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McLaren plots GT3 racer for the road

Captive audience: McLaren presents the MP4-12C GT3 to media and race customers in Woking.

New MP4-12C GT3 race car to morph into stripped-out McLaren street car

5 May 2011

A FEROCIOUS street-legal version of McLaren’s ultra-light GT3 race car will be the next derivative of the MP4-12C supercar, which made its Australian public debut in Sydney today.

First customer deliveries of the new MP4-12C begin in the UK this month but will not take place here until December due to interrupted parts supplies from Japan.

Official Australian pricing for the MP4-12C, which is expected to undercut Ferrari’s 458 Italia at around $500,000, won’t be revealed until next month.

Coincidentally, however, on the same day the MP4-12C road car made its first public appearance in Australia, McLaren Automotive held a press conference in Britain to announce a price of £310,000 ($A477,900) plus taxes for the hard-core GT3 version.

Formally revealed earlier this week, the race-ready MP4-12C will be available only to privateer teams to race in 2012 following a strictly limited homologation production run of just 20 examples this year.

However, McLaren’s regional director for the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, Ian Gorsuch, told GoAuto the British supercar maker is already planning a road version of the fearsome new GT3 racer in response to demand for a stripped-out track car.

“If you look at what other people are doing – well, we’ve got the GT3 we’ve just announced… You have a lightweight road car, then a GT3.

“We’re only building 15 (GT3s) to start with and that’s purely for teams - not for individuals – although we have some individuals who want one for their collection.

“When (supply) does open up, there could be a lightweight road version. One is purely for racing teams the other is a track car.”

Billed as the first non-Formula One race car built by McLaren since the McLaren F1 GTR, the GT3 employs the same 75kg one-piece carbon-fibre MonoCell chassis as the MP4-12C road car, as well a “race specification” version of its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 with unique engine management system.

Other vital statistics revealed by senior McLaren GT executives to media and prospective “clients” at the McLaren Technology Centre and production facility in Woking today include a Ricardo-designed six-speed sequential gearbox that is 80kg lighter than the seven-speed transmission of the road car and is controlled by bespoke steering wheel paddle shifters.

McLaren’s first GT3 racer also features specific electronics including a new Bosch Motorsport ABS braking system and a McLaren Racing-developed aero package comprising a new front splitter, front bumper louvers, door blades and a large fixed rear wing.

42 center imageLeft: Mclaren MP4-12C GT3 interior. Below: McLaren MP4-12C.

The race car, which will appear at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July, also features a suspension set-up that eschews the road car’s ProActive Chassis Control System in favour of race-tuned anti-roll bars and dampers due to GT racing regulations.

Preliminary shakedown tests at the MIRA and Silverstone circuits were overseen by CRS Racing Team principal and McLaren GT project manager Andrew Kirkaldy and chief tester Chris Goodwin following extensive development of the car in the McLaren simulator.

McLaren also confirmed it has signed Portuguese driver Álvaro Parente to join its test team. The MP4-12C GT3 will compete in a limited number of European GT races in 2011 before the final production version becomes available to race teams in 2012.

“Having been a customer of GT car manufacturers for many years, I’m delighted we are now able to offer a carbon chassis based GT3 car for £310,000,” said Mr Kirkaldy. “There will be no hidden costs and we will work as hard as we can to support as many races as we can.

“We will spend the 2011 season developing the car with a team from McLaren Racing, McLaren Applied Technologies and McLaren Automotive and make sure this is the most efficient, reliable and easy to drive GT3 car on the grid when we deliver cars to customers next year.”

McLaren Group CEO Martin Whitmarsh said the British company was confident the MP4-12C race car would form the basis of a GT assault that is as successful as its track record both within and beyond Formula One.

“The new MP4-12C sports car is the essence of a race car and we used Formula One simulation technology to get us ahead in our development program,” he said.

“We have a unique mix of experience in the McLaren GT team and I expect the 12C GT3 to be the start of our GT racing plans. We have had great success outside of Formula One - from the US, to France, to Japan - and there is no reason why we can’t repeat that success in sports cars after 2012.”

The MP4-12C is the first of three new two-seater, mid-engined carbon-fibre chassis high-performance cars McLaren models to be rolled out in the next two years, with details of the next two – a smaller, higher-volume model and a premium car – to be announced in three or four months’ time.

McLaren plans to build just over 4000 cars per annum by 2015, when it will have three models on sale, with the entry-level volume model accounting for around 2000, the MP4-12C about 1000 and the premium model the balance.

However, Mr Gorsuch said Australia’s version of the standard MP4-12C supercar has been delayed from an expected October arrival to November or December by Japan’s crippling earthquake and tsunami in March.

“It has had an impact in tier-two or tier-three suppliers, but I’m not exactly sure what that is. I know we can source from other suppliers, but that takes a little more time. The delay is not a month or six weeks, or anything like that,” he said in Sydney today.

Mr Gorsuch said McLaren was looking at a free servicing program like the one Ferrari recently announced in Europe for the first seven years of ownership, but indicated it would not follow its Italian competitor just for the sake of it.

“It’s up to Ferrari what they do,” he said. “If it’s right for us to do later on, we might, but for now we're just studying it.”

Nor was McLaren in a hurry – at least for now - to follow Ferrari, Porsche or Tesla in electrifying its model range, said Mr Gorsuch.

“We have to look at the use of hybrids, electric engines because we’re a technology-led company, but whether we use it or not, I don’t know – there’s a lot happening in that area,” he said.

Australian McLaren distributor, Sydney-based dealer group Trivett Classic, staged a customer launch function tonight in Sydney attended by about 170 invited guests and said it has more than 20 confirmed orders for the MP4-12C – all of them male – with up to 60 keen prospects in tow.

Although that is less than the 30-plus firm buyers Mr Gorsuch told GoAuto the MP4-12C had attracted in February, it still makes McLaren’s first in-house supercar since the F1 of the 1990s a sell-out success in Australia this year.

A new Sydney showroom due to open in November and a Melbourne outlet planned for early 2012 will be two of just 35 McLaren dealerships in 19 countries.

Between 12 and 15 MP4s are due here in 2011, increasing to up to 40 in 2012, and Trivett hopes to sell up to 70 McLarens a year once the full model supercar range comes on stream.

That would see Australia become home to more McLarens than the total number of F1s ever built. Just 106 examples of the McLaren F1, which was the world's fastest production car in its day, were produced.

McLaren would still be eclipsed by its Italian rival in terms of sales, however. Ferrari sold 126 cars here last year, 47 so far this year and an astonishing 14 last month, making the Prancing Horse brand less exclusive than ever before in Australia.

Built alongside McLaren's F1 racing facility in Woking, where the BMW-powered F1 and Mercedes-engined SLR road cars were produced – the 441kW/600Nm MP4-12C sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 3.3 seconds on road tyres, or just 3.1 seconds with optional ‘Corsa’ tyres.

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