The Harrods McLaren Goes to Goodwood
In my time at the tracks over the past 30 years or so, I have seen all manner of racing cars; some brilliant, some so bad you wondered how they ever escaped from the workshop or the drawing board. Of course on the other hand there are those that became particular favorites down the years, some of which I have been lucky enough to have been a small part of their story. One such racer is McLaren F1 GTR, chassis 6R, known however to all fans of this classic GT as the Harrods McLaren.
Most of you will have heard of the famous London store, Harrods; back 20 years ago it was under the ownership of the colorful businessman, Mohammad Al-Fayed and his family. One of his nephews, Moody, made a business case for promoting the store through motorsport, and that is how the handsome F1 GTR came to make its début at Jarama, in the fourth round of the 1995 BPR Global GT Series.
I had met Moody and his advisors at Monza the previous month and struck a deal to shoot for them. The car was entered under the Mach One Racing banner, though the work to get the car ready for competition was undertaken by David Price Racing, a great bunch. Not only would the group look for honors at the BPR series but the team had received an invitation to attend the Le Mans 24 Hours Pre-Qualification session, a hurdle that was comfortably cleared. It was the beginning of a great record of racing for this chassis in 1995 and 1996.
Andy Wallace and Olivier Grouillard scored four wins during those seasons and finished a sixth overall at the 1996 Le Mans 24 Hours with Le Mans legend, and five-times winner Derek Bell, joining them.
Perhaps its performance the previous year at Le Mans really cemented the legend that surrounds this car. For 22 out of the 24 hours it was in contention for the overall victory, leading for 131 laps out of a total of 298, with Wallace and Bell having the very able assistance of Justin Bell, Derek's son. Transmission issues caused delays in the dying hours of the race so they had to settle for third place, still a fantastic result.
It is 20 years (where did the time go?) since that famous race, so McLaren are rightly celebrating the anniversary at selected events, one of which was the 73rd Goodwood Members' Meeting. On track for a fast display was a great selection of F1 GTR's including 6R.
The sharper-eyed amongst you will notice that 6R has UK license plates and is therefore street legal - yes that's right, a road going car finished on the Le Mans' podium just 20 years ago. David Clark, one of the Directors of the McLaren Road car division back in the day, acquired 6R in 1997 and registered it for the highways, not as difficult as it might sound as the first racers were 90% the same as the street model.
So throughout the year there will be a few such McLaren F1 occasions with the event at Le Mans planned to be spectacular, certainly it will bring more than a few memories back.
McLaren themselves must think that the livery is special as they used it to show the world their latest McLaren P1 GTR at this years's Geneva Salon, that car was also at Goodwood to bring matters full circle.
I covered the story of the McLaren F1, the greatest of all supercars in my humble opinion, back a year or two. Any one interested can see those pieces HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. I count myself fortunate in the extreme to have been witness to this era of endurance racing, it ranks right up there with any I have seen.