This weekend, McLaren GT is going back to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit for Total 24 Hours of Spa, after having had a triumphant race debut in the British GT Championship earlier this month. At the second race in the development program of the MP4-12C GT3, 10 skilled racing drivers will be helming three cars in the 12C GT3’s first ever 24 hour race.
CRS Racing Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy and McLaren Automotive Chief Test driver Chris Goodwin are both included in the McLaren GT driver lineup for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
They are executives of the new McLaren GT company, which is headed by McLaren Group CEO Martin Whitmarsh and also includes McLaren Racing Head of Vehicle Engineering Mark Williams. For the 2011 race season, McLaren GT aims to develop the 12C GT3, with 20 cars expected to be delivered to privateer teams for GT3 series racing in 2012.
According to Chris Goodwin, he is “very happy” with the performance of the 12C GT3 in its debut race at Spa. At the first try, Goodwin got an excellent pole position and the 12C GT3 was reliable, quick, and could be easily driven.
He said that he is “delighted” with the quality of drivers that will take the 12C GT3 to its first 24 hour race. He expects that this level of endurance racing is a “crucial test” for the car. He also said that they expect to receive some “intelligent, objective feedback” on the 12C GT3 driving experience to aid in the car’s development.
McLaren GT has taken the wraps off the new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 race car and disclosed its plans for a 2011 development program. The new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 marks the first McLaren car developed and produced for FIA GT series racing since 1997, when production of the McLaren F1 GTR ended. McLaren GT – established to integrate the experience and expertise of McLaren Racing, McLaren Automotive and CRS Racing – derived the 12C GT3 from the new MP4-12C sports car.
McLaren GT took great pains and assembled a very experienced and knowledgeable team of designers, engineers, and test drivers just to beautifully adapt the carbon chassis-based 12C for GT racing. For instance, Marcus Waite, McLaren GT Chief Engineer, commenced his career with the McLaren Formula 1 Simulation Group and then became part of the Formula 1 team wherein he served as Senior Test Team Engineer for several years. Then, Waite was named as Test Team Leader for the new MP4-12C sports car. Waite remarked that the team defined the technical specifications of the 12C GT3 in the McLaren simulator and will further fine-tune its setup and capabilities using the feedback of its three new drivers.
Waite explained that it would be best to have the 12C GT3 be driven on European circuits where McLaren GT plans to race, noting that a varied circuit program is vital. One of these circuits is Circuito de Navarra in Spain, which features a combination of slow and fast corners and long straights. This location proved ideal for testing the new engine calibration as the 12C GT3 underwent relentless accelerations from low speeds. A shakedown at the circuit means the team is now confident of the race car’s powertrain durability.
The program then shifted to Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal. Its long, sweeping and fast bends proved to be a good test for the 12C GT3’s new oil tank. This shakedown proved the robustness of the new tank in such an environment. Waite remarked that the shakedowns were just two of many tests that will help McLaren GT assess the race-worthiness of 12C GT3, delivering them to race teams in 2012. He added that he will personally not be satisfied until the team undertaking test programs that will top the requirements of 3hr and 24hr endurance racing.
Waite said the team is committed to deal with issues that might emerge in the first season of team using a new GT3 car, adding that the carmaker will ensure to deliver a very reliable race car next season. According to Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Group Chief Executive Officer, it was only natural for McLaren – with its rich racing heritage – to transform the MP4-12C road car into a reliable, efficient and easy-to-drive GT3 car.
He quipped that since all competing race cars have their performance balanced by race regulations, McLaren’s objective was to choose a technical spec that will ensure any driver would be able to easily access the performance potential of the 12C GT3. McLaren GT is aiming to deliver around 20 examples of the 12C GT3 to privateer teams for racing in Europe in 2012.
However, for the 2011 racing season, McLaren GT has set its schedule to race the new 12C GT3, to be piloted by experienced and successful racing drivers including CRS Racing Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy, 2010 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test driver Oliver Turvey and Portuguese racing driver Álvaro Parente.
The new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 is set to debut at the Blancpain Endurance Series race at Spain's Circuito de Navarra. It will then compete at Magny-Cours in France and Silverstone in England. The development program for the 12C GT3 also includes the race car’s participation in the Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance race. Likewise, the new 12C GT3 is expected to take part in the famous Hill at Goodwood Festival of Speed slated on July 1-3, 2011.