Big things with little cars

LaLD Engine Week: Thursday on the Thames

I had to bust out the Ueno Clinic McLaren F1 GTR again for today. I’m not sure there’s a soul in the world that doesn’t like this car or it’s wonderful engine.

Gordon Murray from the onset of the McLaren F1 wanted a large capacity V12 engine that was naturally aspirated. Since turbo technology was still relatively poor, he needed a large amount of power that came on steadily and was easy for the driver to control. Eventually BMW’s M70 won out. The F1 would get a version based on, but modified, from the 850CSi of the time.


Murray had never intended to have the McLaren F1 get raced, but the owners had a different idea. At their request he and his team developed special parts for the GTR’s to race. He had also told the owners that a McLaren team would try not to compete against them at the races.

At the time everyone wanted to win at LeMans. It was the ultimate bragging right. At the time the McLaren fit into the GT1 class along with some Ferrari F40 LM’s, Honda NSX’s, modified 993 GT2's, Venturi 600LM’s, and the rare R33 GTR LM. In the top class of WSC, we the prototypes that it could outpace at Mulsanne.


When the race came in June, the Ueno Clinic team was a McLaren-backed team that had to deal with running one of McLaren’s prototype chassis, as their original car had to be given to a private team that had recently crashed theirs in testing. The team was also managed by a man who had never been to LeMans before and most of the team was a bit green. The drivers, however, had good solid experience.


There’s a saying that it always rains at LeMans. 1995 was no exception. After looking at the number of laps, I’ve not seen a modern LeMans race with so few laps. I’m guessing this was due to the rain. The Ueno Clinic car won the race miraculously beating out the prototype cars. Even the 2nd place car, a WSC prototype had crashed out during the race. A testament to how difficult the driving conditions were that year.


Nevertheless, a rookie team with an unproven car in a lower class managed to go out and win LeMans. It’s one of the more exciting wins to ever happen at the race. A David-and-Goliath experience. The legend of the McLaren F1 was solidified by this race, and a lot came down to its magnificent engine.


This 1:18 TSM Model is epic. It’s been shown off before and I know a few of us own one. Everyone should have one, it’s that good.


Also I got a lot of info from this mini documentary, which despite being filmed in the ‘90s is still quite good.

Cheers, and yay for V12's!

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