In the wake of the flurry of announcements made at McLaren Automotive last month it’s perhaps the correct time to reflect on what has, at times, been a confusing few months for many of those interested in the McLaren brand’s efforts in GT racing.
The decision by McLaren Automotive to end its relationship with CRS, known to many in the racing world as McLaren GT, saw ripples aplenty.
Instead, as confirmed by McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt, the company will take future projects back in-house, the first fruits due to see the light of day next year as McLaren build the first development cars for their new 720S GT3, due to race for the first time towards the end of the 2018 season, and then to be offered for customer sales from 2019.
Flewitt sees potential for around 40 car sales in the 720S GT3 model cycle, a healthy number!
That total though will be dwarfed by the production numbers for the 570S GT4, some 46 cars already built and the future order book already seeing the total set to hit triple figures.
There are many tales of what has been going on in the background, almost all have a less than healthy dose of inaccuracy about them but the short version is this:
There has never been any argument over CRS’s rights to build the 650S GT3, the company, under their Garage 59 race team, will indeed continue to race several cars (owned by themselves and their customers) next season.
The continuing background discussions relate to the 570S GT4 programme. (CRS incidentally own a number of GT4 race cars too and again will continue to campaign those next season).
So let’s move on.
There is no shortage of interest in the company’s future plans, a new offering in GT3 is not a surprise, the 650S road car has not been in production for some time, and there is feverish speculation as to whether the next offering will be a GTE, a 2020 LMP1, or both?
Mike Flewitt wasn’t being drawn on the extent of any decisions, but his narrative around the discussion did reveal some really interesting potential outcomes if one, other, or both potential programmes are green-lighted.
“This is an important, and pretty major, first step into the future for McLaren’s racing activities but of course we are looking at other programmes.”
On GTE – “GTE is an ambition and we hopefully will make an announcement in the future. We’re not ready to confirm anything at the moment though – one step at a time!”
This comment though was given before the unveiling of the car previously known as ‘P15’ and now as the McLaren Senna, a road legal, highly track focused car limited to a production run of 500, all already sold, including the last available car that went to auction for the Senna Foundation charity – and raised a cool £2 million!
Look at some of the numbers behind the car and the potential for the 4 litre twin turbo powered hypercar to serve as the basis for a GTE seems clear – Time will tell!
On LMP1 – “GT racing is very firmly our focus. Other series are just under consideration.
“LMP1 as it stands today is not something that I think is appropriate for McLaren. With the greatest of respect to the ACO the world needs to work out where LMP1 goes. It’s been amazing racing – I’m not sure what it will evolve into.
“I’m biased – if it were to evolve into something where what they were racing looked like the road cars then that would be a wonderful place and we would be delighted to be involved in it.
“But we are in Formula One, it is the supreme motorsport formula. We are in GT racing because it reflects the cars we build. To go into another formula it has got to be appropriate for the brand, appropriate for what we do as a business so we have to measure our enthusiasm because it has to be relevant to us, and to the business.
And if it did move in a direction that interested McLaren where within the group would any future programme sit?
“If it emerged as a derivative of a road car it would sit here under Dan Walmsley’s group (The ex Strakka Racing man now Head of Motorsport at McLaren Automotive). If it came forward as a unique formula then I think it would be under McLaren Racing (the arm of the business that encompasses the F1 team.
“With the changes that followed Ron’s retirement (Ron Dennis) we are one company now so we would place any new programme wherever it made most sense to do so.
“Fundamentally though I am focused very firmly on racing developments of our cars that resonate with our customer base and provides a marketing advantage either because it reflects our products or simply because our customers love it!”
McLaren and motorsport have always been hard wired together – that seems unlikely to change any time soon!