McLaren MP4/8A F1 1993
Chassis no. 6
•Ayrton Senna's record-breaking sixth and last Monaco Grand Prix winner
•The most historically important Formula 1 McLaren ever presented at auction
•The rarest of rare opportunities to acquire a fully functional McLaren MP4
• Matching numbers chassis/engine/gearbox from Senna's 1993 Monaco Grand Prix win
It is evident from our long years of market experience that the essence of a truly collectible and iconic competition car is surely a combination of several very significant factors. The crème de la crème cars upon the very pinnacle of collectability each have an in-dividually unique and completely verifiable racing history, jewelled by significant success. They also embody the finest standards of contemporary competition car design and construction. They often embody design and manufacturing technology which is both a joy to behold, intricate to the eye, and often highly innovative. And, in the most desirable cases, they will have the closest and most intimate historic bond with a truly iconic and charismatic racing hero...
Here BONHAMS offers an immensely historic and important Formula 1 car which embodies every one of these immensely desirable attributes, in spades.
By the conclusion of this Monaco Sale you as the successful bidder could have adorned your collection with this 1993 McLaren-Ford MP4/8A Formula 1 car – the very machine with which the late and so legendary three-times World Champion Driver, Ayrton Senna, scored the record-breaking sixth and last of his historic race victories right here in the Monaco Grand Prix.
This startlingly well-preserved Ayrton Senna icon is offered here not only in running order, but also still featuring both the self-same V8-cylinder Cosworth-Ford 'HB' engine - serial 510 - and the self-same McLaren gearbox - serial 2 - which Ayrton Senna used so brilliantly when it won him that sixth Monaco Grand Prix title.
The present vendor – a truly dyed-in-the-wool motor racing enthusiast -acquired the car direct from McLaren International founder Ron Dennis in 2006, within an era in which no previous McLaren MP4 cars of any type were privately owned. As now offered here 'MP4/8A-6' has benefited from truly cherished preservation, and our reaction upon first seeing it, and hearing its V8 engine start up and run, has been "my, how it shows...".
The 1993 season would prove to be the brilliant Brazilian Champion's last with McLaren International – after driving for them through six action-packed and dramatically successful seasons which saw him win the Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship title in 1988, 1990 and 1991. During his career Ayrton became accustomed to breaking old records, and setting new ones. His laurels included the most wins achieved after leading throughout a World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix, the most consecutive pole positions, the most consecutive front-row starts, the most consecutive wins at the same Grand Prix (the Monaco Grand Prix, finally achieved in this McLaren-Ford), the most pole positions at the same Grand Prix, the most consecutive pole positions at the same Grand Prix and the highest percentage of front-row starts within a season (100 per cent in 1989). Add his 41 Grand Prix victories overall from 161 race starts – and the blistering driving style which he demonstrated throughout his frontline career – and the stature of the man is in no doubt.
Meanwhile, into 1993 the great British team of McLaren International, based at Woking in Surrey, south-west of London, had just ended its long and successful engine-supply partnership with Honda of Japan. McLaren would link up instead with Peugeot in a new Formula 1 racing partnership from 1994.
It was in the interim 1993 season that a last-minute agreement had been struck with Ford – following Honda's announcement of withdrawal from racing - to run their Cosworth-built 'HB' V8 engines on loan. Ayrton Senna himself was initially sceptical that these compact Ford V8 engines would be able to compete with the dominant Renault V10s as then deployed by the Williams team, led by the Brazilian's former McLaren team-mate (and long-time deadly rival) Alain Prost.
Senna consented – with initial reluctance - to remain with McLaren for that season on a race-by-race basis, in return for a rumoured $1-million fee for every race he started. The British team's latest McLaren-Ford MP4/8A model - like his Monaco GP-winning chassis '6' now offered here – certainly began that season being regarded very much as a stop-gap underdog challenger. Yet, in addition to Senna's exceptional brilliance within the cockpit - it quickly demonstrated such technological and mechanical sophistication that by season's end the MP4/8A it had proved itself one of the most competitive of all contemporary Formula 1 car designs. And Ayrton Senna actually drove chassis number '6' now offered as his mid-season regular car in no fewer than eight of the 1993 season's Formula 1 World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races.
In his debut with the brand new chassis '6' at Barcelona's Spanish Grand Prix he immediately finished 2nd overall, headed only by Alain Prost's more powerful Williams-Renault.
Here in Monte Carlo for the following Monaco Grand Prix, the weekend could hardly have begun worse for the intensely committed and always highly motivated Brazilian, as in early practice he experienced an apparent problem with the car's ultra-modern 'active' suspension system which sparked a violent crash into the barriers at Ste Devote corner.
