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′: James Hunt

After Emerson Fittipaldi’s world championship in 1974, McLaren didn’t have to wait long until the the next one. It was courtesy of British driver James Hunt in 1976, and came after a season full of drama. Hunt’s rivalry with Niki Lauda was a key aspect of the 1976 film, and is a rivalry that has become part of a film. Rush is released today, Friday 13th September.

Born in 1947, Hunt progressed through the ranks on his way to Formula One. Driving Minis, Formula Ford and Formula 3, Hunt was offered a drive in Formula 2 by Lord Hesketh which led to his Formula 1 drive in 1973. The Hesketh team folded in 1975 leaving Hunt without a seat. It just so happened that Fittipaldi had decided to leave McLaren, leaving a vacancy and one that Hunt soon took up.

He had a mixed start at McLaren in 1976 – four retirements from the first six races. His two finishes, however, were second place in South Africa and a dubious first in Spain. His McLaren M23 was too wide and he was subsequently disqualified from the results. This meant that his victory was awarded to Lauda, his championship rival. After an appeal Hunt was reinstated as the winner of the race. After a fifth place in the Swedish Grand Prix, Hunt’s season started to stabilise and he consistently scored points. He once again found himself disqualified from results at the British Grand Prix, this time due to an illegal restart.

Going into the last three races of the year, Hunt had to overcome a 17 point deficit to his rival Lauda, who had come back after a horrific crash at the German Grand Prix. He won the Candian and US GP while Lauda failed to score in one and came home third in the other. This set up a potential thriller at the Japanese Grand Prix with Hunt just three points behind Lauda. Hunt qualified in second and Lauda in third. Conditions for the race were treacherous and Lauda was one of a handful of drivers who chose to withdraw. Hunt raced on and finished third, making him world champion by just one point. After two mediocre seasons with McLaren after that, Hunt chose to leave for the 1979 season and eventually retired mid-way through it.

Following his retirement from Formula One, Hunt formed an unlikely partnership with Murray Walker as he took up commentating, which he continued until his death in 1993. During his racing career he picked up the reputation of being a bit of a playboy. Certainly, he had an interesting patch embroidered on his overalls which McLaren’s Tooned changed to “eggs: breakfast of champions”. The real patch had a much more adult theme. He is a firm favourite of Kimi Raikkonen, who at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix wore a tribute helmet (as he has done in the past). In 2007 Raikkonen entered a snowmobile race under the name James Hunt.

Tomorrow’s post will look at McLaren’s Tooned series – their cartoon featuring their drivers and Alexander Armstrong.