CONSTRUCTORS: MCLAREN INTERNATIONAL

Name: McLaren International

Lewis Hamilton, Australian GP 2008

Lewis Hamilton, Australian GP 2008 

 © The Cahier Archive

Bruce McLaren was as much an engineer as a racing driver and he became frustrated while driving for Cooper as he was not allowed to be involved in the design process. As a result he established Bruce McLaren Motor Racing at the end of 1963 to run Cooper T70s in the Tasman Cup series. The cars were modified and later built up into sportscars as the Zerex Special which was run in the United States by Roger Penske.

The first actual McLaren car was the M1 which was an Oldsmobile-engined CanAm sportscar, which was raced in 1964 and put into production by the Trojan company. In the course of 1965 McLaren hired designer Robin Herd, who built his first single-seater chassis as a test car for the Firestone tire company. This was built of an aerospace material composed of plywood and aluminum sheeting which was called Mallite. The first car was fitted with an Oldsmobile V8 engine but a F1 version of the car was built and run in 1966 with both Ford and Serenissima engines. It was not a success.

McLaren then became involved in the Ford sportscar program but did produce a single-seater M3 which was raced in hillclimbs and Formula Libre and later became a camera car for the filming of the movie Grand Prix starring James Garner.

McLaren's success in CanAm began in 1966 with the M6A and McLaren and Denny Hulme won the first five of the six CanAm events and finished 1-2 in the series. That year the company also produced the M4A which was used by McLaren with a second car being run by John Coombs for Piers Courage. A B version of the car was used in F1 with a BRM engine and a new M5A later appeared powered by a BRM V12 development unit.

The arrival of Cosworth DFV engines in 1968 allowed Herd to design a new car and the McLaren M7 was the result. This was raced by McLaren and Hulme and won the Race of Champions and the Belgian GP with McLaren driving, and the International Trophy and the Italian and Canadian Grands Prix with Hulme at the wheel. The pair continued their domination of CanAm with the cars finishing in five of the top six positions in the series.

There were various versions of the M7 run in F1 in 1969 with the M7B being used and then sold to Colin Crabbe to run for Vic Elford; the M7C was used for much of the year by McLaren. The team also revealed a four-wheel-drive M9A which was raced by Derek Bell at the British GP. The M10A was a Formula 5000 car.

For 1970 the team planned to enter Indycar racing with the M15, there was the M14A for F1, a revised M10 for F5000 and revised M8s for CanAm. Unfortunately McLaren was killed testing one of these at Goodwood in June, not long after Hulme suffered serious burns to his hands while testing the Indycar.

With Teddy Mayer taking over control of the team the firm kept up momentum and with Coppuck designing the M16 Indycar, Ralph Bellamy the M19 F1 car and revised versions of the CanAm and F5000 cars, the company products continued to be successful. Hulme won the CanAm title, John Cannon won the F5000 title but there were no wins in F1 or in Indycars.

In 1972 Hulme and Peter Revson ran Yardley sponsored M19s, Hulme winning the South African GP that year. The pair also raced in CanAm and dominated, with Revson winning the title and David Hobbs winning the Formula 5000 title. In Indycar racing the revised M16 began winning races with Mark Donohue in a Penske-run car. The team even ran a car in Formula 2 for rising star Jody Scheckter.

It was only when Gordon Coppuck designed the M23 that McLaren really became a winner again in F1. Hulme won in Sweden and Revson in Britain and Canada. The pair were finally beaten in CanAm by Penske's Porsche 917s but in Indycars success followed success with Donohue winning the Indianapolis 500 and other victories being added by Gary Bettenhausen and Roger McCluskey.

In 1974 the F1 team was split into two parts with Teddy Mayer returning from McLaren USA to run the F1 Marlboro Texaco team for Emerson Fittipaldi and Hulme, while Phil Kerr ran Mike Hailwood in a Yardley McLaren until an accident left him with a badly broken leg. He was replaced by Hobbs and then by Jochen Mass. That year Fittipaldi gave the team its first world title and in America McCluskey won the USAC title.

