JAN 30th 2015

Goodwood Greats: 1966 McLaren M1B

As you’ll know by now, during the 2014 Revival GRR seleced a dozen cars from a programme packed with the world’s finest and most significant racing machinery and – as the event went on around us – managed to wheel each of them into a makeshift studio in the scrutineering bay in order to take the stunning images you see here.

This week’s subject is special in a number of ways, not least that in the hands of its owner – McLaren Chief Test Drive Chris Goodwin – it could be the fastest car at the Revival. It takes part in the Whitsun Trophy, which caters for powerful V8-engined Can-Am cars. Think Lola T70s, Cooper T61s, the odd Ford GT40 and rarities like the Attila-Chevrolet, Crossle-Ford and Chinook-Chevrolet as well as a healthy showing of other M1Bs.

mclaren-m1b-goodwood-greats

Last year, after staving-off some tough competition, Mr Goodwin triumphed in his M1B and later found time amongst his busy schedule developing the latest McLaren road cars to tell us of his car. ‘These were just about the fastest racing cars in the world in 1966,’ he enthuses. ‘State of the art.’ Chris’s car is chassis number one, which surprisingly wasn’t raced in-period by Bruce McLaren (who used chassis number 2), but was instead trusted to Chris Amon, who was very competitive in Can-Am ‘…but no cigar!’ Chris reminds us. ‘Classic Amon really; so unlucky. Although his work did lead to a lot of Can-Am success for McLaren.’

After the 1966 season, the car was sold and raced successfully in Canada the following year, with Mike Spence also driving it in a few Can-Am races. Not long after this it was laid-up. With McLaren’s own M1B being destroyed in-period and then ‘disappearing’, the sole-remaining ‘works’ M1B didn’t come to light again until the Nineties when it was restored to original specification in the States.

mclaren-m1b-goodwood-greats

‘Each and every rivet on the car was correct,’ Chris explains, ‘but the car hadn’t been prepared for racing. I’d been looking in America for an M1B and had seen a few examples before I came across this one which was then surplus to requirements. There were boxes and boxes of files and history with it, so we went through the lot and checked its authenticity.’

Clearly the McLaren passed muster because it soon made its way back to Blighty, where the work began to make it into a competitive racer once again. ‘We rebuilt it, checking carefully for any cracks along the way and then tried to set it up. It’s amazing how much we know about setting-up cars now that we didn’t know then!’

mclaren-m1b-goodwood-greats

By 2012 the car was ready. Chris did a test and a race with it at Oulton Park, then took it to the Revival. ‘I finished fourth, but the car was unduly difficult to drive,’ he explains. ‘So we did a lot of work with the spring rates, did a few more races and sorted it out. Now it’s very stable on the brakes, although there’s a lot of camber-change going on!’

So how is it to drive now? ‘Well at Goodwood it’s very fast and quite a handful. There is so much power… getting it all down well is the key. It always wants to step-out. But it’s a cool thing and I wish I could race it more often. With so much time away sometimes the last thing I want to do is race, but I love Goodwood so I’ll always bring it, if invited!’

Photography: Antony Fraser

Share this

The Goodwood Shop