McLaren has taken the covers off its 2008 Formula 1 challenger after unveiling the new MP4-23 in Stuttgart.

Having initially planned to not hold a launch of the new car, the team then back-tracked and elected to reveal the new car to the press just a day after biggest rivals Ferrari launched the F2008 in Italy.

After a season overshadowed by the F1 spying scandal, the Woking-based outfit will look to make headlines for the right reason with the new car which will be driven by Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, who moves over from Renault to join the young Briton in a quick but inexperienced line-up - with both drivers going into their second season of Formula competition.

The new car is an evolution of the MP4-22 which means that it appears visually similar to the car it replaces, although there are already plans in place for a number of upgrades to the aerodynamics, bodywork and bargeboards ahead of the opening race of the season in Australia.

"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," McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh said. "In addition we have continued to benefit from tremendous support from all of our Technology Partners."

Whitmarsh added that he was confident that the MP4-23 will be a step forward for the team as it seeks to chase championship success in 2008.

"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," he said. "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.

"From today we have 68 working days until the Australian Grand Prix, and everybody within the team is highly motivated to travel to Melbourne with the most competitive package possible."

The new car will run for the first time on Wednesday with a private test at Jerez, where Kovalainen will be joined at the wheel by test driver Pedro de la Rosa. Hamilton will get his first taste of the car a day later on Thursday.



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