous and iconic race locations.
The main thrust of the project is to create a world-class Formula 1 venue – the Woking International Circuit – that will link elements of the town’s commercial, industrial and residential centres.
McLaren has been a Woking resident for almost 40 years, happily sitting alongside fellow Woking-ites Paul Weller and The Jam, Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt, Harry Hill and TV chef Delia Smith.
McLaren has yet to formally present any of its plans to Woking Borough Council, because it’s a bit scared about how they might feel about the extensive and costly re-profiling of many roads and local landmarks that will be required.
Jonathan Neale, Chief Operating Officer, McLaren Technology Group, said:
“Why not? Why not bring Formula 1 to the streets of Woking? Obviously, aside from the huge social and financial commitment needed to set up the infrastructure, re-profile roads, re-lay Tarmac, fit miles of Armco, build grandstands, pay for race-hosting fees and gain approval and sign-off from the FIA, we don’t see any barriers to our vision.
“In an era that’s often seen as being hemmed in by bureaucracy and narrow-mindedness, that’s actually very refreshing.”
The creation of the new Woking International Circuit would return top-level single-seater racing to the streets of mainland Britain for the first time since 1990, when the Birmingham Superprix hosted a round of the FIA’s Formula 3000 Championship.
McLaren believes that the Woking International Circuit would be one of the fastest and most demanding street tracks in the world, with a projected top speed of 195mph for the front-running cars along the longest straight on the circuit.
The project has long been the brainchild of McLaren, which initially conceived the idea back in 1998, when it ran Mika Hakkinen’s world championship-winning Formula 1 car through the Woking streets to considerable acclaim.
Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group, added:
“It was Mika who first raced a Formula 1 McLaren around the streets of Woking, way back in 1998. When I say ‘raced’, he wasn’t actually racing it, he was driving it. Slowly. Which was probably an even tougher test for Mika, because he never drove anything slowly.
“Still, that event lit a spark that started a fire that turned into a dream that we converted into an idea: to host a round of the Formula 1 world championship on our doorstep, in Woking.”
McLaren’s submission involves a number of new and innovative proposals, including the hosting of the Formula 1 paddock on floatable pontoons that will be anchored along the Woking-Basingstoke canal, creating a unique waterside F1 village vibe. Instead of a single media centre, journalists will be invited to work from local cafes, restaurants and shopping centres, utilising many of the town’s wifi hotspots.
A full suite of support races is also planned, with an additional paddock housed in Victoria Way’s concrete multi-storey car-park – just as is done at Monaco and Singapore, adding further similarities to F1’s blue-riband street races.
The track: seeing is believing
The Woking International Circuit has been planned as an exciting, high-speed 4.85km track that takes full advantage of the market town’s winding streets and fast multi-carriageways. It has even been designed to pass two of McLaren’s former factories – on Boundary Road and Albert Drive – to further drive home the links between the company and its hometown.
“Our engineers, our mechanics, our strategists have all actually driven this track,” added Brown. “In fact, they’ve lived it; which actually gives them a head-start over the rest of the field. They know every bump on the track, every ripple in the Tarmac, every useable rush-hour rat-run, every decent takeaway restaurant within a five-mile radius of the start-line. That’s the sort of advantage you can’t buy…”
The Woking working drawings also include plans for a fun-fair, a late-night shopping experience and a ‘street market’-style food concession village.
explore more about F1’s fantasy race as well as hear from Fernando and Stoffel on the quest for hometown glory.
“When you think of Formula 1 cars racing around tight, winding city streets in front of huge grandstands packed with cheering fans, you immediately think of Woking.
“That’s only natural – it’s a town that’s been synonymous with Formula 1 and McLaren for more than 30 years. So the idea of a Woking Grand Prix is an overdue one. An over-ambitious one, sure, but overdue nonetheless.