Hulme, who had been the mainstay of the team for years, retired at the end of that season and his place was taken by Mass. Fittipaldi battled for the World Championship with Niki Lauda, winning two races while Mass won the controversial accident-marred race in Spain. The Ferrari was clearly a better car and at the end of the year Fittipaldi announced that he going to join his brother's Copersucar-funded team. McLaren hired James Hunt and with a revised M23 Hunt won the 1976 World title. That same year Johnny Rutherford won the Indianapolis 500 but just missed the USAC title. Hunt figured strongly in the 1977 World Championship with a further revised M23 and in America Tom Sneva won the USAC title. Mass was replaced in 1978 by rising French star Patrick Tambay but the M26 was not a competitive car and McLaren had to look to America for victories, although Johnny Rutherford won only twice that year. It would be a similar story in 1979. The M28 F1 car was another failure and neither Tambay nor new signing John Watson could achieve much and the M29 was little better. At the end of the year it was decided to stop Indycar involvement to concentrate on F1.

The 1980 season saw new versions of the M29 and a last-minute M30 rushed out in the mid-season. Watson was joined by Alain Prost but the team seemed to have stagnated by mid-season and in September Marlboro engineered a merger of the old McLaren team with Ron Dennis's Project Four Racing which had run Marlboro colors in Formula 2. Dennis became joint managing-director of the new McLaren International with Teddy Mayer. Gordon Coppuck departed to join March and John Barnard was appointed technical director. At the end of the year Prost walked out of his contract to join Renault Sport and while Barnard built the MP4/1 - the first carbonfiber composite car in F1 - Dennis took on Marlboro nominee Andrea de Cesaris as Watson's team mate. The arrival of the MP4/1 allowed Watson to win the British GP but de Cesaris had a string of accidents. At the end of the season Dennis convinced retired World Champion Niki Lauda to make a comeback and he joined Watson. The MP4/1 was developed in a Bspecification and while Lauda won Long Beach and at Brands Hatch, Watson was victorious in Belgium and Detroit. Watson finished second in the World Championship and McLaren was runner-up in the Constructors' title. At the end of the year Mayer and Tyler Alexander left the team.

Dennis next convinced Mansour Ojjeh of TAG to fund a Porsche-built turbo engine. Lauda and Watson started the year with Ford-engined cars with Watson winning at Long Beach. The turbo cars did not arrive until the autumn and they were unreliable.

Over the winter Watson was dropped in favor of Alain Prost and Barnard's design concept developed further in the MP4/2. The 1984 season would be a huge success with 12 wins and Lauda and Prost battling for the World title. The Austrian won by half a point. It was the most dominant performance in the modern history of the sport to that point. At the end of the year Mansour Ojjeh took a 60% shareholding in the team with Dennis retaining the remaining 40%.

The 1985 title went to Prost with McLaren winning a second Constructors' title but at the end of the year Lauda retired. He was replaced by Keke Rosberg and while Prost won a second title, Rosberg struggled and retired at the end of the year, making way for Stefan Johansson in 1987. Prost was again a winner but the competitiveness of the package was beginning to fade. At the end of the year Barnard moved to Ferrari.

For the 1988 season McLaren formed a new partnership with Honda and entered the 1988 season with Prost and Ayrton Senna as drivers. Senna won the title with eight wins and Prost finished second with seven. The team was only prevented from winning a clean sweep after Senna collided with Jean-Louis Schlesser's Williams at Monza, a couple of laps from the finish.

The return to normally-aspirated engines in 1989 made little difference with Senna using a new Honda V10 to win six Grands Prix. Prost won four but took the World title after a controversial collision with Senna at Suzuka. Prost left to join Ferrari and Senna was joined by Gerhard Berger. In 1990 Senna won six races and the team's third consecutive World title.

In 1991 Honda switched to the new RA121E V12 engine and McLaren produced its MP4/6 (designed by Neil Oatley). Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger remained the race drivers and were able to win eight victories: Senna taking seven races and another World Drivers' title and McLaren beating Williams to the Constructors' championship.

In 1992 Senna and Berger continued together but the competition was stronger and Senna won only Monaco, Hungary and Italy while Berger won in Canada and Australia. Senna finished fourth in the World Championship with McLaren second in the Constructors'. At the end of the year Honda announced its decision to quit F1.

At Monza in September Ron Dennis announced that he had signed Michael Andretti to join Senna, Berger having decided to return to Ferrari for 1993 to work with engineer John Barnard.

