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Having completed just a handful of laps in the new 1988 MP4/4, Alain Prost reportedly told Team Principle Ron Dennis that he knew the car would win the World Championship. And so he was proved, as the McLaren MP4/4, driven by Frenchman Prost and his newly signed Brazilian teammate Ayrton Senna, went down in the annals of Formula One history as the most dominant Formula 1 car of all time, with a win rate of 93.8%.
The MP4/4 won 15 out of 16 races, losing only Monza which many felt was a self-inflicted defeat, after Senna tripped over backmarker Jean-Louis Schlesser’s Williams-Judd in the first chicane. Senna won eight of those races to take his first World Championship, despite having been disqualified in the opener in Brazil. At the same time, winning a scarcely less remarkable seven rounds, Prost found himself just three points adrift of the top slot leaving McLaren’s nearest rival, third placed Gerhard Berger, literally miles behind. By the end of the season McLaren had scored a phenomenal 199 points in the Constructors’ Cup, almost three times the tally of runner-up Ferrari and a record that would stand until 2002. The duo’s qualifying record was equally as strong: Senna started on pole no fewer than 13 times with Prost qualifying first on two of the three other occasions.
The high level of optimism at McLaren, following the arrival of its new 1.5 litre Honda RA168E V6 turbo engine and of Ayrton Senna as Prost's partner, was not diluted by rule changes for the 1988 season. These brought in a further reduction in fuel capacity to 150 litres and a mandatory 2.8-bar turbo boost limit, the benefit of both in theory going to McLaren’s normally aspirated rivals, in a move clearly made ahead of the imminent ban on turbo technology which would come into effect for 1989. So swingeing was the fuel capacity rule that many expected 1988 to be a transitional year for the turbo teams rather than a winning one. But for McLaren, at least, it was to be nothing of the sort. With light overall weight, outstanding downforce, highly efficient brakes and suspension, a fabulous V6 and two of the best drivers of all-time behind the steering wheels, there is little doubt that the MP4/4 was McLaren's, and arguably the best-ever car Formula 1.
This fine model of the McLaren MP4/4 is a 1:18 scale replica of the car that Ayrton Senna drove to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1988, clinching his first Drivers’ Championship title. Senna qualified on pole 0.3 seconds ahead of his title rival and teammate Prost and a whole 1.5 seconds ahead of the nearest Ferrari in third. Prost made a superb start to and took the lead whilst Senna stalled, who was lucky in the fact that Suzuka had the only sloping grid of the year, allowing him to bump start his car. Knowing he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in this race, and with the Championship in his sights, Senna started his fightback from 14th place. His charge saw him gain six positions by the end of the first lap and, by the fourth lap, he was already sitting in fourth position. Lap 14 saw the weather come into contention as rain began to fall, benefitting the Brazilian wet-weather specialist. By lap 24, Senna was hot on the tail of Prost, who was suffering with a malfunctioning gearbox. When the pair came around to lap some backmarkers, as Prost was caught up with Andrea de Cesaris, Senna went past to take the lead and proceeded to set three consecutive fastest laps, setting a new lap record in the process. Despite Senna’s remonstrations to stop the race in the increasingly horrible conditions, the race ran its full distance and Senna finished a whole 13 seconds ahead of Prost. Senna’s win was the first of his three world titles and set a record for total wins in a season, previously held by Jim Clark and Prost.
This model of the has been handcrafted and finished in our workshops with the co-operation and assistance of McLaren Racing regarding original finishes, materials, archive imagery and drawings. The use of supremely accurate digital scanning of the original car has allowed us to perfectly recreate every detail at scale. Furthermore, it has undergone detailed scrutiny by both engineering and design teams to ensure complete accuracy of representation.
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