by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

The new MP4-26 makes flying start

We follow Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ 2011 challenger on its journey from our HQ to its public reveal in Berlin. Jake Schembri reports.

Hundreds of thousands of you all over the world saw the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 being revealed in a unique way last week, but the previous night, and with only hours between the car being finished in England and its debut in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, there was only one way to get it there on time.

Our new challenger’s journey involved two trucks, a Russian Antonov transport plane, an airport far away from our base and a lone photographer.

The photographer in question, Patrick Gosling, and his team were busy preparing the official photographs in the weeks leading up to the reveal in order for everything to be readily available to the world’s media once the car broke cover, or in this year’s case, was put together in front of fans.

The culmination of pre-reveal photographic activities took place at the McLaren Technology Centre around 8pm on Thursday, February 3. As soon as Patrick and his team were done, the car was rolled very carefully onto the back of one of our transport trucks, which made its way to Birmingham Airport.

But why didn’t we fly the car from a London airport, since they are much closer to our base in Woking? The answer is freight planes aren’t allowed to operate at London airports after a certain time of night. The only alternative, guaranteeing the car was flown in total secrecy and available to Patrick and his team until the last available minute, was to fly from Birmingham - 160km (100 miles) away.

At 1am on Friday, February 4, a mere 10 hours before the car would be revealed to the world, it was unloaded off the back of the truck and (very, very carefully) loaded onto the transport plane.

The pilots would arrive an hour later to fly the precious cargo 20,000 feet above Europe before swooping down into the German capital’s Tegel airport. Sadly for Patrick there wasn’t anywhere to sit, this being a cargo plane, so one of the crew gave him a mattress and he bedded down next to the car.

He said the experience was bizarre, but one of the best of his career. “Sitting in the back of a 20-year-old Russian transport plane next to a brand-new Formula 1 car on the way to its reveal was pretty surreal,” he added.

Take-off time was 3am UK time, and the plane landed at Berlin’s Tegel airport just after 6am Central European Time. After making its way through customs, the MP4-26 was loaded onto another truck and driven to the Potsdamer Platz in the city, safe and sound and ready to be revealed to the waiting world.

Below is a tasty gallery full of gorgeous, exclusive pictures of our new competitor making its first journey outside the walls of the MTC. Enjoy!

* Official photos and details courtesy of VODAFONE MCLAREN MERCEDES *

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