McLaren unveiled its GT3 car at the same time as revealing plans related to its 2011 team and development program for the Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance race. The GT3 is based on the new MP4-12C high-performance sports car and it is powered by the same 3.8l McLaren V8 twin turbo ‘M838T’ engine that’s only de-tuned to 500 PS (from 600 PS).
The new MP4-12C GT3 will get a one-of-a-kind engine calibration, bespoke racing transmission that was made in partnership with Ricardo (who was a co-developer of the engine) and a suspension arrangement made for racing.
The initial demand for the first 20 McLaren MP4-12C GT3s is quite high. There are about 20 more GT3s that will be produced through 2013 and 2014. The new MP4-12C GT3 is set to arrive at the Blancpain Endurance Series race at Spain’s Circuito de Navarra this season.
This will be followed by Magny-Cours in France and Silverstone in England. The McLaren GT driver line-up for the 2011 development program for the Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance race will have CRS Racing Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy. Joining him are 2010 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test driver Oliver Turvey and Portuguese racing driver Alvaro Parente.
Even before the new McLaren 12C GT3 is fielded against other cars on the track, McLaren Automotive has already decided to develop a high-performance sports car that would establish new standards in terms of speed, handling and efficiency as well as braking and drivability – the McLaren MP4-12C. Considered as the perfect road car with aerodynamic purity and lightweight engineering, the McLaren MP4-12C is a great basis for developing a race-winning GT car.
Key members of McLaren's design and engineering teams expressed support for this project as soon as plans were confirmed. Mark Vinnels, McLaren Automotive Programme Director, remarked that in the early stages of the 12C’s development, the company has been integrating key members of McLaren Racing into the road car development team. As a result, they were able to combine experience and skill as well as a 'can-do' attitude and a desire to achieve what is feasible – all resulting to the creation of a great road car and a distinct racing car.
Vinnels remarked that the McLaren F1 GTR (car number 59) that was victorious in the 1995 Le Mans has been an inspiration. He noted that McLaren’s focus was not on developing a race car that could win Le Mans. On the other hand, Frank Stephenson, McLaren Automotive Design Director, quipped that conceptually, the 12C road car and future McLaren road vehicles are easy to design. He noted that McLaren aims to achieve a form dictated by aerodynamic efficiency, which means styling or bodywork details that would become outdated once fashion change should be ruled out.
Stephenson added that the design team’s passion for designing cars with relevant contents is because of the fact that McLaren is an engineering company. It is also because of this fact that they support the development of the GT3 car, noting that this car needs more air to breathe and has greater downforce. It also needs to quicken its pulses to tackle the challenges presented before it, he added. Wrapped in McLaren Orange skin, the 12C GT3 is underpinned by the same 75kg carbon 'MonoCell' chassis that underpins the 12C road car.
McLaren has been using only carbon chassis for all its road and race cars since its modern form was established in 1981. This means that McLaren has the expertise to make the 12C as light as possible, using Resin Transfer Moulding technology. As applied, this expertise translated into a 12C road car that weighs only 1,301kg, which makes it the lightest offering in the 'core' sector of the high-performance sports car market.
CRS Racing Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy described the MP4-12C as an engineering masterpiece, as underpinned by a carbon chassis. He noted that racing drivers consider a rigid chassis as very important, adding that McLaren MonoCell provides an unequalled level of safety. Kirkaldy quipped that any changes made to the chassis set-up will bring the desired result because of the MonoCell’s structural rigidity and predictability.
He quipped that after driving the 12C road car on a track, he was overwhelmed by the vehicle’s dynamic performance. He said that this is why the new 12C is the right car to be engineered to race specification. With the new McLaren MP4-12C designed around the driver, it should further confirm McLaren's commitment to offering a new driving experience both on the road and on the track. With Kirkaldy on board – bringing a decade of GT-level racing experience to McLaren GT as the team's project manager – the cockpit and other elements of the 12C GT3 could be well-defined to eliminate the restrictions typically associated with GT3 race cars.
Kirkaldy remarked that with its partnership with McLaren, the expectations for CRS Racing are high. He noted that both CRS Racing and McLaren have the passion for design, engineering innovation and racing success – elements that will help ensure the new 12C GT3 is the most competitive racing car from 2012.
Kirkaldy recalled that during the first meeting between Martin Whitmarsh and CRS Racing, he was glad to learn that the main goal for McLaren GT was to focus on the needs of customers and drivers. He said that the current development program for the 12C GT3 is designed to be rigorous to ensure reliability.
He added that the development program is also designed to ensure that the technical specs of the 12C GT3 will top its rivals -- thanks to their connections with Formula 1 technology suppliers. He also said that the build quality of the race car will reflect the high standards of the 12C road car.
Moreover, the program should ensure that drivers of varying experience levels would be able to access the full potential of the vehicle. Kirkaldy remarked that even before the McLaren GT project, CRS Racing was a race car customer. He added that it was soon acknowledged that GT cars are unreliable since they feature technology that has yet to be proven for racing. Kirkaldy, however, noted that expectations are higher at McLaren GT.