Key Points:

McLaren's new supercar might be a smaller and less expensive package than the early 90s F1 but its design was inspired by the original.

The picture on today's cover is a computer-enhanced impression of the car, based on spy pictures of the camouflaged prototype taken during testing outside London, at McLaren's Formula One factory in Woking.

Due to go on sale in 2010, the McLaren will come with a price tag in Europe of around ¬300,000, or upwards of $600,000.

It is aimed at Ferrari's F430 and the Lamborghini Gallardo. Codenamed P11, it is the spiritual successor to the F1 and has been designed and built completely in-house.

Unlike the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, it's not a joint venture. Instead, the car is the work of engineers at the Formula One team's factory.

The development mule wears a heavy disguise but it's clear that designers have borrowed styling cues from the F1.

The picture of the prototype here shows the high tail. Other spy shots show further F1 design cues like the side window shape, the short overhangs, the bold headlights and large bumper air intakes.

But overall, the P11 has enough visual strength to mark a totally new direction for the company.

While firm details on the newcomer are scarce, it is likely to use as much grand prix-related technology as possible.

McLaren will be keen to draw parallels between the P11 and its F1 track models so it will sit on a strong yet light carbon-fibre chassis.

The body will also be made from advanced composites - Kevlar and carbon fibre - and as a result the P11 will weigh about 1150kg.

A mid-mounted 6.2-litre V8 sourced from F1 engine supplier Mercedes-Benz will drive the rear wheels via a seven-speed semi-automatic transmission, complete with steering wheel paddleshifters.

The AMG-tuned powerplant will produce at least 375kW (500bhp) with the aid of a turbocharger.

And thanks to the car's low kerb weight, it is expected to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in around 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 320km/h.

Carbon brakes will make sure it stops as well as it goes.

As was the case with the F1, McLaren will give customers the chance to personalise their car, so a long specification list is likely. There is set to be a whole host of interior trim options and paint colours.

The cabin itself will be modern with a unique feel and appearance. The dashboard and steering wheel draw inspiration from the firm's racers.

Once McLaren has finished the last run of SLR Roadsters and special-edition roofless SLR Speedsters, work will begin on building the P11.

And while production of the road-going F1 ended after only 64 examples, volumes for the newcomer are set to extend into four figures.

The McLaren F1 was the fastest street legal production car in the world, holding the 371km/h (231mph) record from 1994 to 2005. A Koenigsegg CCR beat the McLaren's record in 2005.

The F1 was designed by Gordon Murray and engineered and produced by McLaren Automotive, a subsidiary of the British McLaren Group that, among others, owns the McLaren Mercedes Formula One team. Today it is still the fastest naturally aspirated car in the world.

The F1 was powered by a 6.1-litre V12 BMW engine and only 107 cars were manufactured - 64 of those were street versions (F1), five were LMs, three were longtail roadcars (GT), five prototypes (XP), 28 racecars (GTR), and one an LM prototype (XP LM).