Celebrating International Women's Day with a great bunch of Women

March 12, 2024

On International Women's Day this year, I had the incredible opportunity to visit McLaren Automotive. Beyond the sleek lines of their cars lie individuals who are passionate about all things automotive. This opportunity was brought to me by the wonderful Laura Harris, a Freelance Photographer and Digital Marketing Manager. Laura has started a community for women who are interested in, or work around, the Automotive industry. ‘Be Right Back’ is a chilled-out community of like-minded ladies to hang out with; Supportive and non-competitive, they provide monthly social meetups.

It was a 6.30am start from the East Midlands, heading south to Woking, the home of McLaren Automotive. By the time I arrived, the sun had come out but typically the sunglasses had been left at home. I found my fellow gang of ladies waiting outside the gatehouse.

From the gatehouse, not much is given away apart from the occasional roar of a McLaren engine leaving the site which makes everyone swiftly turn around. I’m led to believe that the land was previously an Ostrich farm, and that they have restrictions on how high they can build.

Parking up in their very busy car park, we walked around to the entrance to be greeted by the view of a beautiful shimmering pond going right up to a curved bank of glass windows, designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster. The 30,000 m3 pond is used as a cooling system, whilst also providing a habitat for fish.

Inside we were greeted by Danni, Jule, and Chloe, and led into a very cool client meeting room, with a Papaya Artura Spider in the centre of the room. Whilst enjoying a cup of tea (from a sleek cup and saucer I should add), we were able to explore trophies, leather options, colour samples, and chat with like-minded ladies from Be Right Back. With the group growing, there were plenty of introductions to be made and topics to catch up on since we last met up.

After that it was then on to our tour of the facility. The incredibly knowledgeable Danni started at the very beginning, showing us the actual car that started Bruce Mclaren's venture into driving, an Austin 7 (still including the marks on the rev counter pointing out ideal gearshift, apparently for his Dad not him). She explained how he was later discovered by Jack Brabham and asked to join his ‘Driver to Europe’ scheme to bring him to the UK. 1959 saw him joining Cooper F1 and winning the USA F1 race at only 22. In 1965 he started his own racing team.

We were introduced to the sister car of the Can-Am M8D that Bruce sadly lost his life in on the Lavant Straight at Goodwood in 1970. We heard about how the team carried on and continued what Bruce had started. Each year, along with a minute's silence, there is also 1 minute noise in celebration of his achievements, this is done with the number 5 M8D Can-Am Car.

This led me to a YouTube search to find videos of it running, and I wasn’t disappointed. From here, I became overwhelmed with information, from last years’ F1 car but in this year’s livery, through to F1 cars from different seasons lined up next to each other. It was so interesting to see the changes through innovation and development that often came from changes in rules that led to different aerodynamics.

It was amazing to be up close to the Gordon Murray road car era, getting to stick our heads and cameras right inside the F1.

The futuristic feel of the building, with suspended walkways and glass cylindrical lifts, led us to a100m corridor of trophy cabinets ending in a wonderful full-size Lego car, along with lego brake discs and pads and working lights.

The tour concluded with a walk through a space age underground tunnel taking us to the production area. Unfortunately, you won’t find any photos of this below as we were asked to leave cameras outside.

High above the workshop floor, we viewed the full assembly area, straining our eyes to see the intricate work that goes into their vehicles. Admiring the vast amount of part and complete cars in nearly all the colours of the rainbow. A hubbub of engine noises and workshop tools filled the large room, and the odd fleeting glance from the workforce below wondering what this group of women were doing.

It was time for another cup of tea so back to the beautiful client meeting room, where we were joined by several female engineers from different parts of the business. They introduced themselves and we were given the opportunity to ask questions as a group, followed by individual chats.

It was inspiring to find out more about what McLaren were doing to encourage women into this male-dominated sector, focusing on young people in education and letting ladies know that opportunities are open to them - something that wasn’t readily available when I was in school.

After many thank you’s, we said our goodbyes with half of us taking the one hour journey south to visit the new Caffeine and Machine The Hut site. After a beautiful drive through the South Downs National Park, I arrived at an exciting crossroads (physically), home to Caffeine and Machine, a petrol station, and Loomies Moto café - a bikers pub.

Smelling of fresh paint, Caffeine and Machine The Hut has beautiful deep green rainforest walls, chocolate brown leather chairs, and a warming log fire. As a meeting place for people who love vehicles, it has a large car park and indoor and outdoor seating, a merch shop, a bar, and a coffee bar. With wonderful company by my side, we talked about life, cars, and future plans while tucking into delicious food. I highly recommend a visit.

What a way to finish off a tremendous day!

Thank you again to Laura from Be Right Back and the ladies at McLaren Automotive for a truly special and memorable day.

-- Caroline

McLaren Colour Wall
McLaren Artura
McLaren Can-am M8D
Bruce McLaren
McLaren F1
McLaren P1
Jaguar XJ220

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