McLaren’s M23

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McLaren M23 Yardley 1973 - SRC

The Lotus 72 debuted in 1970,keep calm I have not mistaken the car, this blog is about the McLaren M23, but wehave to start with the Lotus 72 to understand M23’s history.

Colin Chapman once again broke the written schemes, he removed the front radiator and replaced it by two radiators, one on each side of the cockpit, leaving the front of the car free in order to provide better aerodynamics creating a wedge shape.

The new concept quickly proved its worth, the Lotus 72 achieved 5 victories that year, boosting JochenRindt at the top of the championship standings, with such an advantage that, despite his tragic death in the Italian GP practices, no one was able to reach him in the last 4 GP of the season and was proclaimed World Champion posthumously. Rindt was what we can call an on/off Champion, since he only achieved abandonments or victories, joining the curious and exclusive world champions club that became so by only scoring points through victories, formed by Alberto Ascari (1952) and Jim Clark (1963 and 1965).

The unfair reputation that the Lotus 72 earned after Rindt’s death made no other team to followits concept. Unfair we say, as that tragic death was due more to Rindt’s fault than to the car. Rindt did not like much theuse ofseatbelt, which -by the way- was not compulsory until 1972. He had the habit of using it without the crotch straps, which was precisely what caused his death, as in the frontal crash suffered against the barriers of Monza’s Parabolica, the impact made him slide forward damaging his trachea with the buckle of the seatbelt, that finally caused his death.

And now, let’s talk about the M23, it debuted in 1973, and it was the first F1 together with the Shadow DN1, which copied the Lotus 72 concept: side radiators and wedge-shaped body.

The M23 had the standard mechanical configuration of the time: Ford Cosworth DFV engine and Hewland gearbox. Quickly it became a very competitive car, it achieved the pole position on its debut and obtained 3 victories that year. Surely it was so competitiveas its designer, Gordon Coppuck, had already borrowed the concept of the Lotus 72 to design in 1971 the successful McLaren M16 that participated in the 500 miles of Indianapolis, car which was the basis for the development of the M23.

Teddy Meyer talks to James Hunt inside his M23 - SRC
Teddy Meyer talks to James Hunt inside his M23

The track record of the M23 is impressive. It gave McLaren its first two World Championship titles, Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt in 1976, achieving 16 victories in total, which granted(mistakenly) the winning record for an F1 car; record that last year snatched the Mercedes W07 with 19 victories. I say wrongly because for me, who held and continues to hold such record is the Lotus 72 with 20 victories.

Cosmetics and lawyers

In 1973 the M23 debuted sponsored by the cosmetics company Yardley, with “Bear” Hulme and Peter Revson as drivers; Revson despite being a member of a multimillionaire family, always ran without its support and with their opposition (his brother Doug died in 1963 disputing a F3 race), which forced him to seek his own life.

Peter Revson with his fiancée, Marjorie Wallace (Miss World) - SRC

The problem arose because the Revson family’s fortune came from the Revlon cosmetics company and, of course, the family did not like at all one of its members being sponsored by its great competitor (Yardley). For this reason, therumourthat he had been disinherited was spread (I do not know if true), unfortunately he did not have the chance to inherit or not inherit, as Revsondied in 1974 aboard his F1 Shadow, after having lived the life he liked, enjoying his passion.

Another story that has the M23 as its protagonist took place in the British GP of 1976. In the first turn of the race, a fight between the two Ferrari’s of Lauda and Regazzoni, created a big traffic jam, in which Hunt’s M23 was damaged. The stewards decided to stop the race in order to retire the cars and give a new start. McLaren immediately lined Hunt’s reserve M23 on grid, and as expected, Ferrari quickly objected: you could not change cars once the race had started. Race Direction decided to retire Hunt’s car, to which the then Director of McLaren, Teddy Meyer, opposed and began an arduous discussion with Race Director and with Luca Montezemolo. Meyer, like the great lawyer he was, took out the Sports Code, played the fool, asked, argued and argued,and so on for more than 45 minutes, until a mechanic from McLaren approached Meyer, whispering something to his ear; in that precise moment Meyer told his interlocutors, “Sirsyou are right, we cannot run with the reserve car, we cannot make the public wait any longer”.It had all been a ploy to give their mechanics time to fix Hunt’s car, which he ran with and win to the delight of his audience and, I suppose, to Teddy Meyer’s greatest delight.


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What records in the history of F1 are still held by the McLaren M23?

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I hope you have enjoyed and entertained yourself with this short story, greetings to all and see you soon. If you know any anecdote of M23, share it with all of us.



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