How a sailfish influenced the design of the Mclaren P1 ‘Hyper Car’
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve managed to get signed off as a work expense?
For Frank Stephenson, it was a sailfish.
On holiday in the Caribbean he noticed one on the wall of the bar at the hotel he was staying at.
Intrigued by its shape he asked the barman about the graceful looking fish behind him.
The barman explained that it was the fastest fish in the sea and can travel through water at speeds faster than a cheetah achieves on land at up to 68mph or 109kph.
As the designer director for the sportscar manufacturer McLaren Automotive this got him thinking.
He began avidly researching and, on the way back to the UK, he stopped off in Miami where he bought a sailfish that had recently been caught.
The fish was stuffed sent back to the design studio at McLaren’s HQ in Woking, Surrey.
By examining the fish close up, the team of McLaren designers and aerodynamicists were able to establish what made it so fast through the water.
The scales of the fish create tiny vortices that effectively envelop it in a ‘pocket of air’ so that it’s not facing the stronger resistance of water.
It’s as if the fish is travelling through the air but under the water.
How cool is that?
When McLaren were designing their P1 ‘hypercar’ one of the key requirements was increasing the amount of air into the engine to maximise the amount of performance extracted from the engine’s combustion cycle.
Treating the surface on the inside of the air intakes with a similar design to the sailfish skin increased airflow to the engine by 17%.
So successful was this application of nature’s genius that McLaren consider biomimicry to be an important part of their overall design inspiration.
To learn more about this fascinating topic register your interest for our upcoming Biomimicry Course launching in early 2018.