On a really special day in March, I was invited to witness a very unique test of a former F1 race winner – John Watson’s McLaren MP4/1B F1 chassis #5.
This chassis was driven from 17th to 1st place at the Detroit Grand Prix by Watson in 1982, and during this same year MP4s won at three other Formula One rounds.
At a later date, McLaren sold its old MP4 cars off at auction, and chassis #5 changed hands a couple of time before a full mechanical restoration began a decade ago. After many years off the race track, it’s now complete and ready to compete in the 2019 FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship.
This car still has so much history surrounding it, and you can feel it.
Arriving at the pit garage and seeing the car for the first time was so surreal – the livery is so well known. I had to pause momentarily to appreciate where this car has been and what it actually is.
Many people buy cars like this as investments with no intent to ever use them, but fortunately there are also collectors who purchase cars with the intention to drive.
As this is an old car in period specification, I watched the mechanics go over it making adjustments with old school tools and techniques. It’s analog in every way, and from the cockpit, feeling is required to get the very most out of it. The McLaren MP4/1B came from an era where driver and machine worked together to showcase driving magic beyond our mortal understanding, and that makes this car nothing less than a legend.
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