The after effects of that incident shaped his subsequent performance in the Grand Prix itself, come race day. The accident had actually occurred in Thursday morning's free practice session. That 1993 Monaco GP meeting was barely six laps old, and the skies were just opening to dump the first of the day's unwelcome rain drops on to the Principality's streets. The Brazilian was hammering his McLaren hard and fast into the first right-hand corner at Ste Devote when the active suspension system apparently misinterpreted a jounce over an approach-section kerb and lowered abruptly, taking download off the critical front tyre contact patch just as Ayrton needed bite to turn into the corner.
The car slewed off-line to the left, hit the adjacent steel barrier, and was then launched back across the road to strike the opposite guardrail headon at a speed later estimated at 160km/h – fully 100mph...
Within the fleeting few yards of that careering half-spin, Ayrton still felt that he had a lot of time to await the inevitable – and was gripped by an intense fear that this was going to be serious. Reflecting quietly to friends, later that weekend, he admitted: "For sure I was afraid l was going to lose my legs, that I was going to be very badly hurt".
But thanks to the McLaren moulded carbon-composite chassis nacelle's sturdy construction, he was actually well protected within the tub as the car bounced off, shedding wheels and suspension parts. In fact Ayrton Senna only strained the thumb on his stronger left hand where he had kept hold of the steering wheel as the car impacted the guardrail. It was not something he would normally have done in such circumstances, but to the end (Senna-style) he was trying to rescue the situation.
The McLaren mechanics and engineers quickly assessed the true damage to chassis '6 and concluded that it would be speedily repairable – which proved to be more the case than with poor Ayrton's thumb which remained sickeningly numb, and which he had taped and bandaged in hopes of full and speedy recovery. Although it may not have seemed so when he subsequently qualified fifth in the wet that afternoon, and improved to third in Saturday's sun, he would remain in very pensive mood. Understandably, the incident really had shaken him badly.
After the race that Sunday would explain: "Monte Carlo is special, and always has been for me, from my very first race here with Toleman..."(back in 1984 – see Lot No 124) "...and throughout my career. And it continues to be special...
"After my accident on Thursday I knew I had lost the edge, because the difference between going flat out here and going 99 per cent is big. And in that shunt I lost the 100 per cent possibility. We still tried to come back on Saturday, and again I touched the Armco in the chi-cane."
On that occasion, when the repaired chassis '6 had been flicked into a spin by another bump, this time at the exit from the seaside tunnel, he had been unable to restart and had sat quietly on a bench in the sun, pondering the wretched hand that Fate appeared to be dealing him.
"I was thinking hard, before going to bed on Saturday, throughout the night, and then when I got up this morning..." he would admit. "But this morning I really was thinking positively about it. I didn't think I would be able to take the lead on the first corner, but I would try to push the people ahead of me, even though I might not be able to cope with their speed.
He spoke of initial pole-sitter and race leader Alain Prost whose Williams had inadvertently jumped the start, and had a 10-second stop/go pit-stop penalty penalty imposed for having done so. After Prost had been further delayed by clutch problems when attempting to restart from the pits, Ayrton then addressed new race leader Michael Schumacher's pace in his Benetton-Ford B193B car.
It was powered by the very latest-tune Cosworth-Ford HB V8 'development' engine and Benetton also enjoyed full favoured-team contractual backing. Their engine was therefore superior in performance to the customer power units provided under that stop-gap deal to McLaren.
"Michael was quick", Ayrton confessed, "...But in those early laps I didn't want to go too hard because I knew the tyres would be worn by the other end of the race. I just wanted to keep a good pace. And after some laps I started to push, which stopped the gap growing and allowed me to maintain pressure on him and hope for him to make a pit stop. I knew Benetton had worse tyre wear. I always hoped, and in the end I got what I was looking for..."
His thumb, he said, still felt numb. The main problem seated there in McLaren MP4/8A chassis '6 was truly to maintain concentration, and to make the right nano-second race-driving decisions.
For Schumacher, on Prost's enforced stop, things had seemed straightforward as by lap 20 he had opened a lead over Senna of as much as 19.1secs, before back-marker traffic entered the equation. At long last Benetton had traction control on its B193B cars, and af-ter qualifying on the front row alongside poleman Prost the young German superstar had been absolutely delighted with his car. "I just keep thinking what we could have done earlier in the year if we'd had it sooner..." he kept repeating to himself.
