RAC Cars News


Ansar Ali taken on as McLaren Special Operations boss

By raccars Published


Ex Caterham, Ford and Lotus employee Ansar Ali joins McLaren as part of streamlining efforts.

A British sportscar guru has been promoted to take the helm at McLaren Special Operations after the supercar manufacturer decided to bring its customisation and racing departments together.

Ansar Ali first joined McLaren as the head of its motorsport unit in March and was previously Lotus’ general manager for almost five years and the CEO at Caterham for over seven. He then went on to start British track car producer Zebos, together with Caterham and Lotus engineer Mark Edwards.

McLaren Automotive lured Ali over in the spring and put him in charge of a new motorsports division, independent of the GT racing department and the Formula One racing team. He has already been responsible for the launch of the 579S Spring and the 507 GT4 and he is now heading McLaren Special Operations as well.

McLaren Special Operations explained.

McLaren Special Operations, or MSO, is responsible for the customisation at the company’s Woking base. This includes everything from work on limited-run supercars to special paints and trims. The division also takes care of vintage McLaren Formula One cars for customers, in addition to running programmes and events, such as track days aimed at P1 GTR owners. There is speculation that more special events will now be run under MSO with Ali at the helm, including events for Spring cars and perhaps even a McLaren Special Operations Racing department.

The merger of the two departments will mean that Ali is overseeing the marketing, creation and development of MSO-defined, customised and racing models. McLaren is also streamlining its operations even further and the two combined divisions will be integrated with the company’s Global Sales & Marketing unit to bring all revenue-generating business areas together.

McLaren’s aim is said to be to ensure closer contact with its customers and retailers, whilst combining the key revenue-generating business areas. Jolyon Nash, McLaren’s executive director for marketing and global sales, says that the merging of McLaren Motorsport and McLaren Special Operations brings together two areas dedicated to designing and delivering highly bespoke, low-volume offerings to customers.

He said that the integration of the two departments would mean that both Motorsport and MSO could offer an ever-more significant contribution in terms of McLaren Automotive’s long-term future. McLaren Automotive is the road-going car division of the wider McLaren Technology Group. MSO has a reputation for receiving strong demand for its low-volume and bespoke models such as the recent MSO HS. There were only 25 of this specially-commission car created and all were sold before production even began.

The latest high-profile appointment at McLaren

Ali’s appointment is one of a variety of key moves made by McLaren’s recruiters recently, although these have largely related to the company’s grand prix endeavours. Former Volkswagen and Ford rally supremo Jost Capito was recently bought in to head the F1 team, whilst the company’s new chief aerodynamicist is Rob Taylor, a former Red Bull designer.

German Capito was Volkswagen’s Director of Motorsport. He has also worked with BMW, Porsche, Sauber and Ford. He was instrumental in the development of the award-winning Ford Focus Mk1 RS. He officially started his latest job within McLaren at the start of September.

McLaren has also shaken up its line-up of drivers. It now features youngster Stoffel Vandoorne, who was bought in to cover for Briton Jenson Button's planned sabbatical. Vandoorne is a well-known Belgian driver in Super Formula and made his debut for McLaren’s Formula One team at this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

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