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  McLaren F1

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1993 - 1998
Numbers built:107 (65 road cars)
Designed by:Gordon Murray / Peter Stevens
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:August 07, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionMurray used his connections with BMW dating back from his Brabham days to broker a deal with the company's engine specialist Paul Rosche to supply a bespoke V12 engine. In keeping with the F1's design philosophy, the engine had to be both lightweight and powerful. BMW not only met the requirements, but with its 6.1 litre, 627 bhp V12 engine exceeded the 550 bhp set, although it was slightly heavier than asked for. The lightweight V12 engine was mounted amidships and mated to a McLaren-developed six speed manual gearbox. To better insulate the heat from the tight engine bay, the engine and exhaust covers were covered in gold, which is highly reflective. Missing from the very slippery Peter Stevens designed exterior, was a big wing that thanks to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini had become a super trademark. Banned by that time in Formula 1, Murray was free to use ground effects and moving aerodynamics for the McLaren road car. Reminiscent to his 1978 Brabham F1 car, the McLaren F1 was fitted with two electric fans to suck the car to the ground. Hidden when stationary, the car also sported a small moveable wing on the tail of the car that offered stability at high speed, served as an airbrake and an additional cooling vent for the rear brakes. These advanced devices provided plenty of downforce, but without the drag created by the familiar big wings.

In the months after the Monaco launch, five prototypes were constructed and tested extensively in every thinkable condition. One was destroyed in Namibia during these tests and another was sacrificed in a mandatory crash test. It was not until late in 1993 that the McLaren was ready for production. Not surprisingly the car was received to universal acclaim thanks to its benchmark performance, superb packaging and immaculate fit and finish. A slight problem was the sticker price of 540,000 Pounds (excluding taxes), which not only made it the fastest production car in the world, but also the most expensive. This was particularly troublesome as the market for classic and exotic machines had just collapsed after the ridiculous price surges of the late 1980s. There was nevertheless a demand for Murray's masterpiece and production commenced. Another reason why the McLaren F1 never became a top seller was that the company never had the car certified for the United States. This would have involved sacrificing several more cars for crash testing and the addition of more advanced safety items like airbags. Between 1993 and 1998 a total of just 64 McLaren F1 road cars were constructed.

Not surprisingly, there was an immediate interest in a racing version of the McLaren F1. As mentioned earlier, the car was not designed with racing in mind, but with little effort it could be converted to comply with the GT1 regulations used in the BPR championship and most importantly at Le Mans. There were no funds to enter GT racing with a Works team, but it was calculated that the development costs could be covered if five racing cars were sold to customers. In addition to the mandatory safety equipment the F1 GTR sported a large rear wing, carbon ceramic brakes and the suspension was stiffened by replacing the rubber bushings with solid aluminium ones. To cool the driver and the gearbox, some additional vents were also cut in the carbon fibre bodywork. Courtesy of the lighter brakes and a stripped interior the racing version was 100 kg lighter than the road car. BMW modified the engine to work with the mandatory restrictors. It proved to be a great success both in the salesroom and on the track; nine examples were constructed in 1995 and ten victories were scored. The debut season of the F1 GTR was highlighted by a much coveted win in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Amazingly five of the seven cars entered lead the race at one point and at the end of the race McLaren also held the third, fourth, fifth and thirteenth position.

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  Article Image gallery (185) Chassis (14) Specifications User Comments (23)