McLaren ’50 in 50′: The Cars

Earlier this year McLaren announced that, in line with their 50th anniversary celebrations, they would be releasing 100 limited edition McLaren 50 12C and 12C Spiders. The revised cars have been produced by McLaren Special Operations, the branch of McLaren Automotive that is responsible for bespoke projects. The 50 12C comes in one of three colours, once of which is the heritage McLaren Orange first seen on the Can-Am cars in the 60s and 70s. Throughout their 50 years, McLaren have been responsible for creating a range of iconic cars, for the track and road. Here is a quick look at just a few of those cars from McLaren’s history and future:

The M23

McLaren’s M23 debuted in 1973 when Denny Hulme, Peter Revson, Jody Scheckter, and Jacky Ickx were driving. It finished third in its maiden year before going on to win a championship in 1974, with Emerson Fittipaldi piloting it to success in the Drivers’ championship as well. In 1975 it finished third, in 1976 second and third again in 1977. Designed by Gordon Cuppock, the M23 featured improved weight distribution and wider wings.

McLaren F1

Defined by many as the definitive sports car, the McLaren F1 was the group’s first production after McLaren Cars (now McLaren Automotive) was established. Bruce McLaren had dabbled in road car production in the 60s, producing one prototype of the 5.7 litre Ford engined McLaren M6 GT, but it had never taken off. McLaren, who became the first F1 team to produce a carbon fibre chassis, transferred what they had learnt in Formula One to develop the F1. It was unveiled in 1992 and launched in 1994 at the price of £540,000.

M8D

McLaren’s M8D was thrust into the spotlight in the most tragic of circumstances. While testing the car at Goodwood, a piece of the rear came loose and caused Bruce McLaren to crash at high speed. He lost his life but the team carried on, believing it to be what he would have wanted. Denny Hulme, Peter Gethin and Dan Gurney took the wheel of the car and between them won nine out of ten races in the season to become undisputed Can-Am champions. There was no better way to pay tribute to Bruce and the car has gone down in history of one of McLaren’s most iconic.

The car was fired up at the McLaren Technology Centre as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations:

The MP4-4

1988 saw McLaren adding Ayrton Senna and Honda to their line-up, joining Alain Prost. The MP4-4 dominated the year as McLaren won 15 out of 16 races with 15 pole positions as well. Their only non-win of the year was at the Italian Grand Prix. The team won the Constructors’ championship, while Senna and Prost battled it out for the Drivers’ championship. Senna came out on top. It was the start of a dominating phase for McLaren as they went on to win three more championships on the trot (and three driver titles). It is deemed, by many, McLaren’s greatest ever car.

McLaren P1™

McLaren’s most recent road-car, the McLaren P1, was officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this year. Ron Dennis said of the P1: “Twenty years ago, with the McLaren F1, we raised we raised the supercar performance bar. With the McLaren P1™, we have redefined it once more.” Jenson Button drove the car at Goodwood, as well as arriving at this year’s MP4-28 launch behind the wheel of a P1 complete with test livery. The car is widely anticipated, as a successor to the McLaren F1, and will cost £860,000. It has been designed to be the best driver’s car on the road and the track. The car went into production at the start of October.

You can watch the car in action here:

 

 

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McLaren ’50 in 50′: John Watson

Northern Irish driver John Watson drove for McLaren from 1979 until 1983 when he retired from the sport. He is one of their 19 race winners, taking four of his five victories for the team.

Watson made his Formula One debut in 1973 driving a customer Brabham at the British Grand Prix. He retired from it and the US Grand Prix. In 1974 he raced for the Goldie Hexagon Team scoring his first points and taking 11/15 classified finishes. Stints with Team Surtees and Team Penske followed, taking his first win with the latter at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. In 1977 and 1978 he drove Brabhams again before signing for the McLaren team for 1978.

His first win for McLaren was a special one as it was a first victory for the first carbon fibre chassis in Formula One. It came at his home race, the British Grand Prix in 1981. Back in 2011,  thirty years after that victory and the introduction of a manufacturing process that has now become the norm, Watson returned to Silverstone to get behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4-12C road car. He said at the time that he was “very proud” to have been part of the team launching the first carbon fibre car. It also protected him from serious injury after a crash at the Italian Grand Prix the same year of his first McLaren win. In 1982 Watson came third in the world championship, losing out to champion Keke Rosberg and drawing on points with Didier Pironi. During his time at McLaren he took nine podiums along with his four victories.

