Ron Dennis’ first McLaren was a technological masterpiece that ushered in another new era.
It may have been overshadowed by its turbocharged rivals in those early years of that Formula 1 era, but the neat, competent, Cosworth-powered McLaren MP4/1 was a technological innovator. It not only ushered in the Ron Dennis era in at Woking but it also quietly started winning against all odds as it set the foundation for the team’s huge success that followed.
Dennis took leadership of the iconic team in the lead-up to the 1982 grand prix season and brought designer John Barnard with him to pen his first McLaren for Niki Lauda and John Watson to drive.
The radical all-new MP4/1 was however saddled with a humble normally-aspirated Ford Cosworth V8 in the face of Ferrari, Renault and Brabham-BMW’s mega power turbos. Barnard however had a trick up his sleeve as he became the first designer outside of the aero industry to apply radical new carbon fibre Kevlar technology to his latest Formula 1 design.
Barnard became au-fait with that new technology when in contact with US aerospace engineers while he worked on IndyCars in Arizona. He became intrigued by the revolutionary new composite material and its processes at a time when its limits, application and technology were becoming better understood by engineers and designers.