22 Things You Didn't Know About McLaren

It's a bonafide fact that McLaren produces some of the world's finest supercars. But did you know that the company's founder drove the Ford GT40 to its maiden LeMans victory, or that every team in NASCAR is dependent on McLaren's electronics?

Here are 22 things you didn't know about McLaren.

1. Before founding the eponymous company, Bruce McLaren was a world-class driver

Winning the USGP at just 22, he stood as the youngest race winner in Formula One history for decades. To date, he’s only been surpassed by Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

2. He was even behind the wheel of the first GT40 to win the 24 Hours of LeMans

He shared the car with Chris Amon, and they went into the record books as the first to ever win the legendary endurance race in an American car.

3. McLaren’s traditional color scheme is thought of as papaya orange, but it was originally black and silver

The orange shown here, however, popped more on early color TVs. This made the cars easier to recognize, and better for attracting sponsors. Note the color of the #2 GT40 in the previous photo—that was Ford’s way of enticing Bruce to drive the car.

4. McLaren made its F1 debut at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1966

On that day, Bruce McLaren became just the second man (behind Jack Brabham) to race an F1 car made by his own company. Dan Gurney followed suit a few weeks later with his All American Racing Eagle.

5. McLaren dominated American Can-Am racing in a big way

For most of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the only realistic way to win America’s premier road racing series was in a McLaren. Not even Sir Jackie Stewart could beat them.

6. On June 6th, 1970, Bruce was killed in an accident while testing one of his own race cars

He left behind a wife, a daughter, and one hell of a legacy.

7. McLaren won the Indy 500. Three times.

In 1972, Mark Donohue took the checkered flag in a McLaren run by the also-legendary Team Penske. In '74, Johnny Rutherford took the W, then repeated the feat in '76.

8. The name of every McLaren Formula One car since 1981 starts with 'MP4'

McLaren merged with Ron Dennis’s Project Four Racing, so every car since has been a McLaren Project Four.

9. The 1988 MP4/4 was the single most dominant car in Formula One history

It won 15 of the 16 races during the 1988 duel between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

10. The one race it didn’t win was basically an intervention of fate

The 1988 Italian Grand Prix was held just after Enzo Ferrari died, and Ferrari claimed a 1-2 finish in front of its fanatical fans. McLaren’s only engine failure of the year took out one Prost, and Senna crashed out while lapping a backmarker.

11. The McLaren F1 redefined what a supercar could be

Despite a driver’s seat in the middle and a 240 mph top speed, it was so mind-bogglingly comfortable that owners like Rowan Atkinson and Paul McCartney drove theirs everywhere.

12. The F1 was too fast to compete at LeMans, so McLaren had to make it slower. It still won.

The F1 was never designed to be a race car, and its monstrous BMW V12 was too powerful for the LeMans regulations. The engine was detuned, and with a few additional modifications to the car it won the race overall, despite (technically) not being in the fastest category.

13. The F1’s engine bay was lined in gold

Gold’s the best reflector of heat, and the F1’s engine ran very hot. Gold foil was installed to protect the car’s carbon fiber.

14. McLaren's HQ, a.k.a. McLaren Technology Centre, is really, really awesome

It’s shaped like a yin-yang, and the pond you see exists primarily to keep the massive heat generated by the wind tunnel in check.

15. The HQ isn't just a research facility and corporate office; it’s also a museum

Some of the most important British race cars of all time are within its walls.

16. The building takes "custom made" to a whole new level

Seriously. McLaren even patented its own screws for use in the building (shown here at the corners of a carbon fiber ring).

17. Every single NASCAR team is powered by McLaren

When the series switched to electronic engine control units a few years ago, guess who was ready with a specialized system? The company also supplies ECUs to every IndyCar and F1 team.

18. McLaren makes its own cartoons

They’re called Tooned. Each episode is a humorous look at a different chapter of the F1 team’s history. They’re also brilliant.

19. Hungry? McLaren owns some pretty stellar restaurants.

Absolute Taste was formed for trackside catering for VIPs, and to run a restaurant at the MTC. Now, it's a series of restaurants around London, and a major force in the catering world, pairing up with Gordon Ramsey to feed the guests of people like the Beckhams.

20. It also makes carbon fiber bikes

That are seriously good. Some of the best cyclists in the world ride them, including at events like the Tour de France.

21. And...bobsleds?

Yep. McLaren makes bobsleds, too. One of which took home the gold medal at the Sochi Games for Great Britain.

22. McLaren. Is. Everywhere.

There's a chance your hospital uses McLaren data management software. McLaren also works with Big Pharma companies like GlaxoSmithKline, and even toothpaste companies like Aquafresh.

Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He still thinks McLaren's most astounding accomplishment was changing a race car's valve settings from the MTC Death Star, during the Monaco Grand Prix, enabling victory.

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