Autocar Picture special: McLaren turns 50

Discussion in 'News Feeds' started by Autocar, Saturday 26th Jan, 2013.

  1. Autocar Valued Contributor ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

    It is 50 years since Bruce McLaren founded his eponymous motor racing team. Autocar takes a pictorial look back at its rise from a tiny racing team to an iconic road car manufacturer and one of the most successful F1 constructors Founded as Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963 so its charismatic Kiwi founder, already a successful Formula 1 driver, could compete in the Australian Tasman Series, the company first operated from a small south London lock-up.
    By the second half of the 1960s, the team was enjoying success on two fronts. In Can Am sportscar racing, McLaren and team-mate Denny Hulme dominated with cars such as the monstrous Chevrolet-powered M6A, M7 and M8 machines.
    The team entered Formula 1 in 1966, when Bruce McLaren left Cooper, the team with which he'd won three grands prix, to race cars bearing his own name. The first race was the Monaco Grand Prix in 1966, but McLaren's car let him down in the early stages. The first victory came when McLaren guided his Cosworth-engined M7A to success in the Belgian Grand Prix, while Hulme added two more wins later in the same season.
    McLaren had arrived, but tragedy struck when the team's founder was killed in a Can Am testing accident at Goodwood. Teddy Mayer, who had been involved with the running of the team since its early days, took over as team principal and led McLaren to its first F1 constructors' title in 1974, while Emerson Fittipaldi secured the drivers' crown in the same season.
    James Hunt secured further silverware for McLaren in 1976, winning the championship in the last race of a controversial and hard-fought season during which the first signs of an intense rivalry between McLaren and Ferrari began to emerge.
    Despite a fairly constant stream of race wins, in the early 1980s the team was encouraged by chief sponsor Phillip Morris into a merger with the Project Four Racing concern run by a certain RON Dennis, who was installed as team principal.
    This marked the beginning of McLaren’s most successful run in the sport. The team became one of F1's pioneers and was the first to introduce composite structures into the sport. Armed with potent TAG-badged (but Porsche built) V6 turbocharged engines, McLaren scooped the drivers' title in 1984 (courtesy of Niki Lauda) and 1985-86 (thanks to Alain Prost).
    A new union with Honda prompted another spell of dominance. Ayrton Senna joined Prost for the 1988 season, when the pair won 15 out of 16 races. Senna won squeezed out Prost and established himself as McLaren's number one driver, adding world crowns in 1990 and 1991 to the one he claimed in 1988.
    McLaren started a long collaboration with Mercedes in 1995. Further world titles followed for Mika Häkkinen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, but by then the company had developed into more than a racing team.
    In 1993 McLaren revealed the F1. Designed with the aim of creating the ultimate road car, Gordon Murray’s mid-engined supercar pushed the envelope, not just in its outright performance, but also in its design. The first production car to use a carbonfibre monocoque, the F1 also used gold leaf as engine bay heat insulation.
    It entered the history books as the fastest-ever production road car with a top speed of 242.95mph, a record that wasn’t beaten until 2005 when the Bugatti Veyron reached 253.81mph. And even then, it required four more cylinders, four more turbos and an extra 369bhp than the McLaren. To this day the McLaren F1 remains the world’s fastest naturally aspirated car.
    A follow-up road car didn’t appear until the Mercedes-McLaren SLR in 2003. Developed in a joint venture between the two companies, the SLR couldn’t have been more different in its design to the highly focused F1. With a 609bhp, 5.4-litre supercharged V8 engine, mated to a conventional torque-converter automatic gearbox and a cabin endowed with the trappings of road car luxury, the SLR was very much a Grand Tourer. It wasn’t entirely without performance credentials, however. Its body was fashioned from carbon, as were the brakes. The towering performance from the supercharged motor also ensured the SLR remains the world’s fastest automatic production car.
    It wasn’t until 2011 that McLaren returned to road car manufacture, this time with a completely in-house design. The MP4-12C (now just 12C) marked a return to McLaren’s use of F1-inspired technology, including the car’s one-piece carbon tub.
    As well as a Spider variant, the 12C model range also includes the HS, a limited run of five cars from the McLaren Special Operations Division. The HS differs from the standard model with a re-calibrated air brake and a tweaked aero package, taken from the 12C GT3 race car. Peak power has also been raised 75bhp to 667bhp.
    More recently McLaren Special Operations Division has accepted commissions for bespoke one-off creations such as the X-1, which was unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance in 2012. McLaren is also close to unveiling the P1, its eagerly awaited new hypercar.
    The McLaren conglomerate continues to go from strength to strength, branching from its core motorsport roots to other areas, applying its F1 technology and company ethos to areas as varied as healthcare, catering, mass transit and sports equipment.

    1974 fittipaldiA.