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Horrocks’ Fantasy Fulfilled

Back in the bleak days of the sport in the mid ‘90’s, a car was unleashed that really captured the imagination of the fans and the general public.  A car that to this day is revered, even by those that were barely old enough at the time to remember – the BMW powered McLaren F1.

Originally intended only as a street car, customer demand eventually forced McLaren to develop a race version, one that won Le Mans in 1995 and went on to dominate the DPR series through 1996 and also feature strongly (albeit in long tail configuration) in the FIA series in 1997.

I consider myself fortunate to have seen the McLarens race at Laguna Seca in 1997, and view that as race that re-energized my interest in the sport, as well as many others in North America.

Fast forward to Daytona 2013… driving through the infield there was something very familiar sitting under the BMW awning.  Sitting amongst the current BMW line up of street cars was none other than the chassis no. 017R – the very same McLaren that Nelson Piquet, Danny Sullivan and Johnny Cecotto drove at Le Mans in 1996 to an 8th place finish.

A compliment to Bill Cobb, press officer for BMW NA, concerning the presence of such a car at Daytona resulted in an invitation to sit in it.  Didn’t have to think twice about that invitation.

The thought of sliding into any race car can be intimidating, especially for um, a large American like myself.  What made the McLaren even more intimidating was the fact that was a central seater.  My entrance very likely scored poorly as far as style points, but I must say that the seating position was quite comfortable, especially with it pushed all the way to the back.  There would be no way that I’d fit in the seat if it was adjusted to match the individual drivers.

If my entrance was bad, my exit was even worse.  It was bordering on embarrassing, but I didn’t really care – I’d sat in a very significant car, one of my favorites and one that had raced at Le Mans.  That was pretty cool.