F1 car history provided the inspiration for the naming of the McLaren MP4-12C, the new sports car revealed by the company today.
The car shares the same naming convention used by the team’s F1 cars. It falls between McLaren’s 1997 MP4-12 (which won three Grands Prix) and the 1998 MP4-13 (which won both world championship titles).
This is probably because of the ‘brake steer’ technology fitted to the car, which is related to the same innovation which appeared on the 1997 and 1998 McLaren F1 cars. It was banned by the FIA early in 1998.
Brake steer applies the brakes to the inside rear wheel during high-speed cornering to reduce understeer. On the F1 cars this was operated by an extra brake pedal, but on the MP4-12C the system is electronic.
The car is powered by a 600bhp 3.8-litre V8 engine built by McLaren, making it an all-McLaren production. Its predecessor, the McLaren F1, used an engine supplied by BMW.
It also has a Formula 1-style seamless shift gearbox but does not have the distinctive central driving position of the McLaren F1.
The MP4-12C is seen as the successor to the F1 road car, designed in 1993 by Gordon Murray and Peter Stevens. Murray is not involved in the new project and is developing a new supercar design of his own, which he says will not rival the performance of the F1. He is also currently working on a compact, low-emissions city car called the T25.
The MP4-12C has been Ron Dennis’s project for the road car division since he stepped down from the race team earlier this year and the company will build around 1,000 per year. Now more than ever, McLaren is becoming a rival for Ferrari off the track as well as on it.