Monday, May 3, 2021 by René Fagnan
Stunned by Honda’s sudden decision to drop it at the end of 1992, the McLaren Formula 1 team had to re-use the customer’s Ford V8 HB engine in 1993 before trying the Chrysler/Lamborghini V12 and eventually choosing the Peugeot unit. later.
In September 1992, McLaren suddenly found that it had been released by its engine manufacturer Honda. A desperate deal has been signed to get Ford V8 HBs. But Ford has reserved its official engines for the Benetton team. So McLaren had to be satisfied with the customer’s engines, expensive and underpowered 50 horsepower. Despite this shortcoming, Ayrton Senna was able to collect five victories in 1993 in the McLaren MP4/8 Ford. A feat.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis needs to find the right engine for the coming seasons. Lamborghini, owned by Chrysler, has been in F1 since 1989 and has supplied 3512 V12s to the Lola Larrousse, Lotus, Ligier, Modena Lamborghini and Minardi teams. Without great success.
Ron Dennis meets Bob Lutz, President of Chrysler, and Daniele Audetto, boss of Lamborghini F1. Lutz and Audetto have high hopes for Chrysler in F1 and promise Dennis that the 3.5 liter V12 engine will be developed on a large scale in the coming years. An agreement in principle (not a contract, it’s important to note) is concluded so that McLarens can be powered by Chrysler/Lamborghini engines from 1994.
Under the supervision of Neil Oatley and Giorgio Ascanelli, the MP4/8 is modified to receive the V12. The wheel and bodywork are extended, the radiators are replaced, the engine mounts on the chassis and the gearbox are modified, resulting in a car that is now 9.5 cm long. A six-speed semi-automatic manual gearbox with paddles on the steering wheel is retained. However, the car is painted white, without a single sticker, except for the Goodyear one.
Very quickly, this McLaren-Lamborghini
The unveiling of the MP4/8B is carried out in great secrecy on September 20, 1993 at the small southern circuit of Silverstone with Senna at the wheel wearing a red jumpsuit with no advertising badges, except that of Nacional. Shortly after, the Brazilian took another test at the Pembrey track.
A few days later, after the Portuguese Grand Prix held in Estoril, Senna and his young teammate, Mika Häkkinen, drove for three days in this “McLambo” with other F1 teams. The V12 was modified at the request of Senna who asked for a wider power band with less high-speed brutality and more mid-range torque.
Senna would achieve a time of 1’13”232 which compares well with the time of 1’13”000 set by Alain Prost at the wheel of his Williams. However, McLaren’s Lamborghini V12 is an “old” engine that comes from the group assigned to the Larrousse team.
Senna won with this V12 and tried to convince Ron Dennis to compete in the Japan Grand Prix, the very last event of the 1993 season, at the wheel of this “McLambo”. Wasted effort. Dennis claims to finish the season with a Ford V8. Senna is very disappointed and does not understand this decision.
Actually, the reason is very simple. In his heart, Ron Dennis does not want this Lamborghini engine which he considers to be technologically outdated, too long and too heavy, and because he does not believe in the promises made by Lutz and Audetto regarding its development.
Above all, Dennis succumbed to the charms of Peugeot, which gave him its V10 A4 engine (which had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 905), a dowry of several million dollars and the financial and technical support of a supercar. manufacturer.
It is said that during the tests in Estoril, “McLambo” was forced to fill its fuel tank to slow down, because a very fast time risked destroying the contract with Peugeot.
When the McLaren-Peugeot deal was formalized, the people at Chrysler and Lamborghini fell from the clouds and bitterly regretted trusting the McLaren boss…
This unique “McLambo”, which belongs to McLaren, makes the rounds of various museums. The photo above was taken at the Lamborghini museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Among those gathered, we can recognize Mauro Forghieri, Riccardo Patrese, Pier Luigi Martini, Stefano Domenicalli and Daniele Audetto.