At the end of 1983 Watson found himself out of McLaren when the team decided to sign up Alain Prost instead. He returned two years later, however, standing in for an injured Niki Lauda at the 1985 European Grand Prix. Following his retirement from Formula One, Watson tried his hand at sportscar racing and took part in Le Mans 24 Hours seven times. He tested the Jordan F1 car in 1990 and moved into Formula One punditry and commentary.

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Innovation

Carbon fibre chassis, just one thing we take for granted in modern Formula One. For many it is difficult to remember or imagine cars being made of anything else. But back in 1980, it came as a bit of a shock when Ron Dennis’ Project 4 (who merged with Bruce McLaren’s racing team) announced that they would be using carbon fibre to build their MP4/1.

Ron Dennis recalled at the G8 Innovation Conference, in June of this year, his memories of it. “We pioneered carbon fibre in 1980 – I can remember the frustrations” he said. “Our company at the time, it wasn’t even McLaren, had less than 20 people and we said ‘we’re going to use carbon fibre’ to shock around the world. And when we built the first Formula One car it was the biggest low-bearing composite structure in the world. Now every racing car is carbon fibre and we are the biggest producers of producion cars out of carbon fibre”.

The MP4/1 offered an unbeatable combination of strength and lightness. It also proved to be an effective safety cell after John Watson, who also piloted the car to victory, walked away from a high-speed crash at the Italian Grand Prix. John Watson said: “It was hugely exciting to be part of what felt like a revolution and amazing really to think that not only did all racing teams follow McLaren’s lead, but that McLaren has stuck to carbon so religiously in everything it has done.”

Of course, McLaren have since used this philosophy in their production cars. While it took 4,000 hours to make each carbon fibre chassis on the McLaren F1 (the first production road car to use a full carbon fibre monocoque), it now takes just four hours to produce the MonoCell of the McLaren MP4-12C, unveiled in 2009.

At the end of August this year, the McLaren Group unveiled the 12C in its new GREAT campaign livired car, which has been designed to support and inspire British innovation. The GREAT Britain campaign showcases the very best of what Britain has to offer. The GREAT campaign’s graphics have been added to the McLaren 12C along with the message “innovation is GREAT”. The car, which was built at the McLaren Production Centre, incorporates ground-breaking technologies taken directly from McLaren’s wealth of experience in Formula One, including a one-piece carbon fibre MonoCell chassis. Team Principal and CEO of McLaren Group, Martin Whitmarsh, said: “McLaren is proud to be an ambassador for British innovation and to support the GREAT campaign. The UK has led the world in the development of technologies which have changed people’s lives, from the jet engine to the internet.”

It isn’t just on the roads that McLaren have continued to be innovative leaders, but still in Formula One. In 2010, McLaren developed what became known as the ‘F Duct’ (the inspiration for this blog’s name…). This featured an air intake on the nose which allowed the driver to alter the the airflow over the rear wing by blocking the duct with their leg. To the team the innovation was referred to as the RW80 but was known generally as the F Duct, perhaps due to the fact the intake was placed beside the F in Vodafone, the team’s sponsor. The idea was adopted by many other teams, who had their own variations, but it was agreed by teams to ban it for the 2011 season.

Outside of road cars and racing, McLaren technologies are being used in other industries. Anthony Sheriff, former Managing Director at McLaren Automotive, on the 30th anniversary of McLaren introducing carbon fibre to Formula 1, said: “McLaren is a company driven by a passion to innovate. That passion manifests itself in advances in uses of materials and technologies in order to win motor races and produce ground-breaking cars. But now we are seeing that technology begin to transfer to more mainstream production.” McLaren have used their technologies in association with others to develop high tech bikes and helping rowers at the London 2012 Olympics, amongst other things. The McLaren Group are continually striving to be at the forefront of global innovation, supporting industries, using their expertise, including healthcare, public transport and energy. They have also been awarded awards for their innovation. This includes the High Performance Innovation Award at the inaugural European Awards for Innovation Leadership this year for McLaren Electronics. Peter van Manen, the Managing Director, said: “McLaren has innovation in its DNA. We are also translating knowledge and technology to other sectors to help sick children, improve public transport systems and much more.”