McLaren Ford M23

McLaren Ford M23

by Luca Dal Monte

In 1976, the glorious McLaren M23, designed by Gordon Coppuck and first used in 1973, is in its final season – although, it must be said, due to the difficult development of the next model, it will be fielded by the official team also in some races of the 1977 season.

With the M23, we are witnessing one of the longest-serving cars in the history of Formula 1, if not the longest ever: 83 Grand Prix races over six seasons, 16 victories, 14 pole positions, 10 fastest laps, one Constructors’ World Championship title, and two Drivers’ World Championship titles – including the 1976 championship.

The major difference of the M23 in the 1976 configuration compared to the previous version is the absence of the large air scoop above the driver’s head. The international regulations dictate this choice due to the reduction in maximum height from the ground. But even with the lower canopy, the M23 remains at the top of its category.

McLaren Ford M23 Image 1


James Hunt: 1976 marks the great season of Hunt, who clinches his only world championship title. His pursuit of the title is undeniably facilitated by the tremendous crash suffered by Lauda at the Nürburgring on the first day of August. But it is a fact that, in the second part of the season, Hunt’s M23 once again becomes the best car on the grid, while the 312 T2 loses competitiveness. The decisive race is the last one of the season, the first Japanese Grand Prix. It is raced under heavy rain. Lauda, true to himself, withdraws at the end of the first lap. The race continues, and the downpour gradually eases until the sun shines again. James finishes third but secures those four points that allow him to surpass Niki in the standings and clinch the world crown.

Jochen Mass: A lacklustre season for the German, who only reaches the podium twice – once with the M23 in the ’76 configuration, at the German Grand Prix that marks Lauda’s season and career forever.

Our model cars:

McLaren Ford M23 Image 2

The debut of the 1976 version takes place in May at the Spanish Grand Prix. Hunt wins on the track, then gets disqualified, and finally, the victory is restored to him. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the only controversy of the season, a season in which the FIA Tribunal overturns more than one race result.

Amidst controversies, the M23 in its new configuration, driven by the English driver, wins a total of six races. At the end of the season, James becomes the world champion with just one point advantage over his rival and friend Niki Lauda at Ferrari.

McLaren Ford M23 Image 3