McLaren Automotive recently sent the automotive world into a frenzy by releasing a beautifully constructed teaser video of its upcoming supercar, the P1. The teaser worked, keeping automotive enthusiasts and journalists alike on the edge of their seats until official images of the vehicle were released by the company yesterday. Dubbed the P1, the car will officially break cover on Sept. 27, at the Paris Motor Show, and McLaren hopes to improve on the legendary success of its last supercar, the F1. Much like with the F1, McLaren says that the P1′s primary goal will be ultimate performance. In the words of McLaren managing director Anthony Sheriff, this means building the quickest and most rewarding production car on a circuit. For now, details on the car are scarce, but the P1 will undoubtedly need to be special to live up to the company’s outstanding pedigree of phenomenal race and production cars. In celebration of the upcoming P1, here’s a rundown of some of the company’s most extraordinary machines:
Not to be confused with the racing series or the company’s racing cars for it, the McLaren F1 was built as a no-compromises supercar, adopting the company’s Formula 1 racing philosophy in road-going form. It was a success. Originally introduced in 1992, the car was conceived by McLaren engineer and technical director Gordon Murray (who also helped create the company’s most successful Formula 1 car). The approach proved successful as the F1 was the first ever road car to use a carbon fiber monocoque chassis. The Formula 1 inspiration was even carried into the passenger compartment by using a centrally located driver’s seat. The car was powered by a 6.1 liter, BWM V12 engine that produced 618 hp. Combined with the car’s light weight and incredibly aerodynamic body, the car achieved a staggering 240.1 mph top speed.
Speaking of McLaren’s most successful race car, the MP4/4 is simply known as the most utterly dominant Formula 1 car ever built. The team entered the 1988 season with the two best drivers of the era (and some argue of all time) – Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Combined, the duo won 15 of 16 races, earned 15 pole positions, and led all but 27 laps during the season before Senna eventually laid claim to his first of three world titles. When the dust settled, the team had 199 points by the end of the season, which was 134 more than its closest competitor, Ferrari. In the 24 years since, the feat has never been repeated. The revolutionary chassis designed by Murray and engineer Steve Nichols was made even better with Honda’s famed 1.5 liter V6 turbocharged engine that produced more than 600 hp.
While McLaren produced several racing variants of its venerable M8 chassis during its time competing in the no-holds-barred Can-Am racing series, it was the M8B that was most successful. Designed and raced by McLaren founder Bruce McLaren, the team sought to build on an already massively successful 1968 season where the original M8 took six wins between McLaren himself and factory driver Denny Hulme, who also won that year’s title. McLaren entered the 1969 season seeking to build on its success with its revised M8B and completely decimated the competition. The team swept all 11 races, with Hulme taking five victories to McLaren’s six, as well as the title. Unfortunately, McLaren met an untimely death while testing the car’s successor, the M8D, in 1970. Still, the team carried on with Hulme taking the 1970 title in the M8D.
Hoping to prove that he and his cars could win at any venue, Bruce McLaren set his sights on winning the “greatest spectacle in racing,” the Indianapolis 500, in 1970. The team arrived with its Formula 1-inspired M15 chassis, but disaster struck during a practice session for the race when a ruptured fuel line caused lead driver Denny Hulme’s car to become engulfed in flames at 180mph. The incident severely injured Hulme, taking him out of the race, while the team’s remaining driver lineup (including McLaren himself) had an unsuccessful race. Tragedy struck again shortly after the Indy 500 when McLaren was killed in a Can-Am test session. However, the team pushed forward with its Indy program, returning again in 1971 with the M16. Team driver Peter Revson qualified first for the race, but finished a disappointing second. In 1972, the team brought back the M16B, but was forced to watch as a privateer car sold to Team Penske took the checkered flag with American racing legend Mark Donahue behind the wheel. The McLaren team itself finally tasted victory in 1974 with American Johnny Rutherford behind the wheel. This combination would go on to win another Indy 500 in 1976, after finishing second in 1975.