The development program for the new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 saw McLaren GT enter three cars into the Total 24 Hours of Spa over 30-31 July 2011. Impressive lap times, successful integration of a future McLaren GT customer into the team at Spa, and the safety of McLaren GT driver and Project Manager Andrew Kirkaldy following a high speed incident, mark out a positive result for McLaren GT in its debut 24 hour endurance race.
Car 60, which ran in partnership with future McLaren customer team VonRyan Racing, impressed as it finished its endurance race debut at Spa-Francorchamps. A team of drivers assembled specifically for the race included Phil Quaife, Adam Christodoulou, Glynn Geddie and Roger Wills. At the hands of Christodoulou, the 12C GT3 achieved an outstanding lap time of 2:23.214 on lap 256.
Chris Goodwin, McLaren GT executive and McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver said: “The performance of the 12C GT3 and its drivers in car 60 was equally pleasing. Feedback from the team’s engineers and drivers indicates that the 12C GT3 is meeting its reliability and driveability targets.”
Early in the race Kirkaldy’s number 59 car was hit by a competitor, forcing the carbon chassis-based 12C GT3 off its trajectory and into the wall at turn 1. Kirkaldy was cleared of any serious injury at a nearby hospital following a precautionary scan. The car was subsequently placed in Parc Ferme at the circuit and awaits inspection by the McLaren GT team engineers.
Andrew Kirkaldy said: “I was obviously disappointed that one of our cars was forced out of the race so early. Our performance has been strong in development tests and our debut race at Spa in the British GT Championship showed the car is technically reliable.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to review the incident and the impact was clearly significant. If anything positive can be drawn, it’s that we are delighted to be using the 12C road car’s carbon ‘MonoCell’ chassis in our race car. It proved here that it is an incredibly robust safety cell for the driver. Just a few hours after the incident I was back at the circuit with the team.”
Car number 58, the third car in the McLaren GT line-up to enter the Total 24 Hours of Spa, was retired by the team following a thermal incident. Driver Tim Mullen walked away unharmed, and feedback from Mullen indicates that although a small fire occurred, it was unrelated to any major mechanical component. The cause of the incident will be investigated once the car is released from Parc Ferme at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and returned to the UK.
Chris Goodwin said: “Tim and his car were very quick up to the point his car was retired. One advantage of taking a season to develop a new race car through a combination of private tests and competitive races like Spa 24, is that we are able to review issues like this, and develop the car to prevent the same issues repeating. We remain committed to delivering a reliable race car with great performance to our customers next year.”
McLaren GT will continue to develop the MP4-12C GT3 throughout the 2011 season. McLaren GT plans to enter the Blancpain Endurance Series races at Magny-Cours and Silverstone later this year, prior to delivering 20 new MP4-12C GT3 cars to private teams for racing in 2012.