Friday, November 20, 2009
Back in 1992, I spent a remarkable day with the McLaren F1 project Technical Director Gordon Murray and Chief Designer Peter Stevens at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, England. As the Grand Prix season was then at its height, the Formula One racecar section was off-limits.
I have returned to Woking several times since, but today, 14 years later, I am re-united with the McLaren F1 on a track near Munich, Germany. The silver-colored machine I find myself sitting in is one of the last F1s made and is part of the BMW Mobile Tradition collection.
Firing up the 627 bhp 6064cc V12 brings the memories flooding back to my day at McLaren, when we did the same thing in their workshop before hitting the road.
The McLaren F1 was launched to a flurry of interest from the press and car enthusiasts worldwide in 1992. With its stunning form and superb performance, the F1 was quickly hailed as the new standard-bearer for the supercar contingent.
The accolades poured in, but perhaps nothing endorsed the F1’s credentials better than the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1995 when the McLaren F1 finished first, third, fourth, fifth, and 13th on its debut outing. This was an unprecedented achievement for an all-new car type.
In 1998, the McLaren was piloted by F1 test driver and Le Mans ace Andy Wallace to a world record-breaking speed of 386.5 km/h (240.14 mph). This record would remain unbeaten for seven years until it fell to the Koenisegg CCR, and then the Bugatti Veyron in 2005.
During its production run from 1993 to 1998, only a hundred McLaren F1s were ever made; 65 of these were road cars, with the rest being race-tuned editions. It was the motorsports tie-up between McLaren and Mercedes-Benz that brought the F1 project to an end.