The Most Infamous McLaren Of All

If there was one major take away I had from 77MM, it was the authenticity of the cars present.

I’m sure we’ve all been to events over the years where someone has brought a replica, tribute, homage or whatever you want to call it of a famous racecar. It’s cool, it’s not something I have an issue with but in someway they do create a sense of mistrust.

I mean, there’s no way that’s actually Ayrton Senna’s 1990 Formula 1 World Championship winning car sat in the corner of the paddock. Surely, a car as significant as this would have security nearby or at least a well defined perimeter around it to prevent anyone from getting close? It definitely wouldn’t be parked underneath an ageing wooden shelter either, right?

Of course, this isn’t anywhere ordinary, this is Goodwood. And yes, this is actually Ayrton Senna’s 1990 Formula 1 World Championship winning car; the McLaren MP4/5B.

2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-2
2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-29

I’ve seen countless faux-Formula 1 cars in my time, but typically they’re contemporary cars used as promotional tools at events to impress people who don’t know any better.

There was an initial sense of doubt when I first saw it, but with the ability to get up close and personal with it, it became apparent that not only was this Senna’s 1990 car, but it was also a car that was involved in perhaps the most infamous first corner incident in Formula 1 history.

2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-18

While I didn’t deduce this from the chassis number of MP4/5B/7 (coincidentally, we spotlighted the earlier MP4/5B/1 in 2011 and it’s interesting to note the subtle changes between the two), it was only when I squeezed around to the right side of the car and the scrutiny sticker became visible that I made the connection. It reads:

FIA Formula 1 World Championship
Date: 18 Oct ’90
Event: Japanese
Team: McLaren
Car No. 27

On its own merits, the MP4/5B was an incredibly succesful car. Designed by Neil Oatley, the V10 Honda-powered car racked up 12 pole positions out of 16 races in 1990, while featuring on the podium 18 times between both Senna and his teammate Gerhard Berger. It handed McLaren a third consecutive Constructors’ Championship (their sixth at the time) and Senna his second world title.

What really makes this car special, was its role in deciding the 1990 drivers’ championship.

Having qualified first, Senna fell behind Alain Prost during the sprint to the first corner. Senna felt at the time that pole position was on the wrong side of the track at Suzuka, and that he was being cheated of a second world title.

Whether this was his ultimate motivation for what happened next is unknown, as both drivers had significant history prior to this, but the outcome was that both cars ended up being buried deep in the gravel, races over, and Senna was crowned world champion.

2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-8
2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-31
2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-32
2019 77MM - McLaren MP4-5B Senna by Paddy McGrath-26

While Senna was initially insulted by suggestions that he took Prost out on purpose, he later admitted to Jackie Stewart that his actions were intentional. It was this win at any cost mentality that endeared Senna to so many of his fans both during his life and after his death in 1994. Some would consider his actions in Suzuka ’90 as being one step too far, others would see it as just a case of Senna returning the favour to Prost from a similar incident the season previous.

While it’s perhaps considered cliché at this point to hold Senna in reverence, there’s no question of the significance of MP4/5B/7 and its role in one of the most infamous incidents in Formula 1 history.

And there it was, sat quietly beneath a wooden shelter in West Sussex some 29 years later. Goodwood is such a special place.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
paddy@speedhunters.com

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23 comments

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1

Man that's awesome! I'd love to see it up close. I just went out in the rain to go buy Ayrton Senna A Tribute and Damon Hill My Championship Year, what a coincidence!

2

I can imagine the feeling. Hope I could have a chance to be in your place just for an hour.

3

Hey Paddy,

Not to be a Grammar Nazi or anything but isn't "Infamous" stands for well known for the wrong / bad reason?

Anyhow great article though! Much love from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

4

Paddy is using "infamous" absolutely correctly. This car is famous for being deliberately smashed into another car to win a championship. If that isn't deserving of the title "infamous" then nothing is.

5

Formula1 is my second life. Lewis Hamilton is my Idol! It's great to appreciate the evolution of F1 and its drivers over time. Today Formula1 has great legends who are making history. Checkout Latest race results at
https://top10greatcars.blogspot.com/2019/04/2019-chinese-grand-prix-race-results.html

6

I'm not a F1 fan though, but I have to say this one looks way better than the ones today.
So simple, and beautiful. 3 pedals, stick shift, driving one of these requires REAL skill.

7

To Japanese, this F1 vehicle is quite unique due to the Shonen Jump sponsor on the nose. That's right, back then there was commercial which Goku from Dragon Ball drove the very same Mclaren.

8

The other day I reinstalled Assetto Corsa just to drive that Lotus 98t...

It's odd that I look to find this here today. Can't be coincidental.

