McLaren MP4-12C GT3 makes its debut successfully at the Total 24 Hours of Spa

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 1, 2011

Under the new McLaren MP4-12C GT3’s development program, three vehicles were entered into the Total 24 Hours of Spa on July 30 to 31, 2011. McLaren GT did well in its debut 24-hour endurance race and boasts the successful integration of a future McLaren GT customer into the team at Spa, the impressive lap times, as well as the safety of McLaren GT Project Manager and driver Andrew Kirkaldy after a high-speed incident.

Car 60 impressed as it finished its debut endurance race at Spa-Francorchamps. It ran in partnership with future McLaren customer team VonRyan Racing. Roger Wills, Glynn Geddie, Adam Christodoulou and Phil Quaife were part of a team of drivers assembled specifically for the race.

On lap 256, the 12C GT3 with Christodoulou obtained an outstanding lap time of 2:23.214. McLaren GT executive and automotive chief test driver Chris Goodwin shared that the performance of the 12C GT3 and its drivers in car 60 was “equally pleasing.” He further stated that the feedback from the team’s drivers and engineers reveals that the 12C GT3 is meeting its driveability and reliability targets.

During the early part of the event, number 59 car with Kirkaldy was hit by a competitor, forcing the vehicle to go off its trajectory and hit a wall on turn 1. Kirkaldy, after a precautionary scan at a nearby hospital, was cleared of any serious injury. The vehicle was subsequently placed in Parc Ferme at the circuit and now awaits McLaren GT team engineers’ inspection.

McLaren GT has successfully unveiled the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 race car and disclosed its plans for a 2011 development program. Combining the expertise of McLaren Racing, McLaren Automotive and CRS Racing, McLaren GT derived the MP4-12C GT3 from the new MP4-12C sports car. Adapted to racing specifications, the new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 will be its first race car built for the FIA GT series since 1997, when the McLaren F1 GTR ended production.

Martin Whitmarsh, chief executive of McLaren Group, quipped that with “racing in its blood,” it was only natural for McLaren to transform its MP4-12C road car into the most reliable and most efficient GT3 car. He noted that since competing GT3 cars should have their performance balanced in accordance to race, McLaren has to choose a technical specification that allows any driver to easily access the 12C GT3's performance limit.

Whitmarsh added that they collaborated with CRS Racing just to make sure that the design and development program for the 12C is similar to one that McLaren Racing would employ when developing an F1 car. He noted that CRS – with its excellent record in racing GT3 cars and its clear understanding of what is needed to achieve success in this motorsport -- is well qualified to decide in this matter.

McLaren GT is essentially a team of engineers, designers and test drivers having an extensive experience in the development successful race and road cars. One of these people is McLaren GT Chief Engineer Marcus Waite, who commenced his career at the McLaren Formula 1 Simulation Group. He was Senior Test Team Engineer at the Formula 1 team for years before he was named Test Team Leader responsible for the new MP4-12C sports car at McLaren Automotive.

Waite quipped that McLaren GT has already defined the technical requirements for the 12C GT3 in the McLaren simulator, and all that is left is to fine-tune the set-up of the new race car by taking careful considerations of the feedback from the team’s three new drivers. He noted that one indispensable part of the program for the 12C GT3 is having it tested on different race circuits in Europe where the team plans to compete.

Two of these circuits are the Circuito de Navarra in Spain and the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal. Waite said that the Circuito de Navarra was great for testing the new engine calibration, thanks to its mixture of slow and fast corners that required combinations of low speeds and accelerations from low speeds. He added that a shakedown in the Circuito de Navarra means McLaren is now confident of powertrain durability of the 12C GT3.

On the other hand, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve was ideal for testing the robustness of the new tank, as the circuit features long, sweeping and fast bends. Waite remarked that these two shakedowns were examples of the way McLaren will test every component of the 12C GT3 taking them for delivery to race teams in 2012. He noted that he will not be satisfied until the 12C GT3 undergoes the test programs that would surpass the requirements of three-hour and 24-hour endurance racing.

Waite added that McLaren GT has a commitment to deal with issues that GT3 race teams would meet in their first season with the car, adding that its first customers should be able to get a very reliable race car next season.

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