Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Flipbook - Page 76
FEEL MY POWER
Adam Hay-Nicholls drives the McLaren Senna
to East Anglia in search of something equally light,
prestigious and expensive
PASCAL RONDEAU/ALLSPORT, BEADYEYE, ADAM HAY-NICHOLLS
he McLaren Senna was
designed to set lap records.
I know this because I’ve
previously thrashed it
around Portugal’s Estoril
Circuit, the track at which its
namesake, Ayrton Senna, won his first
Grand Prix. The aero-aided braking was
so severe, my eyeballs spat tears onto
the inside of my glasses. But as well as
generating 789 horsepower and 800kgworth of downforce, it has a number
plate. So, driving to North Essex and
the Suffolk coast, I would experience
this moveable feast of carbon-fibre in a very different way –
traffic, cruise control, traction set to sensible.
Picture the scene: The weather is reminiscent of Ayrton’s
epic triumph in ’85. It is lashing down and the windows have
steamed up. I’m stuck in motorway traffic. At 1,000 rpm, half
of the cylinders shut down, so the McLaren is quiet and
economical. There is glass at knee-level designed for corner
apex visibility, but on the M25, surrounded by trucks, it
leaves one feeling exposed. This car is pre-production.
A plaque reads “No. 000 of 500”. The software for the stereo
is built-in, but you pay extra for speakers in both money and
weight. At 1,300kg, this car is stripped out. The only music
is the twin-turbo V8.
I pull off the M11 at junction 9a, taking the B184 to Saffron
Walden. This market town, in the 1500s, was the epicentre
of the world’s saffron cultivation. By the 17th century, every
field, churchyard, garden and window box would have been
filled with crocuses. Production petered out when cheaper
imports from Iran and Kashmir arrived, but English saffron
is still considered the finest, thanks to our soil.
Like the McLaren Senna, saffron is very light and very
expensive. By weight, it’s more valuable than gold. I’ve come
to meet David Smale, a scientist by trade, who has singlehandedly resurrected saffron growth in this area. He has
100,000 bulbs and sells to Fortnum & Mason. It is labourintensive: 200 flowers need to be handpicked to produce just
one gram of saffron. David opens the boot of his car and
produces a bag full of dark orange flecks. Saffron is worth
£40 a gram and £40,000 a kilo. To an onlooker, this has all the
hallmarks of a drug deal. There’s thousands of pounds-worth
of merchandise here.
As well as enlivening rice and a myriad of dishes, saffron
has been a status symbol since long before the hypercar.
History reveals that Cleopatra bathed in saffron and ass’s
milk. Henry VIII dyed his tights with it, while Anne Boleyn