Following the lead of the Lotus 72 and their own M16
Indianapolis car Mclaren's Gordon Coppuck used the same chisel nose, side radiators and
wedge shape for their new Formula 1 car, the M23. Regulations for 1973 required cars to have a deformable structure and the McLaren filled a 3/4 inch cavity in the frame and it's aluminium skin with aerosol foam. Debuting in 1973 the car used the
ubiquitous Cosworth DFV prepared by John Nicholson's specialist tuning company. The M23 had a rising rate inboard
suspension with outboard disc brakes at the front and outboard suspension and inboard disc
brakes at the rear. In its 5 1/2 year life, 4 at the front of the grid a total of thirteen cars were built. Initially sponsored by Yardley it scored a fifth place first time out
in South Africa. They would score an impressive three wins that year; one by Denis Hulme
and two by Peter Revson.
For 1974 the now Marlboro sponsored team Hulme was joined by Emerson Fittipaldi who replaced Peter Revson. Prolonged winter testing by Fittipaldi led to changes to the car, such as a 3in. longer wheelbase and a 2in. wider track, based on his considerable experience of the Lotus 72. This resulted in better weight distribution and more traction.
|Fittipaldi loved testing. According to Coppuck, "He enjoyed this side of his job more than the races." That was to prove a valuable factor as a tough season progressed.
The McLarens started the season with three straight victories, two by Fittipaldi and one by Hulme. By Monaco Fittipaldi led the drivers championship and at the US Grand Prix he secured his second title with the Constructor's Cup for the team. The 1975 season would prove less
successful for new driver James Hunt but the next season saw Hunt claim the title after an epic
season long battle with Niki Lauda. The modifications for 1976 included a six-speed
Hewland gearbox, refined aerodynamics and a weight savings program that saved at least
30lbs. Later that year McLaren also replaced their onboard battery with a compressed-air starter system saving more weight.
The McLaren M23 was never the most technically advanced car entered but
sound preparation, attention to detail and some talented drivers gave the four-year old
car 21 wins and 2 World Championships though a fifth year would prove one year too long.