Monday, October 16, 2023

RETRO: McLaren, Sixty Years in the Making

Although I think they’ve already run All of their special tribute liveries celebrating this milestone. And should just be in customary papaya at Austin and Las Vegas?


I first thought about this milestone in May when Arrow McLaren ran it’s four Indianapolis 500 entries with distinctly different, but enjoyable “throwback” liveries Honouring it’s 60th Anniversary. With each of it’s three fulltime IndyCar drivers running an unique livery mimicking it’s winning Le Mans, Monaco and Indy 500 victories.


And since I haven’t really been paying much Attenzione to Formula 1, I’d forgotten that this year’s F1 chassis designation is MCL60, also in deference to you know what…


Although I did muse to myself that it had been worth getting up early to “watch”, Err listen to the British Grand Prix just to hear the roar of the partisan, Sellout crowd’s delight of McLaren’s Lando Norris taking the lead over Max Verstappen! Even if everybody knew it would be short lived.


Yet I find it bemusing that nowhere can I find the actual date in 1963 when Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd was founded. As it’s just sometime in Bloody 1963. Which ironically was a busy year with the “Birth” of Lamborghini, plus the debut of the Porsche 911 Panzerwagon.


Whilst Bruce McLaren would have just celebrated His 86th Birthday this August 30th. Being just over a half year  younger than El Capitano’, nee Roger Penske. As Roger would sell His Zerex Special Sports Car to McLaren at the end of 1963.


Yet instead of recreating another crooked wheel. I’ll simply point Y’all towards an old Bruce McLaren No Fenders tome instead…


Bruce McLaren made His team’s debut at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix, making me wonder what they’ll do to celebrate that? Going onto score McLaren’s first of an eventual 183 Grands Prix victories to date at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix.


Yet McLaren’s early dominance came in Sports Cars instead, in what forever will be remembered as “The Bruce & Denny Show!” When Bruce and teammate Dennis Hulme, the 1967 Formula 1 World Champion decimated the Can Am Championship between 1967-1971. When those Uber Nasty ground poundin’ McLaren seven litre, or perhaps eight litres? Chevrolet Big Block Can Am monsters were nearly unbeatable! Before Roger Penske’s Porsche 917’s dethrowned them…


Sadly Bruce died in a testing accident at Goodwood behind the wheel of a McLaren M8D Can Am car, with Teddy Mayer taking over the team. As Mayer would lead Mclaren to it’s first Formula 1 Drivers and Constructors titles in 1974 with Emmo’, nee Emmerson Fittipaldi. While James Hunt went onto win the ’76 F1 Drivers title.


McLaren also dabbled in Indy Cars during the 1970’s, winning the Indianapolis 500 three times. First with Penske Racing and Mark Donohue in a McLaren chassis in 1972. Before Lone Star JR’, aka Johnny Rutherford won outright for Mclaren in 1974 & 1976.


Yet the team fell on hard times and, first quit IndyCar at the end of 1979. Next in ‘81, at title sponsor Marlboro’s insistence, McLaren merged with Ron Dennis’s Project 4 Racing outfit, which competed in Formula 2, Formula 3 and the BMW Procar Championships. With Dennis becoming Team Principal before ultimately buying out it’s other partners.


Dennis coaxed Niki “the Rat” Lauda out of retirement in ’82, guiding McLaren into becoming a Formula 1 Juggernaut.


As McLaren with F1 Designer John Barnard brought the first All Carbon composite chassis to the sport in 1984. The same year that began a remarkable stretch of seven F1 Drivers and six F1 Constructors Championships between 1984-1991.


As Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were the winning drivers. First using the successful TAG-Porsche 1.5 litre V-6 and Honda V-6 Turbos thru 1988. And then Honda’s normally aspirated V-10 and V-12 lumps’, before Honda withdrew from Formula 1 at the end of 1992, sound familiar?



Another dry spell passed in 1998-99 when Mika-the-Finn’ (Hakkinen) won the F1 World Championship back-to-back aboard Adrian Newey “penned” racecars.


Newey left McLaren for Red Bull in 2006 and still leads the Design Office today, with Red Bull becoming a major force in formula 1 ever since.


Whilst let’s not forget 2007’s Spy Gate episode, when Mclaren was fined a record $100 million by the FIA for having had illegally obtained Ferrari technical documents. Along with being stripped of that year’s Constructors standing!


Or how Fernando Alonsos and Lewis Hamilton’s infighting lost McLaren the World Championship to former McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen, now wearing Scarlet (Ferrari) Overalls…


And then in what’s been McLaren’s last Hurrah to date. Thee Ronster’s (Dennis) final driver prodigy Lewis Hamilton won the first of His eventual seven F1 World Championships in 2008, being McLaren’s latest Championship!


Dennis and then one of it’s other major McLaren Shareholder Mansour Ojjeh, who Dennis had initially sold 50% of McLaren to in 1983, had a falling out reportedly in 2013. Which effectively led to Ron Dennis being pushed out of the company He’d resurrected in 2014.


Having  previously ceded day-to-day control of McLaren to Martin Whitmarsh in 2009. And having lost a bitter lawsuit to resume control of McLaren in 2016, Dennis sold the remainder of His Shares in 2017, ending the Dennis era. After having failed to win the Board’s backing for His resuming control of McLaren…


Zak Brown was made Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group in November, 2016, and CEO of McLaren Racing in 2018.


As I feel there’s no reason to rehash McLaren’s failed bid with Werks’ Honda Power Units between 2015-18. When Fernando Alonso who’d returned to McLaren a second time infamously called them worse than a F2 engine over His In-car radio! Although ultimately Honda Power Units have now won the last two F1 World Championships and soon to capture their third consecutively with Red Bull…


Yet McLaren has only one one Formula 1 race at Monza with DannyRic’, aka Daniel Ricciardo at Monza in 2022, nine years after Jenson Button’s final victory while driving for McLaren.


Yet McLaren’s current F1 lineup of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are currently making waves, and are one of the few teams to at least give Max Verstappen and Red Bull something to think about…


Across thoust Bloody Puddle Stateside, Zakery Brown’s IndyCar exploits are well known in the never ending Alex Palou dispute, one of the 43 drivers Brown’s inked contracts with!


Having returned McLaren to IndyCar initially in 2017 with a “One-off” for Alonso at the Indianapolis 500 driving for Andretti Autosport.


Then first parterning with Sam Schmidt and Rick Peterson’s IndyCar team thru taking effective control in 2022 when purchasing 75% of then Arrow McLaren SP. With grand ambitions of becoming one of IndyCar’s “Big four”.


McLaren is also involved in Extreme E and Formula E, not to mention it’s fantastic road cars, which I’d Arse-sume was Dennis’s vision of turning McLaren into another Ferrari. As the company’s certainly come a long way from the “Garragist” era of Bruce McLaren’s humble beginnings some sixty years ago…