In fact Schumacher then led the race from Ayrton Senna until lap 33, when the Benetton-Ford retired abruptly with hydraulic failure. From that point forward, Ayrton in MP4/8A chassis '6 took commanding control of the great race, 15 seconds ahead of Damon Hill's Williams-Renault. And as the great Brazilian three-time World Champion took the Monaco chequered flag for his sixth time, he broke Graham Hill's record for the most Monaco GP victories (of five), set back in 1969.
Subsequent to its hard-won Monaco Grand Prix victory, this individual McLaren MP4/8A chassis '6 was raced again by Ayrton Senna in that year's Canadian, French, British, German, Belgian and Italian GPs. The combination finished 4th in the French GP at Magny-Cours, the German GP at Hockenheim and the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps.
At Silverstone in the British GP, Ayrton looked firmly set to finish 3rd, only to run out of fuel in the closing stages – and being classified 5th. Chassis '6's frontline career was finally completed as spare car at both the 1993 Japanese and Australian Grands Prix.
Ayrton Senna is widely regarded as having been absolutely the most charismatic Grand Prix driver of the modern era, and this individual McLaren-Ford MP4/8A is the car with which his team, McLaren International, (albeit temporarily) surpassed Ferrari as the most successful team in Formula 1 World Championship history.
Within the Formula 1 world of 1993, McLaren MP4/8A-6 seemed a relatively simple car. But simplicity at its most effective level also reflects intense refinement, and the making of good decisions by a dedicated - and hugely experienced - McLaren International design team. The Woking operation would still see number one driver Ayrton Senna win no fewer than five of that year's World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races, including Monaco, a record which emphasises the sheer class of the MP4/8A-Senna combination that year.
Relatively simple though chassis '6 might have been, it still featured active suspension, and later also power brakes. Its design had been perfected by a team led by hugely experienced ex-Williams engineer Neil Oatley while its Henri Durand-devised aerodynamic package performed at best when presented to the airstream upon a stable-riding platform, which was provided by active suspension. As developed during that year by McLaren engineers Paddy Lowe and Nick Fry, the car's active system continually reset ride-heights and trim automatically while the car was running. The system's designers divided-up the circuits into a number of sensing segments and by the end of the year its sensing was as precise as every five to ten metres...
Now, however much chief designer Neil Oatley might describe his MP4/8A as having been a relatively simple car, it pushed everywhere against the limit of what contemporary regulations allowed. The Formula 1 car is a bomb upon the brink of exploding. In action it's a vibrant, dynamic, incredibly dynamic man-carrying capsule which will challenge any mere human strapped into its seat to ex-plore its outermost performance limits, while still maintaining at least a semblance of control.
That's what makes superstar Formula 1 drivers such special athletes - merely to be able to live with the car's capabilities, and to use all it has to offer. From McLaren's incredibly fine-detailed contemporary chassis '6 data read-outs, the car's explosive performance around the Monte Carlo street circuit is absolutely eye-popping. Just imagine keeping on top of this rampaging street fight...
Approaching Ste Devote Corner in 1993, Ayrton Senna had MP4/8A-6 reaching a maximum 265km/h (164.6mph) in 6th gear, its 3.5-litre Ford HB engine screaming - by contemporary standards - at 12,070rpm. His mid-corner Ste Devote speed was then 90km/h (55.9mph), 7,048rpm in 2nd gear.
His maximum speed up the long hill towards the Casino was 259km/h (160.9mph), 11,827rpm in 6th. He slammed right in front of the Hotel de Paris at 122km/h (75.8mph), 7,959rpm in 3rd. Down into Mirabeau 213km/h (132.3mph), 12,565rpm in 4th. Locking left into the Loew's Hairpin, 46km/h (28.5mph), 4,634rpm, bottom gear, and then up and away through the curving, tunnel, where the car as now offered here reached 277km/h (172.1mph), 12,636rpm in 6th.
Through the quayside chicane 63.0km/h (39.1mph), 4,922rpm in 2nd gear. After the Tabac turn through the swimming pool complex, 164km/h (101.9mph), 9,639rpm in 4th. Pitching the car into the right-hand entry to Rascasse, 48km/h (29.8mph), 4,897rpm, again in 1st gear. And so back across the timing line and away beyond 160mph again towards Ste Devote... To win that 1993 Monaco Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna in chassis '6 went through this mind-boggling sequence no fewer than 78 times, to win for that record-breaking sixth time.
It is with great pleasure – and profound respect for the memory of the late, great Ayrton Senna – that BONHAMS commends this wonderfully historic, iconic (and running order) Formula 1 car to the market.
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