Three killed as pounds 627,000 McLaren crashes

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The Independent Online
THREE PEOPLE were killed yesterday in a McLaren F1, the fastest and most expensive road car produced, when itcrashed into a tree and burst into flames on a country road in Essex.

Witnesses said the fire in the wreckage of the car, which cost pounds 627,000 and has a top speed of 240mph, was so intense that they were unable to approach the inferno by the side of the A120, at an accident blackspot near the market town of Great Dunmow. The three victims, who were travelling in the car, had to be identified through medical records.

Reports last night, unconfirmed by the police, said the driver was Christopher Dawes, 39, an Australian-born multimillionaire and chairman of the Micromuse computer company. The other two victims were his passengers, one male and one female.

The crash happened at about 1.20pm, after a heavy shower. Police said no other vehicles were involved.

Susan Mulford and her husband Leigh rushed from their home after hearing the crash. Mrs Mulford said: "We saw this great cloud of black smoke and then flames right across the road.

"It was fortunate that no other cars were following. No one could get anywhere near it. It was just smoke and flames."

The car was almost unrecognisable after the crash.

The driver of the F1, a roadgoing offshoot of the Surrey-based McLaren Formula One racing team, sits centrally at the front of the cabin, flanked by two passengers slightly behind him on either side.

There were only 100 F1s built by McLaren between 1992 and 1998, and the car, which accelerates from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds, caused a storm on its launch as safety campaigners claimed it could only be a hazard on the roads. With 627 horsepower, its V12 engine produces more than six times the power of an average family hatchback.

Mr Dawes, a flamboyant entrepreneur, started Micromuse in an attic in Fulham in 1989, and had recently diversified into the hotel industry.

Police said last night they were were withholding the other victims' names until their next of kin had been informed.