“I’d like to say I’ve studied the plans closely and that I definitely think there’s a fantastic grand prix track hidden in plain sight through the streets of the town. What I will say is that I can’t wait to get out there in my MCL32 and try and complete a lap of the track…”
“Whenever I’ve commuted through Woking on my way to the McLaren Technology Centre, I’ve always been struck by just how the town feels like a British version of Monte-Carlo.
“By that, I don’t mean that it’s a vibrant city-state on the sunny shores of the Med, because it’s not that. No, I mean it’s a town where racing feels alive, living among the people.
“And I think it’s every schoolchild’s dream to imagine a proper motor race around the streets of their own hometown. Well, this is that dream brought to reality. Well, not exactly reality… but closer to not just being a dream. At least, if you live in Woking… and you’ve had that dream.”
|Track length||4.85km/3.01 miles|
|Tyre choice||Purple ultra soft, red Supersoft, yellow Soft|
|Distance to Turn One||495m/0.310 miles|
|Longest straight||896m/0.480 miles, along the Maybury Straight|
|Top speed||Heavy traffic and roadworks during the rush-hour means we haven’t accurately modelled this yet.|
|Brake wear||High. There are plenty of tight corners at the ends of long straights, so we think it’s going to be pretty tough going out there. Turns One, 10 and 13 all require plenty of stopping power.|
Race title: The Woking Grand Prix
First race: TBC
While motor racing on the continent developed around point-to-point or circuit races on closed public roads, motorsport in the UK grew up using bespoke circuits and converted airfields. Thus, the country doesn’t have the same kind of road racing heritage as our European cousins.
The last British city to host a high-profile street race was Birmingham’s successful Superprix, which ran Formula 3000 and BTCC races between 1986 and 1990.
Now, with new legislation making it easier for local councils to apply for permission, the scene is set for single-seaters to return. To the streets. Of Woking. Yes, Woking!
The startline of the Woking International Circuit is a convenient 1.8 miles (2.8km) from the McLaren Technology Centre. Once the race is officially confirmed, we’ll be serving coffee and sandwiches from 7am each morning of the race weekend.
Although the sun shines brightly over the McLaren Technology Centre for an unprecedented 365 days a year, the town centre is subject to southeast England’s typically dour weather. With the race slated for late autumn/early winter, we’d recommend a coat. A pretty thick coat. One that’s waterproof is probably best, too.
We think the race would work perfectly if it started at around 16:00 local time. In the winter months it would be getting dark during the race, with the plan to light the track using just local street lighting adding an extra element of thrill and unpredictability.
With the race finishing before 18:00, there would still be time for racegoers to nip to the shops to get in some Christmas shopping before the stores close. The early evening also marks the unofficial start of Woking’s celebrated nighttime attractions, with many bars and restaurants filling with people celebrating life in Woking.
Grid advantage Pole position is located on the outside of the track, but with a curved straight leading to Turn One, there’s the possibility that the second-placed starter could gain an advantage into the first braking zone.
Don’t put the kettle on…
Our race simulations obviously suggest riveting action from beginning to end, so we wouldn’t actually recommend putting the kettle on at all. But, then again, we love a brew – particularly during a good race – so we’re a bit torn. We’d definitely suggest a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake before the start. And maybe a mid-race cuppa when it all gets a bit confusing after the pit-stops when you can’t quite work out how the guy who started 14th and has already stopped once is currently running in seventh…
100 per cent. Even if there isn’t a real need for a Safety Car, we’d definitely throw one out, just to try and spice things up a bit…
Watch out for…
Parfitts – Turns Four, Five and Six. Named after the Telecasting-wielding Status Quo rocker, this is a tricky left-hander into a tightening braking zone that will stretch the mechanical grip of the cars. It’s Whatever You Want from a corner, basically. Just make sure you don’t get overtaken or you’ll be going Down Down (Okay, that’s enough Quo… – Music Ed).
Disclaimer: The Woking Grand Prix campaign is purely fantasy and for the purpose of summer break fan engagement only. McLaren is a long time supporter of the FIA ‘Action For Road Safety’ campaign and strictly does not endorse unauthorised or unlawful racing of any kind.