Single-Seater McLaren F1s Shine at Retromobile Salon

Paris, FRANCE – As part of the schedule of events at the Retromobile Salon that runs Feb. 5-9, luxury Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille will host a display of several McLaren race cars with endurance racing ties.

Photo: Retromobile

At the end of the 1980s, Gordon Murray — the Formula One engineer behind numerous single-seater McLaren victories — aided by Ron Dennis, the president of the British team, decided to design the finest supercar of all time. They aimed to develop a superlative GT in terms of price and features and one that combined F1 technology with refined comfort.

Previewed in model form at Monaco in 1992, this machine was called simply the F1. Priced at 5.3 million French francs, the happy owners — and only 69 road models went on to be sold — got one of the most fascinating sports cars ever produced. Designed by Peter Stevens, the car was built around a carbon-fiber chassis. The butterfly doors opened up to a passenger cockpit in which the driver’s seat is located centrally, like in a single-seater. One of the F1 concept car’s distinctive features is the fact that it can accommodate two passengers — one on either side of the pilot. An excessively weighty chassis encouraged the designers to use high-tech materials borrowed from the world of F1 — such as carbon and aluminum. The engine, provided by BMW, was the famous 6.1-liter V12 borrowed from the abandoned M8 project. It delivered 627 hp at 7400 rpm. The car took 6.35 seconds to hit 160 km/h, and 28 seconds to get up to 320 km/h.

Its eye-watering price combined with the economic crisis of the early 1990s meant that the McLaren F1’s commercial career was as fleeting as it was discreet. But the BPR Endurance championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans provided it with a new and unexpected lease on life.

The Woking-based company created a custom-built race car that it sold to private teams. Ultimately, 32 cars — including nine versions with extended rear sections — were built for competition between 1995-1997. In 1995, thanks to a regulation for GTs, the F1 GTR purchased by the Japanese team for the trio of Yannick Dalmas, J.J. Lehto and Masanori Sekiya claimed the win at Le Mans.