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McLaren launch the MP4-23 in Stuttgart 07 Jan 2008

McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Sutton. McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton McLaren Mercedes MP4-23. McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Studio Shoot, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. © McLaren

McLaren revealed their 2008 challenger on Monday, as the wraps came off the MP4-23 in a special ceremony at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The car will be raced by Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen this season, and both were present to witness the car’s unveiling.

The car was only completed on Sunday evening and left the McLaren Technology Centre in the UK at around 18:00 GMT, arriving at its destination at around 10:00 on Monday morning - just in time for Hamilton’s 23rd birthday.

"The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 is the coolest birthday present you can get, well it is for me anyway!” said Hamilton. “To see the car for the first time at such a great place as the Mercedes-Benz museum makes it an even more memorable day.

“I have had the past three weeks off and spent the time training and relaxing with family and friends. I know how much work has been going on in Woking, Brixworth and here in Stuttgart and it is a great looking car.”

Following Monday’s event the MP4-23 will be transported to the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain, where on Wednesday Kovalainen and test driver Pedro de la Rosa will begin the car’s on-track development at a private test. Hamilton will get his first taste of the new car on Thursday.

"Development of the MP4-23 began in earnest 10 months ago and everyone in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart have worked very hard during the last few weeks, and particularly over the Christmas period, to make today’s presentation here in Stuttgart happen,” explained McLaren’s Formula One CEO Martin Whitmarsh.

“We are confident, based upon the simulation and analysis which has been an integral part of the development process, that the MP4-23 represents a step forward. Of course we will continue to develop the car from now until the first race in Australia and see whether we have done enough to be at the level where we want to compete this coming season.”

McLaren missed out on both championships in 2007 after they were stripped of their constructors’ points following the Ferrari ‘spy scandal’ affair. However, team boss Ron Dennis insisted they would be fighting for both titles again in 2008.

"We are looking forward to another competitive season as we look to build on the momentum of last year,” said Dennis. “Every single member of the team has worked extremely hard since the end of the 2007 season to get the MP4-23 on track as soon as possible, to ensure we have the maximum amount of testing time available before the cars leave for Australia.”

The 2008 season gets underway in Melbourne on March 16.