While the M19A would help give McLaren its sense of direction back in Formula One after the passing of its namesake, the team still could not reclaim its runner-up position, or better, that it had scored in its debut season in 1968. Still, the team would come away from the 1972 season with an important victory. But McLaren certainly wanted more, and this is where the M19C would come into play.
Over the years between its debut in 1968 and 1971, McLaren had been regularly slipping down the standings in the Constructors' Championship. In fact, 1971 would see the team score just 10 points and end up 6th in the standings. This was a far cry from the 49 points scored in 1968, and it was not at all honoring to the man that had founded the team.
Of course, a lot of the problem was focus. McLaren was stretched thin being involved in Can-Am and Formula One. On top of it all, the team would be dominant in Formula One, and therefore, it made things difficult for the team to give equal amount of justice to its Formula One program. Unfortunately, this reality would show itself.
Ralph Bellamy would do his best to change this by developing a new car. The previous car, the M14, had just been an evolution of the older M7 chassis, and subsequently, would lack the performance and handling necessary to improve the team's results. However, Bellamy would develop a new car utilizing the new 'Coke bottle' shaping. This was to improve airflow around the sides and over the top of the car. Utilizing the new body-styling, a 450 bhp Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine and the new rising rate suspension the car would certainly pick up the pace the team had been lacking. However, despite the new car and everything else that was new, it would still translate into the worse season McLaren had had since its debut.
The M19A, as it would be called, would have a number of admirable qualities to it. Bellamy would use 'Coke bottle' styling and would have the use of the Cosworth DFV to power the chassis. But performance is only one part of a successful car. In fact, handling may actually be of greater importance than out-right speed. And handling was where the M19A was suspect.
Although the new rising rate suspension certainly seemed to be the future of Formula One, it would prove to be too much of the future and the drivers would absolutely hate the handling of the initial version of the M19A with the rising rate suspension.
But while the car's handling was something its drivers didn't like, the sheer performance would be one redeeming quality the car would have. This would be made obvious when Denny Hulme had the lead heading into the final few laps of the 1971 South African Grand Prix. Unfortunately, it would all come to naught, but it was clear, McLaren had hit bottom but where on the rise once again.
Proving the team was truly improving, the M19A would earn a 2nd place at the 1972 Argentine Grand Prix, and then, would follow that result up with a victory in the South African Grand Prix on the 4th of March.
Still, the drivers were not confident behind the wheel of the car and to continue to score the top results the team would need its drivers confident. Therefore, Bellamy would set to work designing and building a successful variant of the M19A.
Overall, Bellamy knew he had a car that worked. There were just some important changes that needed to be made and he would have a winning package. Of course, the costs associated with building a whole new car were rather high and he certainly didn't want to have to do that for a car that he knew would already be replaced the following year. Therefore, if he could make some quick and effective changes without having to build a new car in order to make the drivers happy.
The major problem, other than comfort of the drivers driving the car, was the unreliability the car had shown throughout the 1971 season. Therefore, Bellamy knew he really didn't need to, nor did he want to, change the overall design of the car. He just needed the crews to help improve the car's reliability, and, he knew he needed to change the suspension.
McLaren would work to do both. Bellamy would set about designing the car to take a more conventional double wishbone and coil spring suspension arrangement at the rear to replace the rising rate suspension that had been used. In addition, the team would work hard at increasing the car's reliability.
Still bearing the same low-profile, wide radiator opening in the nose, the small front wings, the 'Coke bottle' styling and the same Cosworth DFV at the back, the M19C was practically the same as the M19A. Sure enough, the only real giveaway that the M19C was actually the 'C' variant was the conventional double wishbone and coil spring arrangement used within the car.
And what a difference it would make. Although the M19A would be the one to score a victory, the 'C' variant of the M19 would go on to be the much more consistent performer. Undoubtedly due to the comfort the drivers had in the car, the M19C would routinely find itself up toward the front of the pack. This would translate into a number of podium finishes and another 3rd place in the Constructors' Championship standings at the end of the '72 season.
The M19C would continue to race into the very early parts of the 1973 season as the team awaited the debut of its M23. Certainly, the M19C was a stop-gap measure for McLaren. However, it was a necessary measure as the team certainly wanted to maintain its momentum and confidence before the M23 hit the track. The M19C would more than succeed in that role. Though it would not earn a victory in the short time it was on the track, it would more than fill the role it needed to play. It would help to set the stage for McLaren to become one of the most successful constructors in all of Formula One history.Sources:
'Constructors/1972/McLaren-Ford Cosworth', (http://www.manipef1.com/constructors/1973/mclarenfordcosworth/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/constructors/1973/mclarenfordcosworth/. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
'McLaren M19C (1972-1973)', (http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/mclaren-m19c/1560281805.htm). Histomobile.com. http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/mclaren-m19c/1560281805.htm. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
'1970-1971 McLaren M14A Cosworth', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/323/McLaren-M14A-Cosworth.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/323/McLaren-M14A-Cosworth.html. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
'1971-1972 McLaren M19A Cosworth', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2860/McLaren-M19A-Cosworth.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2860/McLaren-M19A-Cosworth.html. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
'1972-1973 McLaren M19C Cosworth', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/326/McLaren-M19C-Cosworth.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/326/McLaren-M19C-Cosworth.html. Retrieved 28 June 2012.By Jeremy McMullen