McLaren International 1984
WHEN Bruce McLaren left the Cooper team and started his own company, called Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Limited, his main interest was Formula One racing, and though his team made a good name for itself at Indianapolis and in Can-Am racing, Bruce always insisted on Formula One being its major activity. He could see that technically Formula One was ahead of any other sort of racing and that the pace of development in Formula One was of such a high order that it kept his team really on its toes, so that it could tackle other forms of racing with comparative ease. He had a saying on his visiting card which read “WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING — but it’s somewhat better than finishing second”. After his tragic death in a testing accident at Goodwood in 1970 the team was kept going by his co-directors and associates, but much of the incentive and purpose behind the team had died with Bruce. There was a gradual decline, Denny Hulme and Phil
Kerr returned home to New Zealand and eventually the team was taken over by two newcomers to Formula One. Ron Dennis had learnt his trade as a mechanic with Jack Brabharn’s team and had moved on to team management and ownership, becoming a strong force in Formula 2 and when he formed a partnership with John Barnard, who had learnt the art of racing car design with Lola, the old McLaren team, Chaparral and with a USAC team in California, he was ready to tackle the pinnacle of motor racing with an entry into Formula One. With their fellow directors Creighton Brown and Bob ‘Liman, Dennis and Barnard took over Bruce McLaren Racing and moved it from Colnbrook to Woking and renamed it
McLaren International. The 1984 season has seen McLaren International win 12 out of the 16 World Championship races, four times being 1st and 2nd, it has won the Manufacturers Championship by a ‘fantastic margin, and its drivers have finished 1st and 2nd in the Drivers World Championship. Bruce
McLaren would have been proud of them. Looking at the “Golden Book” of Grand Prix statistics we will see in due course that Frost won seven races this season, Lauda won five and the total score of points accrued by the two cars in the Manufacturers Championship was such that they had become unbeatable by the time the season was only two-thirds run. You could say it was a total annihilation of the opposition and complete domination of the
when nearly everyone was using a Cosworth V8 engine. Their expertise on design has always been freely available to customers (at a price) and you only had to ask, and then find the money. That is exactly what Ron Dennis and John Barnard did. Anyone else could have done the same, though whether they could have funded the scheme as neatly as McLaren International did is another matter, as also is the question of whether they could have integrated the Porsche engine design into their car design.
The outstanding thing about the team during this past season has been the fact that every aspect has been strong, there have been no visible weak links, though no doubt there are some that are kept “in house”. That the whole design of the car has been right has been indicated by the fact that no major changes have been made during the season; the driver front has been as strong as anything seen for a considerable time, both Prost and Lauda being able to race against any opposition; the team organisation has been virtually flawless and its ability to overcome apparent disaster brought on by outside influences has been exceptional, as instanced by Prost being forced to take the T-car at the last moment in five races, twice winning with it and once finishing second after actually starting the race from the pit lane after everyone else had gone. Such performances indicate just how good the preparation of the cars has been and how prepared the team has been.
