An enthusiastic tribute to Ayrton Senna and his 1988 McLaren MP4/4

A brand-new McLaren P1 GTR has been unveiled and, suitably, it wears the Marlboro livery that once covered the glorious McLaren-Honda MP4/4 that carried Senna to his first world champion crown 30 years ago during arguably the most dominant season ever for Team McLaren.

This new P1 GTR is the result of three years of intense work by McLaren Special Operations (MSO) who’ve worked in close partnership with the customer that requested this one-off machine. It features a more aggressive aero package than the standard P1 GTR, more power thanks to some tweaks to the engine, as well as a bespoke interior with seats borrowed from the McLaren Senna.

What makes the McLaren P1 GTR by McLaren Special Operations special

2019 McLaren P1 GTR by McLaren Special Operations
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We’ve known ever since the McLaren P1 GTR was unveiled three years ago that McLaren was open to customers requesting their cars to be painted in classic McLaren liveries. After all, the P1 GTR was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show wearing a yellow livery that harkened back to the Harrods paint scheme worn by the McLaren F1 GTR entered by Moody Fayed’s Mach One Racing Team in the mid-’90s.

Now, we see another McLaren P1 GTR in vintage colors.

Namely, it's the famous Marlboro livery that wrapped around the curves and sharp edges of many McLaren F1 cars between 1974 and 1996.

The owner who commisioned this example, though, wants it to evoke Ayrton Senna’s championship-winning McLaren-Honda MP4/4, the last F1 car of the hallowed turbocharged era.

2019 McLaren P1 GTR by McLaren Special Operations
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This P1 GTR received a comprehensive makeover during its three-year-long gestation period. It has "new front dive planes, a wider front splitter and, at the rear, a Gurney flap and new barge boards which better channel airflow along the sides of the car," according to a McLaren press release. Then there’s also the bigger rear wing, wider than ever before and, according to the same statement, made to evoke the wing of the MP4/4. That’s a weird thing to say considering regulations in 1988 stipulated a narrow but high rear wing, nothing like the wide, undulating piece of carbon fiber hanging at the back of the P1 GTR.

The livery has also received painstaking attention. Over 800 hours were spent on the painting process as a result.

You’ll see the classic McLaren Rocket Red and Anniversary White color combo, the Marlboro barcodes as seen on period F1 cars during F1 weekends held in countries with stringent tobacco regulations, such as France. Above the barcodes located on the doors, there’s the ’Senna’ logo with the text ’Driven To Perfection’ written underneath. There are also Brazilian flags placed aft of the rear wheels and a special logo with laurels on the B-pillar which commemorates three decades since Senna’s record-breaking championship run. The car also features Senna’s race number from 1988 displayed on the nose, as well as the enlarged endplates of the rear wing. The wing also has ’McLaren P1 GTR’ written on it.

2019 McLaren P1 GTR by McLaren Special Operations
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The car was nicknamed 'Beco', which was Ayrton Senna's nickname in his childhood.

Beyond the myriad of exterior modifications, the car received some mechanical improvements too such as the implementation of a 24-karat gold heatshield, a Lexan rear cover, and modified engine bay shrouds. McLaren also says that the power went up but we don’t know by how much. For the record, a standard P1 GTR is capable of 986 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 engine coupled to a hybrid system. In stock trim, the car reaches 62 mph in some 3 seconds and has a top speed of 217 mph.

’Beco’ also has a modified interior with seats taken straight from the McLaren Senna - appropriately - and one of Senna’s quotes on the carbon door sills along with his signature. The steering wheel was wrapped in Alcantara, as is the case for much of the car’s interior, at least where there isn’t carbon fiber already. The proud owner also commisioned MSO to deliver him a racing helmet covered in the same livery. We don’t know how much all this cost but the original asking price for a standard P1 GTR three years ago was $2,526,586 adjusted for inflation without all the gizmos and modifications seen on this car.

2019 McLaren P1 GTR by McLaren Special Operations
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It remains to be seen if the owner, one of McLaren’s most longstanding, will turn to Lanzante Motorsport to turn the P1 GTR into a road-worthy example or he’ll keep it as strictly a track toy.

In any case, it is a mighty tribute to a legendary season in F1's history.

The 1988 season started with one of the hottest pairings ever in one of the top teams: McLaren brought Brazil’s Ayrton Senna, who’d impressed at Lotus, to partner two-time World Champion Alain Prost. The two would prove polar opposites in both driving style and attitude, which made their battle for the title that much more intense.

The Frenchman, nicknamed ’Le Professeur’, for his incredible attention to detail and thoughtful approach, and the Brazilian, who went on to become world champion at season’s end, piloted the McLaren-Honda MP4/4, a car that was based loosely on the Brabham BT55 penned by Gordon Murray. Murray furthered his design ideas and came up with the MP4/4 with help from Steve Nichols, who was the Chief Designer at McLaren while Walker acted as Technical Director.

The car all but won every race that year. It only missed out on victory at the Italian Grand Prix where, two weeks after Enzo Ferrari’s passing, Ferrari scored a lucky victory in front of the Tifosi after Prost hit trouble and a panicked Senna hit a backmarker. The only pole position that didn’t go to the MP4/4 was at the home race of Team McLaren, the British Grand Prix, where Ferrari swept the front row. Beyond these two hiccups, Senna and Prost shared the wins, Senna scoring seven wins to Prost’s eight. However, the rules back then only took into account the best 11 results of the season and the Frenchman, with a tally of 105 points, was vice-champion although he’d racked up 11 more points than Senna at year’s end.

2019 McLaren P1 GTR by McLaren Special Operations
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It’s worth pointing out, beyond the amazing story of the MP4/4 and Senna’s legendary status that was cemented after that glorious season, that the Marlboro paint scheme was also worn by the P1 GTR’s predecessor, the F1 GTR. It was a special one-off outing in the colors of the Philip Morris brand all the way back in 1996. The venue was Zhuhai International Circuit in China which held the Zhuhai 4-hour race part of the BPR Global GT Championship. The two F1 GTRs entered by GTC Racing switched their usual Gulf livery for the Marlboro colors for this race only. They went on to finish third and fourth overall and in the GT1 class.

Further reading

2016 McLaren P1 GTR High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2016 McLaren P1 GTR.

2016 McLaren P1 GTR By Lanzante High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2016 McLaren P1 GTR By Lanzante

1995 - 1997 McLaren F1 GTR High Resolution Exterior
- image 631241

Read our full review on the [1995-1997 McLaren F1 GTR-art704]

2020 McLaren Senna GTR
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Read our full speculative review on the 2020 McLaren Senna GTR

Source: Auto Express

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert -
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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