It is Ayrton Senna’s 1993 McLaren-Ford MP4/8A, the car the three-times Drivers’ World Champion drove in eight Formula One races in ’93, including Monaco where he scored his last of six wins there, eclipsing the mark set by Graham Hill 14 years before and sealing Senna’s title as the Master of Monaco. Twenty-five years on from this final Monaco triumph the McLaren will be offered by Bonhams for sale at its Monaco auction on 11 May, with the car on view at Le Grand Palais, Paris, on 6-8 February.
One of the most special of all Formula One McLarens, the MP4/8A was, in fact, a bit of a one-off. Post Honda and pre Peugeot, McLaren found itself engineless so a deal was done to install a Ford Cosworth HB V8 just for the ’93 season. There was scepticism the active-suspension car would be able to compete with the V10 of the Williams-Renaults, but Senna – in his last season for McLaren – put paid to that from the off. He brought the McLaren home second to Alain Prost’s Williams-Renault at its debut in the Spanish Grand Prix. The car would not give him a fourth title – he finished the season second to Prost – but it did prove more competitive than could have been imagined.
Surely every F1 fan has a memory of Senna in the MP4/8 in ’93. The active suspension dumping Ayrton unceremoniously into the barriers at Ste Devote during qualifying for the Monaco GP. The inspirational wet drive in the European GP at Donington Park. Running out of fuel in the British GP at Silverstone. Beating Prost for the last time in the last race of the year in Australia, what was to be the great champion’s 41st and final F1 career win.
The car in the sale, chassis number six, was spare car in some of these races, and it did have its share of mechanical faults that year, but this chassis did start eight times, finishing fourth in the French, German and Belgian GPs as well as winning in Monaco and taking second in South Africa. Quite a special car then and said by Bonhams to be startlingly well-preserved and in running order.
So what are we bid? Bonhams isn’t offering a guide but perhaps an indication is the sale in 2017 of Michael Schumacher’s 2001 Ferrari, the car that took him to nine GP wins that year and his fourth World Drivers’ Championship. RM Sotheby’s sold that for US$7,504,000, or about £5.6m, a record for a modern-era F1 car.
Can Senna’s McLaren beat it?