But... re watching those qualifying runs in Adelaide of Senna and Dumfries... will always be mind blowing.

That on board footage of Dumfries's Lotus... that cockpit flexing about looking like it's barely put together safely.

And then Senna just being relentless, muscling that car to top qualifier. Black and gold with that signature Yellow helmet.

9

No other car evokes what F1 once was like the MP4/7. How sad it is that we now look back at those great drivers, cars and races and reminisce on the glory days of motorsports pinnacle. What we watch every second Sunday at ten past two is not true motorsport. The ground-breaking engineeing and design may still be there but the racing, the driving, is gone.

It's sad we have to attend events like Goodwood Revival, the FOS, Silverstone Classic, to look at the old cars, remember the great drivers and long for the good old days. It should'nt be like that. I hope the big suits at the top of the F1 food chain realise they're killing a great sport. A sport I love. I'm all for adapting to changing times...but when Silverstone is struggling to fund a race weekend and we see teams 'turning down' their engines to preserve fuel and tyres, there's something wrong.

10

The same things they do now they did back then in F1 as well. YOU just didn't know of it because you were never privileged to information then like you are now with the radio calls and telemetry viewed on screen. Men HAD to save fuel back in the 70's and 80's too hence why lots of men ran out of fuel before races since the radios didn't always work and they didn't hear the engineers telling them to slow their pace.
There's still great drivers but the cars are just too aerodynamically efficient. Engineering is what has killed it if anything, cause they've made cars too damn good. You're really skewed in your opinions.

11

God bless. This car was sweet sweet revenge for Prost's shamelessness the year before. I miss the man. We all do here in Brazil.

decom_62b9965cb3e126dad3f884c8b6508446_5cb4fe5f44cbe.jpgdecom_62b9965cb3e126dad3f884c8b6508446_5cb4fe5f44cbe.jpg
12

Never was a senna fan. Jim Clark and Fangio will always be the best of the best. This individual doesn't even crack my top 5. Talented? Yes. Overrated? You bet.

13

Who are the other 3 in your top 5?

14

Theo Barrett (etes vous Francais?). My top 5 (in random order)

1 - Jim Clark. Career cut too short, so we'll never know his true potential. Gentleman through and through, considered himself a farmer before an F1 Champ.

2 - Juan Manuel Fangio. Began his career late (although beginning and ending careers later was somewhat of the norm back then). Had truly inspiring drives in skinny tired death traps.

3 - Sir Jackie Stewart. Survived the Killer Years of F1. Raced hard, raced fair. Was a Champion for safety. Modern drivers owe him a debt they will never be able to repay.

4 - Niki Lauda. Very calculating, knew what he needed and wasn't afraid to say it. Might not have made him popular, but that isn't why he raced. Came back after a horrific accident in a short period of time and won another title when most people would have given up. Perhaps a bit of an influence on Schumi when it came to building up a team.

5 - Sir John Surtees. Yes, he only won one title, but he's the only one to win titles on 2 wheels (where he was the man) and four. Nice man, humble.

Five was a toss up. Could have been Schumi (controversy followed him, but he set the standard for fitness, how to build a team up, and a metronomic pace). Prost (again, controversy, but he was so damn calculating). Gilles Villeneuve (what could have been if he didn't get the red mist that essentially killed him. His teammate broke protocol and he could not let it go).

Is senna good? Yes, no doubt. People make him out to be some racing god, which he isn't. He raced dirty as hell, massive ego maniac (like a lot of drivers TBH). Yes, he did more with less, but so have others in F1 history. People have essentially cannonized him as a saint because he died behind the wheel. He's good, but not top five good.

15

You are overrated.

16

The butthurt is strong with you.

17

Thanks for a great article & pictures.
History is important- whether it's an important race car or the Notre Dame Cathedral- and being able to see/touch/experience actual historically significant items helps show us why we've gotten to where we are

18

I really don't think Senna deserves respect for this incident, was just bad sportsmanship, not a brave "win at any cost" move.

19

Prost did the EXACT same thing, the previous year. IMO, it was just dessert.

20

Its quite sad to see how once they were a great team and now McLaren left Honda for Renault
They should have gave Honda more time as they are now improving with Toro Rosso and Renault is arguably unreliable compared to Honda

21

How Mclaren was packaging the car wasn't conducive to the reliability of the engine and they weren't giving Honda any slack. Honda had to do it their way. Don't think things would have played out the same if Ron Dennis was still race director at Mclaren. Doubt Honda will ever have dealings with Mclaren ever in motorsports again. The japs took that disrespect in the media seriously

22

Hella jelly, from this side of the pond.

23

So tasty

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