It says a lot for both the design and building of the cars and the ability of the two drivers, that the entire season has been run using only three cars, and even more spectacular is the fact that Lauda used the same car for all his 16 races. There have been minor accidents, but none severe enough to damage the CFC monocoque, and at the first race which was in Brazil in March the three 1984 cars that appeared were the same three that were used at the last race, in Portugal in October. The three entities were MP4/2-1 (Lauda), MP4/2-2 (Prost) and MP4/2-3 (T-car) and when broken down into component parts those numbers really only apply to the Hercules-built CFC monocoques, all other components being changeable or replaceable either due to damage or useful-life completion, for on the modern racing car all parts are given a design “life” in miles or hours, after which they are discarded and replaced with new components. Many teams have to replace their cars completely during a season, either due to the design being superseded, or due to a car being reduced to scrap in a violent accident. To achieve the results they did this season using only three cars is a fitting tribute to the worth of the entire McLaren [MM. A fourth monocoque was made and MP4/2-4 built up around it with the idea of filtering it into the race team halfway through the season and to pension-off MP4/2-1 which had done the initial winter
testing before the Brazilian race. However, due to the team being in America when this fourth car was finished, and also due to the inherent reliability and damage resistance of the team cars, this infiltration did not happen and MP4/2-4 was used as a test-chassis for private experimental running and Michelin tyre-test days. A fifth monocoque was built by Hercules but was never needed during the season on consequently MP4/2-5 was never completed. On the engine side of the equation there has been a float of 15 of the Porsche-built turbocharged V6 power units to keep the team active, engines being changed as and when desired, either on a time or mileage life, a breakdown or due to not being up to scraLch. When Porsche started this engine project for TAG Turbo Engines a float of six engines was envisaged, two for each car, with a spare one for Porsche to experiment on, but by the time the engine was in being this estimate was discarded. The first 20 engine numbers were delegated to the initial experimental batch and further engines used for development work, though not all that batch of numbers were used up. Engines from number 20 to 35 were considered to be “production engines” and these have feinted the backbone of the team’s requirements for the 1984 season. The engines have not been faultless or trouble-free and at times during practice, and even on race-morning warm-up, the engines have looked to be a disaster, but under actual racing conditions, which is what matters, they have built op an enviable record. While winning 12 of the 16 races, which involved 32 starts, there have been six retirements due to engine failure, though two of these were in the electrical ancillaries. The drivers caused four retirements through inattention, both committing two errors each, and one retirement was through gearbox trouble. Two of the victories were very marginal, Lauda’s win in Austria being entirely due w
McLaren International 1984 Racing Season
Races Started: 32 (Prost 16, Lauda 16) Races Finished: 21 (Prost 11, Lauda 10) Retirements: 11 (Pratt 5, Lauda 6) Non-starts: Pole Position: 3 (Prost) Fastest Laps: 8 (Prost 3, Lauda 5) First Places: 12 (Prost 7, Lauda 5) Second Places; 5 (Prost 1, Lauda 4) Third Places: 1 (Pratt) Fourth Places: 1 (Lauda) Fifth Places: 1 (Prost) Sixth Places: Seventh Places: 1 (Prost) Cars Built in 1984 — four Cars destroyed in 1984— Winners of Manufacturers Championship: McLaren International Winner of Drivers Championship: Niki Lauda Runner-up in Drivers Championship: Main Prost The above statistics have been confirmed by
his mechanical sympathy in nursing his car to the finish with dire gearbox trouble, but even more due to his incredible ability to continue to race and not let the opposition know he was in trouble. In the European Grand Prix Prost had what appeared to be an easy victory, but afterwards it was found that the engine was very short of water and Porsche were amazed that it had continued to run without trouble. The weak point in the McLaren part of the successful equation has been the gearbox, a McLaren design that was used with the first MP4 with Cosworth power. Porsche power, which is half as much again as the Cosworth power, has shown the gearbox to be running very close to its limits, and during the season work has been Proceeding on the design of an entirely new gearbox unit, which will no doubt be high Priority in the winter test-programme. Porsche’s main problem with the engine has
been a tendency for the unit to lose water, not through simple leaks or localised boiling, but a mysterious consumption of coolant rather than loss and while investigation into this problem had to be tied into the racing and general test programme, it was never solved satisfactorily, indeed the reason was never really pinpointed. When your engines make 32 Grand Prix starts and finish 21 times, 12 times in first place and four times in first and second places, you could almost be justified in feeling satisfied, but Porsche are not like that. Thirty two starts and 32 finishes would only satisfy them if all the engines finished in perfect condition. Throughout the season the cars have used CFC brake discs and pads, with McLaren’s own design of brake caliper, using two per disc, one in front of the centre line and one behind, and they have been remarkably trouble-free and consistent. Other teams have used CFC brakes on some circuits and steel components on others, but McLaren seem to have been well on top of the braking situation. From the inception of the MP4 Barnard designed the rear end of the car to make the maximum use of air-flow. With the ban on under-car aerodynamic for the portion within the wheelbase, most designers abandoned all thoughts of air-flow
around the back of the car, but Barnard did not. His design had the side pods curving inwards ahead of the rear wheels, encouraging the air flow between the rear wheel and the bodywork where it covered the differential unit and gearbox, and he made sure that this area was as uncluttered as possible. His undertray swept upwards behind the driveshaft centre line and combined with the gearbox shroud and the hub carrier shroud a neat and efficient “tunnel” was formed for the air to pass through, the only encumbrances being a slim driveshaft and the upper rocker arm of the suspension. Beneath this upswept undertray two expanding channels were formed, one on each side of the gearbox, and this low-pressure area combined with the good airflow above created a very useful down-force at the back of the car. The whole layout was part of the original design, not an afterthought, and its cleanliness of line is very noticeable. It was much to jolm Barnard’s amusement when he saw first of all Williams attempting to copy this rear-end layout, and then Alfa Romeo, Ligier and even Ferrari, though none were as effective, as they were compromises. One even had an air-scoop in the middle of this area which was supposed to be kept as clean and uncluttered as possible!
