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THE FATHER OF THE McLAREN F1

Le Mans Memories: Part 5

 

Our famous win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 was unprecedented. Not only was the McLaren F1 GTR essentially a road car competing against purpose-built prototype racers, but it was also the first entry by McLaren in the world-famous endurance race. Yet we finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th, and we remain the only manufacturer to win Le Mans at their first attempt.

In the fifth of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series celebrating the 20th anniversary of this remarkable victory, we talk to Gordon Murray. Technical Director at McLaren Cars, Gordon Murray conceived the F1 road car and oversaw its development, as well as the subsequent creation of the record-breaking F1 GTR.

‘LOOKING BACK OVER MY CAREER, I WOULD COUNT THE WIN AT LE MANS IN 1995 AS MY GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT. IT’S FAR, FAR MORE DIFFICULT TO WIN LE MANS, LET ALONE FIRST TIME, THAN WIN A FORMULA 1™ CHAMPIONSHIP.’

Gordon Murray

The F1 road car was conceived in 1988 as McLaren Formula 1™ designer Gordon Murray and McLaren executives Ron Dennis, Mansour Ojjeh and Creighton Brown waited for a delayed flight in Italy. That season McLaren would dominate Formula 1™, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost winning 15 out of 16 races, but at the same time the team looked to use its expertise to create the finest ‘driver’s car’ ever produced.

Gordon Murray and Creighton Brown were subsequently charged by McLaren Chairman Ron Dennis with setting up a new company, McLaren Cars Limited. While Creighton, as Head of Marketing, concentrated on the commercial side of the new venture, it was Gordon who assembled the design and engineering team to create the incredible road car he was formulating in his mind.

Within six months of the end of the 1989 Formula 1™ season (Gordon had agreed to a three-year contract with the racing team when he joined McLaren for the 1987 season) he held the first meeting, a ten-and-a-half-hour briefing where he outlined exactly what he wanted the new McLaren road car to be. And although conceived as the ultimate road car with no compromise, the race car designer in him subconsciously created a road car with the perfect ingredients to go racing.

Gordon’s colleague, Jeff Hazell, first explored the possibility of racing the F1, but it was only with pressure from McLaren customers that Ron Dennis approved the budget for a competition version – the F1 GTR. It was an instant success, which in turn created the demand for a long-distance variant to take on the rigours of the world’s most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In the fifth of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series, Gordon Murray, the father of the McLaren F1, remembers its record-breaking victory at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

 

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