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  McLaren MP4/5 Honda
 

  Article Image gallery (25) MP4/5-5 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1989
Numbers built:8
Designed by:Neil Oatley for McLaren
Predecessor:McLaren MP4/4 Honda
Successor:McLaren MP4/5B Honda
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 21, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAlthough McLaren had absolutely decimated the competition in 1988 with 15 wins in 16 attempts, continued success in the new season was certainly not a given due to a substantial rule change. From 1989 onwards, forced induction engines were banned so the mighty twin-turbo V6 Honda used the previous year was no longer legal. While Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dominated on track, Honda had been busy in Japan preparing for the revised regulations by developing an all-new naturally aspirated engine.

Like Renault, Honda opted to go for a V10 as the best middle-ground between a more compact V8 and a potentially more powerful V12. Displacing close to the 3.5-litre limit, it featured four valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts. These were initially belt driven but quite far along the development process, Honda switched to a heavier but sturdier gear-drive. The RA109E was hoped to produce in excess of 700 bhp but was ultimately good for 685 bhp. It was mated to a six-speed gearbox developed by David North and Pete Weismann.

Over the winter, the new Honda V10 was tested in an interim McLaren MP4/4B chassis before the purpose-built MP4/5 was ready. Compared to its predecessor, it featured a new monocoque design. Suspension was by double wishbones on all four corners. Pull-rods actuated the in-board springs and dampers at the front, while push-rods were used for the rear suspension. On the outside, the biggest difference between the MP4/4 and the MP4/5 was the addition of an air-box to feed the 10 intake trumpets of the new Honda engine.

McLaren retained the services of Senna and Prost, and accordingly started the year once again as favourites. Senna immediately made his mark by clinching the pole position at the car's debut but problems during the race meant Prost was the top McLaren driver with a second place. The Brazilian had no such issues in the subsequent Grands Prix and won three races in a row, while Prost won round five of the championship. Despite the switch to a naturally aspirated engine, the MP4/5 actually proved considerably faster than its predecessor.

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  Article Image gallery (25) MP4/5-5 Specifications