THOROUGHBRED GP CARS: 1976 - 1977
Ex formula 3 driver Morris Nunn
constructed his Ensign racing cars from 1971 to 1983. In 1973 his team entered Formula 1
with a car ordered by Ricky von Opel. Von Opel left for Brabham in 1974, but Nunn kept on
entering cars in Formula 1 until the end. Best team result was a tenth place in the
constructors championship of 1977.
This N176/MN05 was designed by Dave Baldwin and raced by Chris Amon, Hans Binder, Jacky Ickx and Patrick Neve in the 1976 Championship season. The car proved to be fast but unreliable; Amon crashed it twice and Ickx once just because of component failures. It still finished seven times, with a fifth place for Amon as a best result.
RitzSite visitor and F1 expert Rainer Nyberg from Sweden determined the make and type of the car seen on this picture because frankly: we didn't know! Needless to say we're very grateful for his information.
American Roger Penske, a rich entrepreneur who ran a Can-Am team in the
early seventies, decided to go into Formula 1 racing with driver Mark Donohue, the 1972
Can-Am champion, in 1974. In 1975 he introduced his first Grand Prix car, the PC1, which
was built at his new facility in Dorset, England. This car was not very effective and
later that year he bought a March 751 to compare his car to. Mark Donohue was killed
racing that March in the Austrian GP, but Penske persevered. The PC1 was followed by the
PC3 at the end of 1975 and during the 1976 season the PC4 was introduced (designed by
former March designer Geoff Ferris), and that car was a front runner. John Watson won the
Austrian GP in it and Penske reached fifth place in the constructors championship that
year. At the end of the 1976 season Penske chose the American CART series, which served
his interests better, above the Formula 1, and sold the PC4s and its design to Formula 1
newcomer ATS. From then on he concentrated on building and running Indycars with great
success until the 1990's, his cars still being constructed in his Dorset factory.
The M23 was the last highpoint in
the history of the McLaren factory before it was taken over by Ron Dennis and his
Marlboro-Project 4 (MP4) effort. The car was introduced in 1973 in the Yardley colours
with a high airbox fitted on top of the engine. It was designed by Gordon Coppuck and it
featured elements of his previous design, the M16 Indycar, but was also a development of
the M19 Grand Prix car by Ralph Bellamy. Some say that the M23 was actually a M16 chassis
with a M19 rear end, but that is short-changing this very effective design.
The M23 was run for more than four Grand Prix Seasons and won 16 championship races. Starting the 1974 season the cars were entered in the well-known Marlboro colours, after that company ended its affiliation with BRM.
Like most cars in its era it
was powered by a Cosworth DFV unit and had a Hewland FG400 transmission. In 1976 high
airboxes were ruled out and an alternative engine cover and air intakes combination was
introduced as seen on these pictures.
Denny Hulme and Peter Revson won three races for the McLaren team in the 1973 championship with the M23. In 1974 Emerson Fittipaldi won three races and the world championship in it and Denny Hulme won one race. Fittipaldi was runner-up in the 1975 championship and won two races. James Hunt drove the shown M23(/8) in the 1976 Grand Prix season and won six races and was runner-up to Nikki Lauda in the championship. The last season M23s were entered in championship races was 1977, and the team still achieved a third place in the constructors championship with it (and partly with its successor, the M26). This amount of achievements for one basic F1 car design can only be dreamed of nowadays...
The M26 had very similar lines to
the M23, but was lower and lighter and had a radiator in the nose instead of at the sides.
This car was also a Coppuck design and the first one was made in 1976 but never entered in
a race. A further developed version succeeded the M23 mid-season in 1977.
Equaling the achievements of the M23 proved to be difficult, and although the M26 was another effective design its competitive life was relatively short: in 1978 it was already obsolete because of the introduction of ground-effect cars by Lotus. In 1979 it was replaced by the faulty M28 ground-effect car that led to the demise of the original McLaren outfit. Still, James Hunt won three championship races in the M26 in 1977.
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