McLaren GT is the name of the new company which brings together the expertise of McLaren Racing, McLaren Automotive and CRS Racing, and the team got down to business today when it unveiled its GT3 car and plans for a 2011 development programme which will see Andrew Kirkaldy, Oliver Turvey and Álvaro Parente race the 12C GT3 in 2011.
The new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 will be the first McLaren car built for FIA GT series racing since the McLaren F1 GTR finished production in 1997. The 12C GT3 is based on the new MP4-12C high-performance sports car and a team of engineers, designers and test drivers with vast experience in Formula 1 and GT racing has been assembled to undertake the process of adapting the carbon chassis-based 12C to racing specification.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Group Chief Executive Officer said: “McLaren has racing in its blood and it was a natural step to take our MP4-12C road car and turn it into the most reliable, efficient and easy to drive GT3 car. Every car on the grid will have its performance balanced by race rules, meaning our objective must be to select a technical specification that ensures any driver is able to access the 12C GT3’s performance limit with ease.
“We have worked with CRS Racing to ensure the 12C’s design and development programme is as close as possible to one McLaren Racing would employ in developing a Formula 1 car. The team at CRS is well qualified to shape decisions in this area as they have an outstanding record in racing GT3 cars, and understand what is required to be successful in that level of competitive motorsport.
“In return, McLaren Racing is able to bring new levels of technology to GT3 racing. No other GT3 car in 2012 will be supplied with a road-car carbon chassis, or a steering wheel and other associated technology from a Formula 1 car.
“The 12C GT3 will be supplied with the 12C’s carbon MonoCell and the same steering wheel design employed by Lewis Hamilton in his MP4-24 Formula 1 car. Plus, we are working closely with Formula 1 suppliers past and present: Akebono, Mobil 1, McLaren Electronic Systems, Ricardo and Michelin for example. This blend of road car and Formula 1 technology and experience will be a great advantage to anyone racing a 12C GT3 in 2012.”
Drivers and race schedule
A seasoned team of drivers will campaign the 12C GT3 in 2011 as they focus on developing the race car for McLaren GT’s customers. CRS Racing Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy will be joined by 2010 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test driver Oliver Turvey and Portuguese racing driver Álvaro Parente.
The new MP4-12C GT3 will debut at this season’s Blancpain Endurance Series race at Spain’s Circuito de Navarra, followed by Magny-Cours in France and Silverstone in England. As part of the development programme for the 12C GT3, McLaren GT also expects to enter the Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance race.
But our first opportunity to see the car here in the UK, will be at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed (1st -3rd July 2011), where it will be driven up the hill past Goodwood House.
Specification and performance
Just as with the 12C road car, McLaren is working closely with specialist suppliers to deliver an innovative and lightweight car. The 3.8-litre McLaren V8 twin turbo ‘M838T’ engine supplied in the road car also features in the 12C GT3, but de-tuned to 493 bhp (from 591 bhp) in order to provide optimum power for this performance-balanced race car.
The new MP4-12C GT3 will feature a unique engine calibration, bespoke racing transmission developed in partnership with Ricardo (who also developed the engine with McLaren) and a suspension arrangement tuned specifically for racing.
Mark Williams said: “With the tyre grip balance moving forward on the GT3 racing tyres it was necessary to move the centre of gravity further forward and the only way to do this was to reduce weight at the rear. A six-speed sequential shift gearbox by Ricardo was selected because a race-specific transmission is 80kg lighter than the Seamless Shift, seven-speed gearbox used in the road car. All the internal components have been proven in other racing series. We then challenged Ricardo to reduce weight further, meaning the unit has a bespoke casing design. That is just one example of how we are continually looking to reduce weight and increase efficiency.”
McLaren GT has selected the TAG-400 Engine Control Unit for the new 12C GT3. The TAG-400 is a compact, self-contained engine management system and data logger for race engines designed and built by McLaren Electronic Systems. The procurement of components from suppliers used to working with partners in Formula 1 is another example of McLaren GT delivering on its objective to build a GT3 car of unrivalled quality and reliability.
Williams said: “McLaren GT is a smaller organisation than McLaren Racing, but we are applying Formula 1 methodology in every possible area.
“We have worked with Akebono in Formula 1 for many years, and I am delighted to be able to call on such a committed and reliable partner for McLaren GT. Akebono will supply brake callipers and has also designed a bespoke brake pad for the 12C GT3. Our own experts from McLaren Racing have worked closely with Michelin to develop the correct tyre model for the 12C GT3 simulation programme. And strong supplier relationships are important to the suppliers themselves. I am sure that Mobil 1 and Ricardo will learn a lot working together on advanced lubricants for the 12C GT3’s new transmission.”
Initial demand for the first 20 McLaren MP4-12C GT3s is high, with interest suggesting that McLaren and CRS Racing could sell the run five times over. However, neither company has any desire to stretch the market and lead to a risk of either oversupply or restrictions on customer service. Retained value in each GT3 car is also of high priority to McLaren and CRS, and the first customers when they take delivery.
Andrew Kirkaldy summed up the customer-oriented attitudes at both companies: “We will treat our customers with respect. Having spent time now at McLaren’s amazing headquarters, and seen at close hand their aspiration to launch a new type of sports car company, it is clear that they are, as ever, keen to do things better. Whether this is through race support, parts supply, or even the simple fact that the car’s list price is its price – there are no hidden extras – we want to make doing business with us a pleasure. If we can celebrate race wins together in spring 2012 then even better!”