An orange McLaren? Called the MCL32? Is nothing sacred?
Well, yes and no. As we espoused via our launch campaign message ‘Change Your Game’ wasn’t merely a buzzword, it was a call to arms. At McLaren, we firmly believe that change is good; that change is necessary to move forward. After all, that age-old Formula 1 mantra maintains that if you stand still, you go backwards. And who wants to do that?
So allow us to rationalise what’s what in the world of McLaren in 2017:
For those of a certain age, painting MCL32 orange made perfect sense. For the younger generation, it was perhaps less clear-cut. After all, McLarens have pretty much always been red and white, or chrome silver, right?
The reason why we started to paint our cars orange back in the 1960s remains somewhat unclear. Theories abound that orange was the national racing colour of New Zealand (simply not true: it’s silver and black), that the colour looked good when viewed on rudimentary black and white TV screens, or possibly that the team had seen another orange car on track and simply felt that it was a livery worth copying.
Whatever the reason, McLaren Formula 1, CanAm and Indy cars were all painted Papaya Orange during the late 1960s and early ’70s. Couple with the successes they achieved (our very first F1 wins, two Indy 500 victories and more CanAm triumphs than you could count), the livery quickly became ubiquitous and iconic, even if its presence in Formula 1 lasted but a few years (it was reduced to a thin bar of colour on the Yardley-liveried cars by 1971).
When we think of orange McLarens, we think of legends; of heroes: Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Peter Revson, Johnny Rutherford. So, there’s an emotional pull to orange that’s hard to fully rationalise but difficult to resist.
For 2017, we merely updated the tone – Papaya became Tarocco, a dark, pearl orange – and we added some black bits and some curvy white bits. Just because we could…
YOU KNOW MY NAME (LOOK UP THE NUMBER)
Another change for 2017 was the change of the car’s nomenclature from MP4 to MCL. Again, this is a matter for the F1 anoraks out there, so let’s explain:
The original McLarens were prefixed with ‘M’ – hence the iconic M7 series of F1 cars, the M8 CanAm sportscars, the M16s that won at Indy; and the iconic M23, which helped Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt to win championships in 1974 and ’76.
The ‘M’ series concluded in 1980 with the M30, an unloved and unsuccessful grand prix car raced by Alain Prost and John Watson. For 1981, when Ron Dennis was brought into the company to oversee a return to championship-winning success, the naming system was completely redrawn. Dennis introducing the ‘MP4’ naming system – the ‘M’ referring to Marlboro’s association, and the ‘P4’ to Dennis’ own Project 4 equipe, which had successfully raced in Formula 2 and BMW Procar series, and which was merged with McLaren to create the new McLaren International organisation.
The MP4 series of chassis ran until last year’s MP4-31 – almost eerily mirroring the previous naming system – before this year’s car was re-named MCL (for McLaren, duh), carrying on the numbering system as a form of continuity and logistical common sense. Hence MCL32 was born.
INTRODUCING THE #SNEAKYKIWI
Unnoticed by all and sundry amid the launch-day hub-bub was a little decal of a Speedy Kiwi that had been craftily applied to the underside of one of the MCL32’s sidepods. Why? Because the kiwi – the national symbol of New Zealand – was adopted by our founder as the team’s official mascot.
Bruce commissioned motor racing artist Michael Turner to design the first kiwi logo in November 1963. It first appearing as a crest alongside a chequered flag and a single-seater, then was re-designed in 1967, becoming the now iconic Speedy Kiwi logo.
By our recollection (and, no, we don’t have an official record of these things), a Kiwi hasn’t appeared on the chassis of a Formula 1 McLaren since the mid-1970s (a quick hunt finds a black, painted Kiwi on Emmo’s 1974 M23, but no longer appearing thereafter). But that, like many other things, has now changed.
For 2017, we conceived the #SneakyKiwi as a sort of fan ‘easter egg’ – an unexpected or hidden little bonus for the sharp-eyed to spot. At every race, we’ll be sticking a kiwi decal onto our race cars – and leaving them for only the keenest fans to trace.
As we say, nobody spotted it on launch day – but look out for it in Melbourne…