In November 1992 Ron Dennis signed a customer deal to use Ford HB engines when attempts to buy Ligier's Renault V10 supply failed. The engines were fitted with TAG Electronics management systems. In December 1992 Andretti had his first test for McLaren at Barcelona, using Honda engines.

On February 15 the team revealed its MP4/8 at Woking and revealed a three-man team: Ayrton Senna, Michael Andretti and Mika Hakkinen. Hakkinen did most of the testing work and raced in only three GPs at the end of the year, after Andretti had been dropped. The package was more competitive than expected thanks to an effective active suspension system and Senna's driving and won five races but at the end of the year the Brazilian moved to Williams.

McLaren dallied with Chrysler - running a car with a Lamborghini V12 engine - and then signed a last-minute four-year deal with Peugeot. Hakkinen and Martin Brundle drove the cars but results were thin and at the end of the year Dennis negotiated his way out of the deal and linked up with Mercedes-Benz.

While this was happening McLaren went back into sportscar racing with racing versions of its F1 road car. The program was a success with McLaren being the dominant force in GT racing and winning the Le Mans 24 Hours at its first attempt in 1995 with Yannick Dalmas, JJ Lehto and Masanori Sekiya driving.

But the F1 program was not a success. The season began with a disastrous interlude with Nigel Mansell during which the former World Champion had to postpone his debut because he could not fit into the MP4/10B. He was then very disappointing and was replaced by Mark Blundell. At the end of the year Hakkinen had a huge accident in Adelaide and suffered a fractured skull.

The 1996 season saw Hakkinen partnered by David Coulthard but results were very disappointing and at the end of the year Marlboro departed, ending a 23-year relationship with the team. Dennis bounced back signing a big new sponsorship with the West cigarette brand and in 1997 the cars appeared in Mercedes-Benz silver. The team continued to struggle but at the end of the year at Jerez Hakkinen was handed victory by Coulthard after the pacesetters Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher had collided. Coulthard gave Hakkinen another win in Australia at the start of 1998 but thereafter the Finn became the more competitive of the two and he won the 1998 and 1999 titles - the team winning the Constructors' Championship in 1998 but losing out to Ferrari in 1999. In mid-1999 it was announced that Daimler Chrysler AG was to acquire a 40% shareholding in the team - 30% from Ojjeh and 10% from Dennis. The deal included plans for a new road car called the Mercedes-Benz SLR which was due to go into production in 2003.

The team struggled to compete with Ferrari in 2000 and 2001 and at the end of the latter year Mika Hakkinen retired. He was replaced by Kimi Raikkonen. But in 2002 the struggle continued with Ferrari again dominating. In the middle of 2002 McLaren took on Mike Coughlan to be its new chief designer, hoping to find a breakthrough in the fight with Ferrari but the 2003 and 2004 seasons were frustrating. In 2005 the team produced the impressive MP4-20 chassis and tried a new attack with Raikkonen being joined by Juan Pablo Montoya. The Finn was a strong contender for the World title, losing out in the end because of poor reliability and because Montoya did not take enough points away from the opposition. At the end of the year the team lost its technical director Adrian Newey to Red Bull Racing. This was followed by major changes in the technical staff in the course of 2006, a poor season in which the team failed to win a race. Montoya departed to NASCAR in the midseason and then Raikkonen announced a deal with Ferrari.

The team went into 2007 with double World Champion Fernando Alonso, a long-term deal with Vodafone to be the team's title sponsor, and the exciting new signing Lewis Hamilton. The year turned into a nightmare. Alonso did not integrate with the team and Hamilton was so good that the Spaniard was thrown off balance and then the team was dragged into a spying scandal after chief designer Mike Coughlan was found to have a large amount of Ferrari paperwork at his home. The result was that McLaren was fined $100m by the FIA, and lost all of its World Constructors Championship points. The scandal caused significant damage to McLaren's reputation. At the end of the year Hamilton lost the World Championship though his chances had seemed very promising. Alonso departed to rejoin Renault. The team hired Heikki Kovalainen to join Hamilton and the Italian police investigation into the espionage case went on.

The best answer is for the team to show in 2008 that it does not need Ferrari technology to win...

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