How Barnard's revolutionary McLaren transformed F1 car construction
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How Barnard's revolutionary McLaren transformed F1 car construction

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The MP4/1 was pioneering by choice, but a McLaren by chance. STUART CODLING relates the tangled (carbon fibre) weaves which led to the creation of one of motor racing’s defining cars

The story of McLaren's pioneering carbon fibre car predates McLaren as we know it. Had the chips fallen differently it might not even have been a McLaren – but, at the turn of the 1980s as it is now, money was the essential lubricant that greases the mechanisms of Formula 1. And F1 was where, in 1979, gifted engineer John Barnard and going-places Formula 2 team boss Ron Dennis wanted to be. Driven, ambitious, detail-minded and egotistical, both quietly carried chips on their shoulders regarding their lack of formal qualifications.

Dennis the mechanic-turned-entrepreneur embraced the modish cod-self-improvement of Edward de Bono's thinking hats and the exhaustively abstruse phraseology which came to be known as 'Ronspeak'. Over one or two glasses of wine too many after a chaotic Ferrari test in the late 1980s, Barnard would confide to a Sunday Times journalist that in the company of engineers blessed with doctorates and such he still feared being seen as an "uneducated blacksmith with oily hands".

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