In 1963, a native of New Zealand named Bruce McLaren founded his own racing team called the McLaren Racing Limited. Though it is best known for its involvement in Formula One being the second oldest active team after Ferrari, McLaren’s initial successes were in the Indianapolis 500 and the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, or Can-Am. Its success in Formula One is nothing to be ignored at either, as it has won the constructor’s championship eight times and the driver’s championship 12 times.
The team has had some of the biggest names in racing driving for it. Mark Donohue and Johnny Rutherford won three titles with McLaren in the Indianapolis 500 in the middle part of the 1970s. In Formula One, the team has had the honor of having in its ranks the likes of NikiLauda, Alain Prost, AyrtonSenna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton. It currently has Jenson Button and Sergio Perez in its roster.
Partnership with Other Manufacturers
McLaren has partnered with other companies and manufacturers to ensure its continued success. It had a long and productive relationship with the cigarette brand Marlboro. Its Formula One engines have been supplied by the likes of Porsche, Honda and Mercedes Benz.
But what its founder really wanted was to have his very own ultimate road car. He wanted to apply the expertise they had gained in the racetrack to create the fastest and quickest accelerating car in the world. And the only way to identify the problems that need to be solved was by building the car so that it could be tested on the road. While McLaren himself passed away in 1970 after a car testing accident, his company has continued to pursue his dream.
Some of the company’s earlier projects included the McLaren M6 GT and the McLaren M81 Mustang. Though the original plan was to produce 250 units, only 10 actually came out of the production plant because of its stiff price and virtual hand construction required.
Then came the McLaren F1 in 1992. The company partnered with BMW to supply the 6.1-liter V12 engine. The car was a three-seat coupe with the driver positioned right in the middle of the car. It was capable of going from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 3.2 seconds. Gordon Murray, the famed designer who was also responsible for the racecars being entered by McLaren in the Formula One circuit, designed it. Only 106 units were ever produced.
The company then developed the GTR from the F1 model and competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995. McLaren cars finished first, third, fourth, fifth and thirteenth. The F1 maintained its reputation as the fast production car in the world until 2005.
McLaren then dabbled with the Maverick in an attempt to break the land speed record. The project was stopped however after the success of the SSC. McLaren instead partnered again with Mercedes Benz for its succeeding projects. These include the McLaren Mercedes MP4/98T, a tandem Formula One car that allows a passenger to sit behind the driver and experience the power of a real Formula One race vehicle. It also helped design and manufacture the Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren, which is considered as P7. The car’s 5.5-liter V8 engine could accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 3.8 seconds.
The next three projects were also supposed to be with Mercedes Benz. P8 was intended to compete with the Aston Martin DB9, Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari F430. P9 was designed to be the supercar version of the P8. P10 was originally planned to replace the SLR. All three projects were discontinued in 2005, however, because of its prohibitive costs.
P11 turned out to be the McLaren MP4-12C, a car that boasted of McLaren’s own M838T 3.8-liter V8 engine. Formula One technologies were extensively used in the vehicle.
Back to One – The McLaren P1
It was originally known as the P12 Project, but when it was unveiled in the Paris Motor Show in 2012, it was introduced as the McLaren P1. Though its styling and engine is heavily influenced by the MP4-12C, the P1 is considered as the true successor of the old McLaren F1.
The P1 features a trick aero body that used not only the F1 as its inspiration, but also the Formula One car used by Lewis Hamilton to win the championship in 2008. It has a single carbon fiber tub that is considered as five times stronger than titanium. The panel has been shaped to guide air where it is most needed. Strips at the front have also been minimized to allow a bigger surface area for hot air to escape from. It also has a rear wing, moveable DRS-style flap that works like an inverted aeroplane wing. The car can develop up to 600 kilograms of downforce at a speed of 160 miles per hour.
The engine is a modified version of the M838T that can produce 727 horsepower and 531 lb ft of torque. This is further boosted by an electric motor that can produce an additional 176 horsepower. Total horsepower of the P1 is therefore 903 bhp, while the torque is 664 lb ft, which McLaren purposely limited to protect the clutch. Steering is sharp and sensitive, needing only 2.2 turns lock-to-lock compared to the 2.6 of the MP4-12C.
The performance has been nothing less than amazing. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in under three seconds, zero to 124 in under seven seconds and zero to 186 in just 17 seconds.
The P1 has been outfitted with specially designed Pirelli tires that actually resemble racing tires rather than normal road wheels. These wheels measure 19 inches in the front and 20 inches at the rear. The front brake discs are similar to the specs used in Le Mans at 390 millimeters with six-piston calipers, while the rear measures 380 millimeters with four pots, with all the pads specially built by Akebono.
The car only weighs 1,395 kilograms. Only 375 units are to be built. McLaren aims for the P1 not to be the absolute fastest car in the world, but to be the fastest production car on a racetrack, thus making it more relevant for actual road driving.
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