What It’s Like To Top 200 MPH In A McLaren 720S Spider

Racing a $600,000 supercar through a speed trap at the Sun Valley Tour de Force in Ketchum, Idaho.

(Andrew Link/McLaren)

When McLaren invited me to pilot one of their cars through a speedtrap flat out in broad daylight on the Sun Valley Tour de Force in Ketchum, Idaho, I scratched my head and laughed. For where else is the road shut down by the boys in blue so that a herd of juiced-up speed freaks can screech down the tarmac as if their tails are on fire—punching through the line sans speed limit at over 200 mph?

(Andrew Link/McLaren)

Of course, I said yes to shooting myself mentally out of the universe of 9-to-5 and into the land of who-knows-what.

The Sun Valley Tour de Force is in its fifth year and takes place on a 3.2 mile stretch of Route 75 in Ketchum—Hemingway country— known as Phantom Hill. It should come as no surprise that the spirit of the event is to raise money for the 501(c)3 charity behind it.

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(Andrew Link/McLaren)

Local causes benefit every year from entry fees and monies raised in an auction for those who survive to tell the tale; and auto manufacturers get to duke it out for bragging rights. This year a short burst of bids after the celebratory dinner put over $600,000 in the kitty. No mean feat in a world of alligator arms that struggle to reach wallets for a good cause.

Strapped into an Ember Orange 710-hp McLaren 720S Spider with a demented grin. Earpiece poking me in case of streakers, bison, pterodactyls, or debris from a spaceship crashing to Earth on the sub-optimal two-lane tarmac and weeds of Route 75. The camber enough to slide off if the Pirelli P-Zeros give up and take a break.

(Andrew Link/McLaren)

My first run a bust—failed safety radio. Red flag. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go back to the pits and get it fixed. Head back out. Wait, wait, wait…a wave of flag…and punch it.

Right foot flat on the gas. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, around the sweeping uphill blind left-hander, 5th, 6th, into 7th. One hundred percent focused on the road but feeling a loss of acceleration…sensitive and adjusting to stay smooth…across the line and past the slow-down flags into the pits. Breathe. A shade under 200 mph. Someone tells me 7th is overdrive and she goes faster in 6th.

(Andrew Link/McLaren)

Damn. Head out again. No radio problem. In auto now and it feels odd. I’m told it’s the move, so go with it. Headwinds up. A wave of flag… bury it. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th up around the blind sweeping left, 5th, 6th… right foot hard and deep into the floor… flat out before the trap… then slow down flags…and pits…and finally, “200 MPH CLUB.” The McLaren leaving lesser marques eating its dust.

(Andrew Link/McLaren)

If you fancy pushing the outside of the envelope, sign up for next year. We hear there’ll be a DQ bespoke suit up for grabs. As well as that carbon-fiber number plate holder “200 MPH CLUB. Sun Valley Tour de Force.” I’ll see you there.