(from the Oh Dear! department)
Not too much this month! Due to misinformation supplied and a misunderstanding, with a lack of direct contact, we got into an awful muddle over what the McLaren team have been up to, with regard to the South American races. The easiest way to sort it out is to tabulate the use and construction of all the M29 cars, and this is set out below. One of the misunderstandings involved the description “new”. When a car appears at a race for the first time the journalistic world consider it a new car, taking its first public appearance as its moment of baptism. However, to a designer, team manager or other member of a factory team a car is considered to be “new” when it is lowered off the building trestles and ran for the first time. More often than not this moment is just before a race so everyone automatically considers it to be a “new” car, but if the car is used for testing and development when it is completed it could well make its first public appearance at a race meeting with a lot of miles under its tyres, and even a rebuild or two in the meantime, so that team-members no longer consider it a “new” car.
If in the bustle and noise of the pit lane, or even in the paddock, you enquire of someone in a team “Is this a new car?” because it is the first time you’ve seen it at a race, the reply might, in all honesty be “no”. Just such a problem arose with the McLaren M29/4B. It first appeared in front of the Press and public at the Argentine GP but to the McLaren team it was far from “new” as it had done all the winter testing and development at the Paul Ricard circuit.
Over a pint in our local, Gordon Coppuck, the McLaren chief designer, sorted things out for us. During the 1979 season the M29 design was finalised and they built three cars, which were used to the end of the season. These three were then modified, principally around the rear suspension and rear brakes, as well as the body panelling, and they became B-series cars. At the same time a fourth car was completed, also to B-spec; this monocoque having been available in reserve during the season, but not needed as neither Watson nor Tambay had a major accident. Three of the cars were sent out to South America for the Grand Prix events in Argentina and Brazil, while one was retained at the factory undergoing further improvements in the light of winter development work, to become the first car to C specification. This car underwent testing during February and meanwhile a fifth car was being built, to be completed to B-spec, or C-spec. dependent on the outcome of tests and experiments.
Hopefully the misinformation in the report of the Argentine GP, and any errors that have crept into the Brazilian GP report, are now put right. D. S. J.
1979 1980 Argentina Brazil Colnbrook
M29/1 M29/1B M29/1B (Prost) M29/1B (Prost) M29/3B –> M29/3C
M29/2 M29/2B M29/2B (spare car) M29/2B (spare car raced by Watson) M29/5 –> ?
M29/3 M29/3B M29/4B (Watson) M29/4B (Watson practice only)