Notes: Sunrise to Sunset GT

The first time behind the wheel of a McLaren is a euphoric adventure

West Hollywood’s Sunset GT is an ambitious gathering of ludicrous machinery in the heart of a town where ludicrous is the name of the game. Every second Sunday morning (from 9AM to 11AM), Sunset Plaza is full of supercars, hypercars, classics and more—and too many auto enthusiasts to count. I’ve been to countless car meet-ups, but today would be different.

Rolling over and checking the time, at 5:48AM, I’d woken up ahead of the alarm. Apparently my body needed no reminder that there was a McLaren outside—just waiting to be driven. And I possessed the smooth, pebble-like key to the mid-engine British supercar. While fortunate enough to be in and around many McLaren models in the past, this was to be my first time behind the wheel in one. The excitement level was high. 

Leaving Los Angeles behind and trading surface streets for canyon roads in decent shape, the 570GT had been surprisingly comfortable and compliant on the drive up to my favorite asphalt playground—even when set to Track suspension mode. When dialing the chassis back to Normal, I had visions of driving cross-country—stopping only for fuel and bathroom breaks. 

2018 McLaren 570GT

It’s truly an impressive feat of engineering that a car can look, sound and drive like this and possess enough refinement to be useable as a daily driver. Certainly only a small percentage of crazy individuals would consider firing up a 570GT day after day to use as basic transportation, but now I count myself among them. For all the panache inherent in this class of vehicles, McLaren delivers a car that is devoid of excess. Sure, some people will say that a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 making 562 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque is excessive, but those naysayers can’t have experienced a drive like this. 

2018 McLaren 570GT

Driving along my favorite road in Angeles National Forest, I was overcome with emotion—hooting, hollering, laughing and shaking my head in disbelief. I’ve driven a myriad of modern high-performance vehicles and legendary classics around this area, but this car engaged an entirely different gear. This kind of mind-and-body connection to a car is usually reserved for vintage hardware roadsters or Miatas. This car felt like an extension of myself.

After just a couple of run-and-gun hours with it, I felt totally comfortable chasing its limits. This can be attributed to the combination of an outstanding electro-hydraulically-assisted steering set-up and a seating position typically found in non-streetable cars. It’s truly one of the lowest seats I’ve encountered and it gives you an absolutely clear idea of what the car is doing at all times. The thin-rimmed steering wheel is a joy to hold onto and void of any distracting buttons. A properly loud horn and carbon fiber column-mounted shift-paddles are all that’s needed—so that’s all that’s there. I could’ve spent all day ripping through the gears, listening to the engine sing its way to peak horsepower at 7,500 RPM as shivers went up my spine, but I was bound for more automotive excitement of a different variety: the Sunset GT.

2018 Pagani Huayra BC, one of only 20 made

When I rolled in, there were 20 featured hypercars in the lot—including a 2013 Koenigsegg Agera R and a 2018 Pagani Huayra BC. A few LaFerraris, Porsche 918s, Ford GTs and Bugatti Chirons were scattered about. Hardly anybody gave me a second glance in the 570GT, even with the bright red paint glistening in the sun.

2013 Koenigsegg Agera R

This was surprising, but perfect—I’d had my fun in the 570GT, and was ready to enjoy viewing many of the rarest modern cars in the world, not to mention one very fine 1956 Ferrari 410 Super America.

Lamborghini Aventador

Strolling through the parking lot I couldn’t help but think about all the times I’d gotten up before dawn on a Sunday, gone for a drive and then made my way to a cars and coffee event. Of the 480 Sundays that have come and gone since moving to Los Angeles, at least 100 of those have been spent at some kind of automotive event. But Sunday, 14 October 2018 will always stand out in my mind—running around the mountains in a McLaren 570GT and experiencing the madness of Sunset GT.  

On 9 December 2018 Sunset GT will be taken over by McLaren’s Special Operations division and feature a large grouping of bespoke McLaren vehicles. Hopefully another one of those smooth keys will end up in my pocket.

Images by Andrew Maness