The 1988 Formula 1 World Championship was a bit special: it was the last season for turbocharged engines (first introduced by Renault and its RS01), it saw total domination by McLaren, the ruthless duel between the team’s two top drivers, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, and a driver’s title for the Brazilian although theoretically he had fewer points than his French teammate. It was the year when Ayrton Senna finally won the first of his three championship titles that he would win before his untimely death in 1994. To celebrate this great champion and his first crown, a McLaren customer placed an order with the McLaren Special Operations department (MSO) for a very special P1 GTR in Marlboro livery, true to Senna’s MP4 / 4 of the 1988 season.
For a price, you can get just about anything, especially at McLaren. For example, the MSO department was created to meet the specific demands of wealthy clients. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that the customer who ordered this P1 GTR Marlboro is a fan of the Brazilian champion and that he has considerable means at his disposal. So in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first coronation of his idol, he ordered this specific McLaren P1 through the MSO department.
The particular 1988 Formula 1 season
The 1988 season stands out for many reasons. Senna was the rising star of Formula 1, while his new teammate at McLaren, was the established champion, having won the title in 1985 & 1986. The British team had a pair of leading drivers and a new engine from Honda to make the MP4 / 4 ultra-powerful. In fact, the two drivers would reign supreme, leaving only crumbs to the rest of the field. Gerhard Berger, with his Ferrari, was the only outside competitor to manage to win a race, at Monza, while Senna took 8 victories and 3 second places vs. 7 wins and 7 seconds for Prost.
The rules at that time provided that only the top 11 results on the 16 Grand Prix of the season would be taken into account for the title in order to spice up the show, motivating the drivers to play to win with less fear of any penalising mechanical failures. Without this 11 results scoring rule, Prost would have been the 1988 World Champion, with 105 points overall, ahead of Senna’s 94 points, from the total 16 races of the season. Of the 11 best results, Senna totalled 90 points, against 87 points for Prost. The Brazilian won, while the Prost / Senna rivalry became the focal point of Formula 1.
It is hard to imagine a similar Formula 1 season today, one with so much drama, engulfing two such huge champions and the intense rivalry that ensued, especially all within the same team. Maybe this is what McLaren’s wealthy client wanted to celebrate by ordering this very special P1 GTR.
A unique McLaren P1 GTR to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Senna’s 1st F1 title
Undoubtedly he holds Ayrton Senna near to his heart, since the car wears the driver’s number 12, with the Brazilian flag on its flanks and laurel branches at the rear of the side windows reminiscing of the World Champion title won by Senna that year. The icing on the cake, the new owner received a personalised helmet of the same ilk. The paint livery is obviously intended to remind us of the Marlboro red and white colours, even if the brand name does not appear: instead, there’s the bar code used in racing due to the anti-tobacco regulations of some countries at the time.
Nicknamed Beco (as Senna was called by his parents), the car is also richly personalised, including a 24K gold heat protecting glaze on the engine (why not?).
A standard P1 GTR is said to develop, thanks to its hybrid 7.8-liter, V8 engine – twinned with an electric motor, the phenomenal power of 1,000 horsepower for a weight of less than 1,300 kg. The Beco has apparently been tweaked for further improvement, although its real power output has not been communicated by McLaren. The client however seems rather satisfied with these improvements. The aerodynamic kit is also unique, providing even more downforce to the car. The interior has of course also received some personal touches.
The price of such a beast has not been revealed but we can easily imagine that it is in an alternative dimension, especially considering that a P1 GTR can only be driven on a track. A very expensive toy indeed, but that just goes to prove that the automobile enflames the passion of kids of all ages; what changes with age is simply the size and the price of the toys.