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Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4-8 Ford, on the grid.
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The rushed McLaren F1 car that elevated a reluctant Senna's legacy

Williams had the best Formula 1 car of 1993, but its dominance was repeatedly challenged by a great campaign from McLaren's Ayrton Senna, who recorded five thrilling wins in the Ford-powered MP4/8. As part of a series of features looking back on that season 30 years on, key players involved in the car's gestation explain how it was hurriedly conceived and Senna belatedly agreed to race it

McLaren had lost its supply of Honda V12 engines in the summer. A replacement wasn’t found until November, and then only a deal for customer-spec Ford Cosworth V8s. It didn’t start on the development of the active-ride system essential to keep pace with Williams until the autumn. And to cap it all, the team’s talisman driver, Ayrton Senna, was telling the world that it was far from certain that he would return the following year. The odds looked stacked against McLaren at the end of 1992.

McLaren’s 1993 Ford-powered contender, the MP4/8, wouldn’t run until a month before the start of the season at Kyalami in South Africa. Two weeks into its belated and truncated test schedule, Senna climbed aboard for the first time on 3 March at Silverstone. The Brazilian liked what he found, smashed the winter testing record and quickly did a deal to race the MP4/8, an agreement involving famously unconventional terms. And so began a season that while slightly surreal in the context of McLaren’s history is central to Senna’s legend.

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