Although the two McLaren drivers finished first and second in the Drivers World Championship, they both had their lapses of concentration during the season and had anyone else been in the running for the Championship, these lapses could easily have jeopardised the final placings. When both drivers were on form and all was well they were invariably at the front of every
race, the only challenge coming from Nelson Piquet in the Brabham-BMW, but engine failures robbed the Brazilian of a lot of certain victories. The Canadian Grand Prix summed up the season, for Lauda was second and Prost third, in total domination of the rest of the Formula One field with the exception of Piquet and the BrabhamBMW. For once the Munich engine held
together and Piquet finished first. Removing him from the equation McLaren had a dominant 1-2, a pattern they confirmed as the season progressed. Although Frost won seven races to Lauda’s five, he lost the Championship by half a point to his team-mate, but in all tenth Prost threw the Championship away twice for certain, and once as a possibility. In Austria he spun off on a fast corner and stalled the engine and there was no way of re-starting it. Had he kept the engine running he would almost certainly have finished second and might even have won, as Lauda was in trouble with his gearbox.
In Dallas he made a mistake and bounced off a wall, damaging his front suspension and promptly abandoned the car. Had he limped round to the pits the damaged components could have been replaced and he could have rejoined the race with every chance of finishing in the “points game”. In Monaco, in the pouring rain, many people felt he was instrumental in getting the race stopped at half-distance, with the awarding of half-points for his win. Had the race run the full distance and he had been overtaken by Ayrton Senna, as seemed very likely, he would have scored six points instead of 41/2. So, had Frost made a fault-free season he could well have won the championship points race, as it was he won the victory race, with seven wins, but failed to claim the title of World Champion. Equally, Lauda did his best to throw the championship away, first by spinning and stalling the engine at Monaco, a real “goof’, then by crashing in Dallas, and finally by spinning during the European Grand Prix at the new Niirburgring Motodrom, which must surely have lost him second place. To his credit he kept the engine running while spinning and still had it running when he ended up backwards on the run-off area, so that he was soon back in the race, without losing a place on the lap-chart, but he lost a lot of ground that he was unable to make up. In the warm-up for this race Prost had a spin and damaged his car on a course vehicle, but the ever-willing McLaren mechanics had it all sorted out for him in time for the race. As can be appreciated the successful season for McLaren International was not achieved lightly, and the fact that there were no team orders for the two drivers meant that they raced hard all season. You don’t spin off going slowly at the back of the race, but you can (and often do) if you are trying really hard to win. Throughout the season the T-car (MP4/2-3) has been stake disposal of each driver on a rotational basis, alternating race by race, though naturally in case of dire trouble the nominated driver was always prepared to relinquish the car to his team-mate. As all times the team has carried complete alternative body panels and nose-cones for each driver, so that if the car was prepared for Lauda, with number 8 on it, and Prost needed it, it was a matter of