The McLaren factory in Woking is the scene of a major celebration today with thousands of McLaren employees past and present as well as former drivers attending a special event to celebrate 50 years since the company was founded.
On September 2nd 1963 Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd was incorporated and since then, along with Ferrari and later Williams, the three teams have largely formed the spine of Formula 1.
There have been many highs and many lows, moments of intense human drama and tragedy as well as humour and pathos as with all great sporting stories.
Inevitably the story is of humble beginnings from a small workshop in Colnbrook, to the space age McLaren Technology Centre of today.
The team would no doubt have preferred to be celebrating at a time when they were competing at the front for the world championship. Former team principal Ron Dennis always prided himself on saying that McLaren won at least a quarter of all races in a season, but this season has been one of the worst on record with not even a podium finish from the first 11 races and no prospect of a win.
McLaren has always led the way in commercial relationships in F1 and its roster of sponsors today is extensive: Vodafone, ExxonMobil, Diageo, GlaxoSmithKline, Santander, SAP and the Hilton Group. The relationships with TAG Heuer and Hugo Boss have been in place for over half of McLaren’s life, which is unusual in a high-turnover business like F1.
It is about to enter a new phase with the departure of Vodafone as title sponsor and the return of Honda as engine partner and backer in 2015. Along with the presence in the background of Carlos Slim, this promises a reasonably robust financial future.
But competitiveness is the key. In a typical message, with a knife between the teeth, Dennis said,
“Our 50th anniversary provides an opportunity for every single McLaren employee to realise that he or she is an utterly crucial part of an organisation with a history and a culture that really mean something.
“Call it McLaren’s DNA, if you like. Call it McLaren’s brand continuity, if you prefer. Call it McLaren’s corporate culture, if you will. Call it McLaren’s undiminished hunger to win in everything we do, and you’d probably be getting closest to what I mean, what I think, and what I feel.”
McLaren has branched out into road car production, of course, electronics and also has a growing business in Applied Technologies – taking the technologies designed for racing and automotive use and applying them in other areas, like medical.
A group of early employees, many from New Zealand, were present at the recent Belgian Grand Prix and last weekend’s Goodwood Revival meeting as part of the celebrations.