GORDON MURRAY’S NEXT BIG THING
DESIGN GURU GORDON MURRAY RETURNS WITH AN ATMO V12 SUPERCAR THAT’S POISED TO BE JUST AS SEGMENT DEFINING AS HIS LEGENDARY McLAREN F1
He’s got the mo in the know ... and now Murray is about the deliver a worthy successor to the legendary McLaren F1
GORDON MURRAY IS no stranger to benchmarks. He has designed Formula 1 cars that have been driven by the greats and won multiple world championships. His McLaren F1, designed 30 years ago, was a supercar so preposterously fast it rewrote the rulebook. And his latest cars, the GMA T.50 and T.50s Niki Lauda, promise to tease the edges of the performance envelope even further, combining ultra-light weight with an ultra-responsive naturally aspirated V12 engine that screams to 12,100rpm.
Murray has spent most of his adult life thinking about making cars work better and go faster. His father, Bill, raced motorcycles and prepped racing cars, and Murray started working as a mechanical design draughtsman while studying engineering at Natal Technical College and building himself a club racing car in his spare time. He moved to the UK in 1969 and lucked into a job at the Brabham race team when he “just wandered into” the workshop the day owner Ron Tauranac was interviewing for a draughtsman.
Brabham’s glory days were behind them when the team was snapped up in 1972 by a young South London businessman named Bernie Ecclestone, who asked Murray to design an all-new F1 car for the 1973 season. But for a failed driveshaft component, Murray’s BT42 would have won its maiden Grand Prix. Between 1973 and 1985, Murray-designed Brabhams won 22 grands prix, taking the team to second place in the World
Constructors Championship in 1975 and 1981, and Nelson Piquet to two Drivers Championships, in 1981 and 1983.
At the end of 1986 Ron Dennis invited Murray to join McLaren and take over from John Barnard, who had left to join Ferrari. Dennis offered him a completely free hand with the technical side of the company, and the McLarens produced during Murray’s tenure captured four consecutive Constructors Championships, and world titles for Alain Prost in 1989 and back-to-back crowns for Ayrton Senna in 1990 and 1991. It was a stellar record, but by the end of 1989 Murray was feeling bored and restless. Racing wasn’t fun anymore.
Enter the McLaren F1. Dennis and Murray hatched the idea of doing a McLaren road car in 1988, and when Saudi billionaire Mansour Ojjeh, through his company Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG), agreed to become a principal investor in the project, serious design work began in 1990. “I’ve wanted to do a road sports car all my life,” Murray said at the time. And though he would still be working at McLaren, he made it clear his Formula 1 days were behind him. “I feel relieved that phase of my professional life is over,” he said. “For one thing, I needed a new challenge; and for another,
I’ve been on the road an awful long time now.”
Launched in 1994, the McLaren F1 changed the way the world thought about supercars. “The F1 is a drug,” wrote Peter Robinson in the June 1994 issue of Wheels. “Every time you use full throttle it’s an event.” After driving a car
The ultimate ...GORDON MURRAY ROAD CAR
IF SMALL AND light is Gordon Murray’s guiding mantra, then the Light Car Company Rocket is the ultimate Gordon Murray road car. Designed just before he did the McLaren F1, the Rocket is little more than a spaceframe wrapped in a tubular composite bodywork, with tandem seating. The Rocket is about the size of a Caterham Seven, but weighs just 370kg. It’s powered by a Yamaha FZR1000 motorcycle engine that makes 107kW at 10,500rpm and drives through a special five-speed transmission and two-speed diff, giving it 10 forward gears. It will get to 100km/h in about 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 230km/h.