Shortly after the end of the XNUMXth century, F1 was revolutionized with a very unique vehicle: the McLaren MP4 / 98T-Mercedes. This model manufactured by the Woking team was a great protagonist of the 1998 season of the highest category, although in reality never participated in a Grand Prix. Is that it was a two-seater created for the sole purpose of allowing special guests and celebrities to experience the dazzling performance of the F.1.
This vehicle with its two cockpits in tandem had been the brainchild of Mansour ojjeh, chief executive of TAG and partner of Ron Dennis at McLaren. The French businessman, born in Saudi Arabia, insisted to the team-manager for a long time about the need to have a show car so that anyone could experience those sensations of acceleration and G-force that until then were exclusive to drivers.
Dennis commissioned the project to Gordon Murray, technical director of the team. The vehicle was built on a 4 MP11 / 1996 chassis for having a higher cockpit, something that made the difficult task of making room for the guest easier.
The MP4 / 98T, where the "T" stands for "Two seater" (two seats), had greater reinforcements for the safety of its crew -especially on the sides - and was equipped with a Mercedes V10 engine from 760 horses.
The first Formula 1 two-seater was in operation between 1998 and 2001 under the Adrenaline Program organized by cigarette brand West, McLaren's main sponsor; although he was also the protagonist of other promotional events.
Your flyer was not assigned to just anyone. The select group of pilots who drove it is made up of the British Martin Brundle, David Coulthard y Darren turner (the latter participated in its development), the Austrian Niki Lauda, the French Olivier panis and the finnish Mika Hakkinen, who once took his wife for a ride in icy Lapland Eija.
In total more than 150 guests They had the possibility to sit in the back seat, specially made for each one. Among the most prominent guests are the King Juan Carlos I from Spain, the American actor Michael Douglas, the ukrainian athlete Sergei bubka and even english Max mosley, then president of the International Automobile Federation.
“The performance of the MP4 / 98T is very close to that of a true F.1. The level of grip is almost the same, although it feels quite heavy with two passengers and, when one exits the low speed corners, the rear end slides and loses grip. "Panis explained at the time.
“We may lose five or six seconds a lap compared to the race car. Obviously, you have to stop much earlier than you do with the starting racing car because the responsibility of bringing someone else is very great. But I'm sure that if the passenger didn't care, it would be possible to go a little faster "added the French.
The McLaren MP4 / 98T-Mercedes not only fulfilled Ojjeh's dream, it was also a good chance to get more exposure for the team, especially during its first year.
This particular car inspired two other F.1 teams to do something similar: in 2001 Arrows put on the track Arrows AX3, which could carry two people; and in 2002 Minardi did the same with him Minardi F1X2, also with tandem cockpits.
Both Arrows and Minardi manufactured several copies of these models since, unlike McLaren, they organized events in which anyone could have the experience paying several thousand euros.
Currently the F.1 has its own two-seater built on a Tyrrell 026 1998, although with the latest safety regulations in force. This project is in charge of the English designer Mike gascoyne.