Motor Racing: McLaren within reach of Ferrari's record: Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix gives one team the chance to match a famous mark

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The Independent Online
FOR A team written off by many distinguished pundits before the start of the season, McLaren-Ford are managing to make a decent fist of it. Their senior driver, Ayrton Senna, leads the world championship and another victory in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, here at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, will put them level with Ferrari at the head of the all-time constructors' standings.

Senna delivered the Woking-based team their 102nd race success in Monaco and such is the Brazilian's form and the apparent vulnerability of Alain Prost, at Williams-Renault, that No 103 is surely within reach. It will represent perhaps the greatest achievement of an organisation which brought a new dimension to record-breaking.

Ferrari, still the most famous and revered of all marques, have been competing in the world championship since its inaugural season, 1950, and winning races since 1951. They have contested 511 grands prix. McLaren made the first of their 384 appearances in 1966 and had their maiden win two years later. Lotus are third overall, with 79 wins, and Williams fourth, on 64.

During the build-up to this year's championship, McLaren seemed to be in disarray. Having lost their engine partners Honda, they became Ford's customers and lurched from one setback to another in the development of their highly sophisticated new car. And yet, after six rounds of the championship they have an equal share of victories with Williams.

Senna's participation, of course, has been hugely influential and McLaren have tended to sign exceptional drivers. Niki Lauda was lured out of retirement in 1982 to head the team's rise to prominence. Prost took over the mantle, reluctantly handing it on to Senna.

McLaren have had the resources to employ these drivers. Engine deals, too, have been critical. Ford were replaced by TAG Porsche, who were replaced in that historic 1988 season by Honda, who have now been replaced by ever trusty Ford. It is doubtful, however, whether these advantages would have been sufficient to harvest such consistent success without the discipline, team-work and leadership that have become McLaren's hallmarks. The source of these qualities is Ron Dennis, the team's managing director.

Much as Senna would have you believe he makes all his own decisions out on the circuit, rest assured he is in constant radio conversation and collaboration with Dennis. Two brains of this calibre are better than one, as even Senna must concede.

The International Motor Sports Federation, Fisa, was abolished yesterday as part of major reforms aimed at streamlining the administration of world motor sport. An extraordinary meeting of the International Automobile Federation, FIA, the umbrella body governing world-wide motoring organisation, agreed to divide into two arms - motor sports, controlled by a World Motor Sports Council, and tourism, ruled by a World Tourism Council.

Under the reforms, France's Jean-Marie Balestre stands down as FIA president to be succeeded by the president of the now defunct Fisa, the Briton Max Mosley. He takes office on 1 October.