Why it made Ron weep at Monza

F1 Racing (UK) - - FRONT PAGE -

Times change. Great sport­ing ri­val­ries de­fine eras that even­tu­ally pass and fade into mem­ory. And yet the ri­valry be­tween Mclaren and Fer­rari – of­ten vi­cious, al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing – has long out­lived those peo­ple who set it in mo­tion.

What is it that makes this ri­valry so com­pelling? Why is Mclaren vs Fer­rari so much more en­gag­ing than, say, Red Bull vs Mercedes? Why, when you study the grand­stands at any grand prix, do fans wear­ing Fer­rari or Mclaren mer­chan­dise vastly out­num­ber those flaunt­ing al­le­giance with oth­ers?

Part of it is be­cause they are the heavy­weights, the undis­puted gi­ants, and when they meet on track it is a rum­ble in the jun­gle rather than a scuf­fle in the sub­urbs. Not only are they the most suc­cess­ful teams in the sport’s his­tory (see side­bar over­leaf), each has a dis­tinct per­son­al­ity, at odds with the other and yet, like yin and yang, their strengths and weak­nesses al­most in­ter­lock­ing.

Bruce Mclaren was a quick and skilled driver, per­haps not in the same league as his con­tem­po­rary, Jim Clark, but he was en­tre­pre­neur­ial, en­gi­neer­ing-minded and a nat­u­ral, in­spir­ing leader. Like­wise Enzo Fer­rari was no Ru­dolf Carac­ci­ola, but he was a proven race-win­ner be­fore he turned his hand to team man­age­ment, and he suc­cess­fully built his epony­mous team in the chilly eco­nomic cli­mate of the im­me­di­ate post-war years. Each had suf­fered ill health in their for­ma­tive years: Fer­rari nearly suc­cumbed to the Spanish Flu, while Mclaren walked with a slight limp af­ter con­tract­ing Leg­gcalvé-perthes dis­ease at the age of nine.

And yet when the white and green Mclaren M2B ap­peared at Monaco half a cen­tury ago, in May 1966, its cre­ators must have seemed an un­likely neme­sis for F1’s most leg­endary team. The Scud­e­ria had weath­ered the might of Alfa Romeo and Mercedes in the 1950s and re­mained on the field af­ter those or­gan­i­sa­tions had been forced to with­draw. Bruce and his cadre must have barely reg­is­tered on Enzo’s radar.

What the M2B did em­body was fresh tech­ni­cal think­ing, and over the next five decades Mclaren would prove to be a force for in­no­va­tion in F1. Per­haps they even spurred Fer­rari to break new ground them­selves, be­cause in the 1960s Enzo’s phi­los­o­phy that the en­gine was the most im­por­tant el­e­ment of the car con­tin­ued to de­fine the team’s ap­proach. He had reluc­tantly ac­cepted that the en­gine was bet­ter lo­cated be­hind the driver than in front, but he still re­garded chas­sis de­sign and aero­dy­nam­ics as in­fe­rior sciences and means to an end.

Mclaren had ar­guably pi­o­neered wings on sin­gle-seater race cars in se­cret test­ing with the M2A de­vel­op­ment car in 1965, and the M2B fea­tured the first composite mono­coque with its Mal­lite balsa-an­da­lu­minium sand­wich con­struc­tion. Though op­er­at­ing from makeshift fa­cil­i­ties – a rented unit in Colnbrook, un­der the Heathrow flight path – Mclaren were in­cred­i­bly in­ven­tive and pro­duc­tive. Once Bruce had

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.