Senna F1 McLaren up for auction

By: Guy Allen, Unique Cars magazine

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Ex-works Ferrari driven by Hawthorn also vies for top dollar

It was only ever meant to be a stop-gap measure, but this 1993 McLaren turned out to be a race winner for Ayrton Senna, in Monaco.

That car is now returning to the scene of the victory, and is up for auction in at the Bonhams Monaco sale on May 11.

Media speculation in the UK says it is likely to fetch in the region of 5 million Euro (Au$8 million). Bonhams offers no public estimate.

That figure may be modest and won't necessarily make it the most expensive car at the auction. Among the many high-profile lots is a Ferrari 625TF which carris an estimate of 4.5-6.5 million Euro (Au$7.2-10 million).

The 1953 machine is an ex-works racer, driven by Mike Hawthorn (later to become the UK's first F1 champion) and Umberto Magnioli.

Here's what Bonhams offers for the MlcLaren's history:

The 1993 season was Senna's last with McLaren. The great team had just ended its long and successful partnership with Honda for engine supply, and would link up with Peugeot in a new Formula 1 racing partnership from 1994. For the interim 1993 season, a last-minute agreement had been struck with Ford to run their Cosworth-built 'HB' V8 engines on loan. Ayrton Senna was initially sceptical that these compact Ford V8 engines would be able to compete with the dominant Renault V10s as deployed by the Williams team, led by the Brazilian's former team-mate and deadly rival Alain Prost.

Senna consented to remain with McLaren on a race-by-race basis, in return for a rumoured $1-million fee for every start. However, the team's latest McLaren-Ford MP4/8A model - like chassis '6' now being offered by Bonhams - demonstrated such technological and mechanical sophistication that by season's end, it was one of the most competitive of all contemporary Grand Prix car designs.

Ayrton drove this actual car - McLaren-Ford MP4/8 chassis number '6' - in no fewer than eight of the 1993 season's Formula 1 World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races. In his debut with the brand new car at Barcelona's Spanish Grand Prix he immediately finished 2nd overall, headed only by Alain Prost's Williams-Renault.

For the following Monaco Grand Prix, he experienced an apparent problem with the car's ultra-modern 'active' suspension system which sparked a violent crash into the barriers at Ste Devote corner.

The incident unfolded so suddenly that even Senna was unable to let go of the steering wheel in time, and the impact painfully injured his thumb. Chassis '6' was then repaired in time for Saturday running, and he qualified third fastest behind Prost's Williams-Renault on pole and Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Ford second. Prost then jumped the start, incurring a 10-second stop-go penalty, to be served in the pit lane. Schumacher then led the race from Senna until lap 33, when the Benetton-Ford retired with hydraulic failure. Senna promptly took control of the great race, 15 seconds ahead of Damon Hill's Williams-Renault. As the great Brazilian took the Monaco chequered flag for his sixth time, he broke Graham Hill's record for the most Monaco GP victories, set back in 1969.

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