Murray and McLaren part

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Motor racing design legend Gordon Murray has split with the McLaren Group, ending an 18-year-long association. “After five world championships and a win at Le Mans, it certainly does rank as one of the most successful periods of my working life,” he said.

Murray’s departure coincides with his decision to concentrate on his ‘City Car’ project on which he has spent 11 years working in private. “It’s a radical departure and not the sort of project that would fit into McLaren’s scheme of things.

“It’s a little too early to make any decisions about my immediate future. Over the coming months I will be investigating opportunities. I do miss motorsport and I’m interested in becoming more involved, whether it’s with a sportscar project or helping think up a framework for F1 regulations. I had tried to interest Mercedes in racing the SLR but nothing came of it. I like long distance racing, mostly because of the atmosphere. It reminds me of F1 in the 1970s in that respect.”

He added: “The early days at McLaren were some of the happiest times of my life. When I think back to when Creighton Brown and I walked into an empty building at the end of 1989 and started the road car company from scratch, I feel a huge amount of pride for everybody who was involved.”

Another supercar project could be in the offing. “I’m interested in creating a new breed of supercar, something that’s genuinely usable. A sort of Lotus Elise for grown-ups.”

***

Fact File — Murray’s design career to date

Murray trained as a mechanical engineer in South Africa. Designing and building — and crashing! — his own racing car didn’t lead to any titles in 1966-67 so he headed to Britain, hoping to work for Lotus. He didn’t get the job he was seeking and joined Hawker Siddeley instead before landing a job with Brabham in 1970.

Appointed chief designer, his first F1 car was the BT42 for 1973 and its successor, the BT44, became a race winner in the hands of Carlos Reutemann in ’74. The Argentinian driver won again in a BT44B in ’75, as did Carlos Pace.

Murray asked team owner Bernie Ecclestone to find a flat-12 engine for 1976 so that it would fit the BT45. But Alfa’s unit failed to impress and it was only when he produced the BT46B ‘fan car’ in ’78 that it won.

But his BT49 was a regular winner in Nelson Piquet’s hands in 1980, with the F1 title following in ’81. Upsizing his chassis design to accommodate the BMW turbo, the BT53 added another title to his CV, again with Piquet at the wheel.

When Murray left Brabham in 1986, McLaren snapped him up. He worked with its F1 team, but his most famous project was the seminal McLaren F1 GT, which won Le Mans in ’95.