MAY 18th 2015

Video: How to Drive a McLaren M8F around Laguna Seca

Despite Formula One being widely accepted as the pinnacle of motorsport, there have been occasions when the Grand Prix cars of the day have possibly not been the fastest way to get around a racing circuit.

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In the early Nineties the World Sports Prototype cars were covering ground very quickly indeed and some drivers reckoned them to be a match for Grand Prix cars. Although we couldn’t find a direct comparison, in 2013 our very own Nic Minassian, driving a 1991 Jaguar XJR-14, lapped Silverstone in 1:36.7, while last year the best Lewis Hamilton could manage in his Mercedes AMG F1 car on the same circuit was a 1:37.1. Not a scientific comparison, sure, but the Jaguar was 23 years old at the time …

A slightly more useful measurement can be taken from Watkins Glen in 1972, which hosted both F1 and Can-Am races that year. Pole position for the F1 race was bagged by Jackie Stewart at 1:40.481, whilst in the Can Am event Peter Revson managed a 1:39.187 in a McLaren M20. The track is likely to have been a little cooler for the F1 race, but still that’s a gap of 1.3 seconds in favour of the McLaren. That the early-Seventies Can Am cars were a match for a contemporary Grand Prix car is surely a reasonable contention. What’s more, there’s going to be an example of the car you see here at FoS this year, so you can see for yourselves.

Wind back one season to 1971 and the McLaren M8F was the car to beat. But, despite being capable of lapping in a similar time to an F1 car, this footage demonstrates that the M8F car was perhaps somewhat more of a handful to pedal. By 1971 the faster Can-Am cars were producing well-over 700bhp and enough torque to alter the earth’s rate of rotation. As such, once the driver has managed to get the car slowed down and get the front end turned in from an enormous speed, they then have quite a task on their hands getting all the power down.

That said, in this clip Rick Knoop does a sterling job of manhandling the beast (and for once the word ‘beast’ is perfectly apt) around Laguna Seca. It’s one of those videos which really does a great job of conveying the work the driver is having to do to keep it on the blacktop as well as the immense acceleration of these machines. And as for the sound emanating from the gargantuan big-block Chevy motor, well it’s pretty tasty to say the very least.

So enjoy the clip, and bear in mind that if Mr Koop was at the wheel of a 1971 F1 car he probably wouldn’t be going quite as fast …

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