FEBRUARY 17, 1997
McLaren and British Aerospace
It is not the first time BAe has been involved in F1. In 1986 the company helped to design and build the one and only Arrows-BMW A9 chassis. The program was a disaster with the first monocoque arriving in July and proving to lack torsional rigidity. The A9 was dumped after just three races.
McLaren has long had links with British Aerospace (BAe), which used to have a major facility on the old Brooklands racing circuit at Weybridge - just a few miles from McLaren HQ. When that closed many BAe personnel joined McLaren, notably operations director Martin Whitmarsh and production manager Geoff Highley.
McLaren and BAe worked closely on the stillborn McLaren Land Speed Record car "Maverick" and the team is currently doing aerodynamic work in the 40% rolling road windtunnel at BAe's Military Aircraft Division at Warton in Lancashire. The new partnership seems to be designed to extend this program and develop simulation techniques. It does not appear to include use of BAe's slightly larger Airbus Division windtunnel at Filton. This has been used since 1994 by John Barnard's Ferrari Design & Development company and looks likely to be used by Barnard when he teams up with Alain Prost.
It remains to be seen whether BAe will be involved in the construction of any new windtunnels which McLaren builds - there are plans for two - if it is given planning permission for its new team headquarters at Fairoaks.