50 Years of McLaren

The McLaren Group celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Set up by New Zealander Bruce McLaren back in 1963, McLaren has gone on to become one of the most successful Formula 1 teams of all time with 12 drivers championships and 182 race victories recorded by drivers such as Ayrton Senna, James Hunt, Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton. Not only has the team been successful in the motorsport arena, it has also become a major player in the sports car market - the 1992 McLaren F1 road car is still regarded by many motoring experts as one of the greatest road legal vehicles of all time.
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To mark the 50th anniversary of the Woking-based brand, we take a look at 5 of its greatest F1 cars:

McLaren Honda MP4-4

Races:  16 Wins: 15 Pole Positions: 15 Drivers Championships: 1 (Ayrton Senna, 1988) Constructors Championships:  1 (1988) 1987 was a disappointing year for McLaren, so for 1988, team boss Ron Dennis recruited legendary designer Gordon Murray, signed up Ayrton Senna to partner Alain Prost and also stole Honda engines from Williams. The result was the most successful season ever recorded by any team in the history of F1; with Prost and Senna winning 15 of the 16 races held in that year. The only blotch on their copybook occurred at Monza when Senna was knocked out of the lead while lapping a backmarker.

McLaren TAG (Porsche) MP4-2

Races: 48 Wins: 22 Pole Positions: 7 Drivers Championships: 3 (Niki Lauda, 1984; Alain Prost, 1985 & 1986) Constructors championships: 2 (1984 & 1985) After the 1976 triumph, McLaren went into a period of decline. The arrival of Ron Dennis in 1981 changed all of that, with Dennis recruiting designer John Barnard who created the first ever carbon fibre chassis in 1981. The next rabbit Dennis pulled out of the hat was in convincing Porsche to build a turbo F1 engine for the team with funding from the TAG group. All the pieces fell into place with Barnard’s second carbon fibre chassis in 1984, with Prost and Lauda sharing wins from 12 of the 16 races between them. The MP4-2 won every championship it entered, with Prost adding 1985 and 1986 driver’s championships to Lauda’s 1984 triumph.

McLaren Cosworth M23

Races:  83 Wins: 16 Pole Positions: 14 Drivers Championships: 2 (Emerson Fittipaldi, 1974; James Hunt, 1976) Constructors Championships:  1 (1974) The M23 was the car which really put McLaren on the map; helping Emerson Fittipaldi claim their first ever drivers’ championship in 1974 after a tense battle with Ferrari’s Clay Regazzoni. This would mark the beginning of the bitter McLaren/Ferrari rivalry which continues to this day. Despite a new 6 speed gearbox being added, there was nothing McLaren could do to stop Ferrari’s Niki Lauda cruising to the title in 1975 thanks to the Italian teams new 312T chassis. However, the Austrian’s terrible crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 gave McLaren’s James Hunt the chance to snatch the title at the final round in Japan.

McLaren Honda MP4-5

Races: 32 Wins: 16 Pole Positions: 27 Drivers Championships: 2 (Alain Prost, 1989; Ayrton Senna, 1990) Constructors Championships: 2 (1989 & 1990) Turbo engines were banned for 1989 and McLaren was forced to come up with a new car as a successor the ultra-successful MP4-4. Gordon Murray still managed to deliver the goods though with the MP4-5 which won 10 of the 16 races held in 1989. It would have been 11 wins if the rivalry between Prost and Senna had not culminated in the pair colliding in their battle for the championship at the penultimate round in Japan. The MP4-5 faced a more significant challenge in 1990 from a resurgent Ferrari team who had hired the disillusioned Prost at the end of the previous season. The pair again came to blows in Japan; this time being resolved in the Brazilians favour as McLaren took another championship

McLaren Mercedes MP4-13

Races: 16 Wins: 9 Pole Positions:  12 Drivers Championships: 1 (Mika Hakkinen, 1998) Constructors Championships:  1 (1998) The loss of Honda in 1992 and Senna in 1993 sent McLaren into another downward spiral. But Dennis once again helped the team return to the front by partnering with Mercedes-Benz and recruiting designer Adrian Newey from the then dominant Williams team. This resulted in the 1998 MP4-13 which helped the team win its first championship in 7 years. It started the season with a revolutionary third brake pedal which helped rotate the car in the corners. This was banned by the third event but McLaren still had a big enough advantage to hold off Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and help Mika Hakkinen claim the first of two World Championships.

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