The MP4/6 at Goodwood FOS (Words by Sergio Alvarez; Images by Diego Merino)


The  Goodwood Festival of Speed never fails to disappoint us hungry fans of loud and aggressive looking F1 cars. Once again present, was one very special machine from Woking, the one with which the legendary Brazilian Ayrton Senna clinched his third and final F1 World Championship, the Honda Marlboro McLaren MP4/6, chassis #10.

Once the 1991 season came to a close, the machine underwent minor changes to compete during the initial three rounds of the 1992 season. Prior to those last outings, Senna had just clinched his third world title against an each-time-better-equipped Nigel Mansell. Woking was starting to feel the pressure executed by Didcot, thanks to Williams’ clever understanding of the emerging world of electronics.

After being kept and restored by McLaren’s historic department, such a jewel of engineering as the MP4/6 #10 stretched its legs once again at Goodwood ’17.

Recently, during the FIA Formula 2 round held in Jerez de la Frontera, we caught up with F2 stars Nyck De Vries and Nobuharu Matsushita, who shared their impressions about driving the iconic Honda Marlboro McLaren MP4/6.

Nyck de Vries

“It was not my first time. I had been at Goodwood already a few times before to drive those cars. So the news that I was going to go to Goodwood wasn’t particularly coming out of nowhere. Obviously, to drive those cars in that kind of environment is an amazing experience with which you can feel what those guys went through: how they used to race, how they had to go to the limit with these machines… the safety was very low, with that seat position, gear shifting, steering wheel… everything was extremely different.”

“What surprises you the most about the driving position is [that it’s] not related to its height; it is the huge support that nowadays we have from the seat and for the head compared to back then. In those cars, your shoulders are coming almost outside the cockpit.”

Classic McLaren F1 (4)

The real deal: dangerous F1 cockpit

“I know that I’m from a different generation. We try to focus and we deal with all that we have now. I would actually like to try a Formula 1 of around 2007-8, because those cars had a lot of aerodynamics and were very advanced. Let’s see what’s going to happen next season and what I do next year. And if I have the chance to test an MP4/22 or 23, I will be there!”

“People from the past think that nowadays it’s easier, but I think that there are a lot of things that currently are more challenging. There is much more information exchange between driver and engineer, particularly concerning track procedures… Today, we generally drive closer to the limit because everything is safer. In the past, when you started a race, you didn’t know if you were going to survive.”

Classic McLaren F1 (1)

Driver-friendly unit shifter

“At Goodwood, you just drive up the hill, however it’s pretty cool. The first time that I drove at Goodwood, in 2015, we had to shakedown the Prost car in advance. I had never driven it before, it was an MP4/5. We had to check that everything was ok, and the mechanics taught me how to use the car and how to shift. I couldn’t downshift, because if you don’t heel-and-toe, if you don’t give it like a blip, you cannot do it basically.”

Nobuharu Matsushita

“It’s completely different from GP2/F2. I couldn’t push enough in such a short straight, but it was good.”

“You cannot call it testing. It was cruising. I didn’t come close to anything that you could call the potential of the car.”

“Were I given the choice, I would go for testing the 2017 car rather than an MP4/6. Maybe next year!”

Classic McLaren F1 (7)

Too cool for F1 old school?

“We reached around 200 kph in a very dusty surface. It’s really bumpy.”

PS Nobu, Nobu… Without history, there’s no future! Doncha wanna hear the wild roar and feel the sheer violence of the MP4/6? This Japanese-British bondage artefact on wheels is one of the best examples of pure F1 engineering! I wish they could tie me to the rear wing during your Goodwood run!

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