When a car is named after a late three-time Formula 1 world champion, widely regarded as one of the greatest racing drivers ever to have lived, it had better be a good one. So of course the new McLaren Senna is only the most extreme road car Woking has ever built.

Unlike the P1, which was developed to be a “useable” supercar with eye-watering performance on tap, the Senna is a no-holds-barred track car with number plates. So, out goes the heavy plug-in hybrid powertrain, making this the lightest McLaren road car since the F1, with a dry weight of just 1,198 kg.

What remains is the company’s twin-turbocharged V8 which, like in the 720S, has been bored out from 3.8 to 4.0 litres. With 789 hp and 800 Nm of torque, it doesn’t grab the headlines quite the way the P1’s 903 hp and 980 Nm do, but it’s still good for a power-to-weight ratio of 659 hp per tonne. As usual, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sends all that power to the rear wheels.

At the Senna’s heart is a redeveloped version of the Monocage carbon fibre monocoque that is stronger than ever before, called Monocage III. There’s also the RaceActive Chassis Control II suspension which consists of all-round double wishbones, interlinked adaptive hydraulic dampers with a kinetic roll system (negating the need for an anti-roll bar) and an improved version of the P1’s variable stiffness and ride height technology, including the track-only Race mode. The control strategy has also been improved over the 720S.

The suspension has been designed together with the electro-hydraulic power steering to provide rich feedback to the driver as speeds and downforce increase, so the car feels “alive” even well below its limits. Ultra-lightweight centre-lock alloy wheels are shod with track-biased but road-legal Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres and hide carbon ceramic brakes said to be McLaren’s most advanced stoppers.

Given the car’s on-track performance, it’s of no surprise that the Senna has been designed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Holes have been cut into the teardrop-shaped body to reduce visual and actual weight, while a multitude of downforce-enhancing elements, including advanced front and rear active aerodynamics, have been tacked on. Every single piece has been designed to optimise downforce, whether under braking, modulating throttle mid-corner or applying power on exit.

At the front sits a sizeable splitter, along with aero blades highlighted in one of five colours – including Azura Blue and McLaren Orange – together with the brake callipers and seat trims. The rear clamshell, on the other hand, features Gurney flaps ahead of the cooling vents, creating a low-pressure zone that draws hot air from the radiator and engine bay; louvres prevent that air from interfering with the rear wing.

That active rear wing, by the way, is massive, standing at its highest point at 1,219 mm above the road; it can also act as an airbrake under heavy braking. Under it, the Inconel and titanium exhaust pipes sit on the lowest rear deck of any McLaren road car, and have also been angled to direct exhaust gasses away from the rear wing. There’s also a huge double diffuser that sucks the car further towards the ground.

Open the dihedral doors – noting the integrated roof panels for improved access, along with the exposed struts also available in the aforementioned five colours – and you’ll find a pared-back interior with just a simple three-spoke steering wheel, a folding instrument display from the 720S and a centre infotainment screen for company. If you want, you can also specify the top panel and lower half of the doors in glass instead of carbon fibre, for a more airy feel as well as a closer connection to the road surface.

The design of the doors necessitated the relocation of the door release switch and window switches to a roof-mounted console that also includes the buttons for the engine start and the car’s Race mode. Elsewhere, there’s acres of carbon fibre to denote the car’s lightweight construction, plus Alcantara or leather upholstery. While McLaren stopped short of removing the passenger seat, storage space is limited to compartments behind the seats barely enough for two helmets and accompanying race suits.

The McLaren Senna will make its world premiere at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show in March. Just 500 will be built, each priced at £750,000 (RM4.08 million), and unfortunately even if you have that kind of dosh lying around they’ve all been spoken for. Production kicks off in the third quarter of next year.