McLaren F1: A living legend
Record breaker, Le Mans winner, technological showcase. The McLaren F1 simply had no equal when it was launched in 1992
The McLaren F1 was the brainchild of legendary designer Gordon Murray. His racing cars delivered McLaren multiple world championships and helped pave the way for the marque to become one of the most successful in F1 history. However, Murray wanted his legacy to include something for the road.
F1 tech for the road
Murray persuaded then McLaren CEO Ron Dennis that it would be a great way to showcase Formula 1 technologies. In 1992 the McLaren F1 was revealed to the world as the first totally carbon-fibre car. Its F1-derived carbon fibre monocoque delivered not only a wight saving, but increased structural rigidity and safety.
The heart of any McLaren F1 is its 6.1-litre V12 engine from BMW. Murray originally wanted to put an F1 derived Honda engine into his supercar, but the Japanese company said no. A racing engine from Isuzu was also considered but ultimately declined for its lack of racing pedigree.
Ultimately 627bhp came courtesy of BMW’s M division.
Every McLaren F1’s engine bay is lined with 16g of gold. Not simply serving as a fashion statement, gold is actually very good at reflecting heat. The material proved perfect for protecting the car from its own V12 engine.
King of the hill
The McLaren F1 held the record for fastest road production car from 1998. Its rev limiter was removed and the car wen to to clock 240.1mph. The previous record holder was the Jaguar XJ220 that achieved 213mph.
The F1 held its top speed record for seven years. It wasn’t until the Bugatti Veyron arrived in 2005 that a new record was set at 253mph.
Centre of the action
One of the F1’s unique features is its central driving position. The driver sits right in the middle of the car with passengers sat either side. This served to increase driver visibility, but actually turned out to be rather practical.
David vs Goliath
Twenty-four hours of race-pace driving is enough to break just about anything. In 1995 McLaren provided a handful of teams with race prepared cars for the Le Mans 24 Hour.
Just like today, the race featured several categories of cars. The F1 was quick, but nowhere near as fast as purpose-built prototype cars. Victory was far from a given.
Stormy skies and tricky conditions at Le Mans unexpectedly swung the odds in the F1’s favour. A McLaren ultimately won the race outright and cemented the car in motorsport history. For a machine that was never intended to go racing, it was a huge achievement and proved just how capable the F1 was.
McLaren F1s continued to race and spawned the iconic Longtail GTR variants.
Only 106 McLaren F1s were built between 1992 and 1998, including prototype and racing cars. Just 64 road cars were produced, making the McLaren F1 one of the rarest modern classics out there.
Modern day equivalent?
McLaren are hard at work building a modern-day incarnation of the F1 — dubbed Speedtail — that will feature a central driving position just like its forefather. Expect to see before the end of this year. The Speedtail will have some big shoes to fill as the McLaren F1’s first quarter of a century was full of intrigue and historic moments.
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