McLaren celebrates 700 GPs - the 300th race
|1988 San Marino GP - Imola, May 1 1988|
||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Honda||60 laps in 1hr 32m41.264s||(Grid: 1)|
||Alain Prost||McLaren-Honda||+ 2.334s||(2)|
||Nelson Piquet||Lotus-Honda||+ 1 lap||(3)|
||Thierry Boutsen||Benetton-Ford||+ 1 lap||(8)|
||Gerhard Berger||Ferrari||+ 1 lap||(5)|
||Alessandro Nannini||Benetton-Ford||+ 1 lap||(4)|
The 1980s was a fruitful time for McLaren, yielding four Constructors’ Championships, five Drivers’ Championships, 41 fastest laps, 37 pole positions and 102 podium finishes, of which 56 were wins.
Having pioneered carbon fibre monocoque construction with the MP4/1 and taken our first win of the decade in 1981, we stepped up our efforts for 1982 with a B-spec car. Niki Lauda was tempted out of retirement to join John Watson, but although each of them won two grands prix John lost out to eventual champion Keke Rosberg by five points.
Having demonstrated the virtues of carbon fibre construction we could be sure that our rivals would soon follow. Ron Dennis secured investment from TAG to create a new, bespoke turbocharged engine, designed and built by Porsche and featuring highly advanced Bosch fuel injection. John added another grand prix win, at Long Beach in 1983, before the new engine was ready for trial.
Although the TAG V6 made its debut late in the 1983 season in the MP4/1C, it had actually been designed in tandem with a new chassis for 1984. The MP4/2 was based around a similar ‘tub’ but its aerodynamics were all new. Crucially, the engine had been designed to be as compact as possible, maximising the car’s aerodynamic potential.
The TAG V6 proved less responsive to higher boost settings than some rivals, which meant we qualified on pole just seven times during its time with us, but it was amongst the most powerful in race trim and by far the most fuel-efficient. As the FIA reduced the maximum fuel tank size over successive seasons this proved to be a useful advantage.
Alain Prost returned to race with Niki, and in 1984 they won 12 races between them, setting fastest lap eight times. Niki won five races to Alain’s seven but clinched the drivers’ title by half a point, with 72 points to 71.5 (the Monaco GP, which Alain won, had been stopped early owing to bad weather and half points were awarded). Their nearest rival was Elio de Angelis on 34 points.
The MP4/2 was modified for 1985 following a switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres, and Alain earned himself the Drivers’ Championship with five wins to Niki’s one. We took the constructors’ title for the second consecutive year.
Alain added four more wins in 1986 to beat Nigel Mansell by two points, followed by another three in 1987. But change was coming: Honda V6 turbo power, a completely new car with low-line aerodynamics, and Ayrton Senna. Our 300th race, the San Marino Grand Prix, was the second of the 1988 season – and one of 15 wins that year…
Elsewhere in 1988
In the USA, the Iran-Contra affair (in which covert arms sales to Iran were used to fund anti-government rebels in Nicaragua) dominates the headlines early in the year as Vice-President George Bush argues on-air with TV interlocutor Dan Rather, and Oliver North and Admiral John Poindexter are indicted by a federal grand jury. During the Presidential elections in November, Bush defeats the Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis.
The USA and the USSR continue to test nuclear weapons on domestic soil, in Nevada and Kazakhstan. The USSR begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in April.
Margaret Thatcher becomes the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century. In June the government loses its final appeal to halt the UK publication of Spycatcher, the memoirs of former MI5 officer Peter Wright. The book had already been published in Australia. Wright’s ghostwriter, Paul Greengrass, later pursues a successful career as a film director.
Stephen Hawking publishes A Brief History of Time, and Space Shuttle flights resume after a hiatus of over two years following the Challenger disaster.
Aged 50, Bobby Allison becomes the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500. His son Davey finishes two car lengths behind.
At the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Italy’s Alberto Tomba wins two gold medals but it is two leftfield entrants who capture the imagination of the global audience: the Jamaican bobsleigh team, whose story is subsequently dramatised in the film Cool Runnings, and British ski jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards.
Mike Tyson knocks out Larry Holmes in four rounds to win the world heavyweight boxing title, then marries actress Robin Givens the following month. The marriage lasts just one year.
The Summer Olympics opens in Seoul, South Korea, but is soon engulfed in controversy when sprinter Ben Johnson tests positive for stanozolol, a banned anabolic steroid, after setting a new world record in the 100m. The Bulgarian national team withdraws after two of its weightlifters are stripped of their gold medals following a positive drug test.
Jackson Pollock’s painting Search sells for $4,800,000, netting a tidy profit for the owner, who bought it in 1971 for $200,000.
The popular detective series Cagney & Lacey comes to the end of its six-year run in the US, as does Magnum PI, while in the UK Comic Relief holds its first telethon on February 5.
In the year CD sales outstrip vinyl for the first time, it’s busy at the top of the US billboard chart: Whitney Houston opens the year at number one with So Emotional, rapidly followed through the revolving door by the likes of George Harrison (Got My Mind Set On You), Michael Jackson (The Way You Make Me Feel), Guns ‘N’ Roses (Sweet Child O’ Mine) and Bobby McFerrin (Don’t Worry, Be Happy). In contrast to the US, where only one record occupies the number one slot for more than three weeks, the UK chart is much more settled: Pet Shop Boys (Heart), Tiffany (I Think We’re Alone Now) and Bros (I Owe You Nothing) enjoy multi-week stays at the top. Yazz and the Plastic Population hit number one for five weeks in summer with The Only Way Is Up.