- Rob Bell and Alexander Sims join Alvaro Parente in McLaren GT customer team driver line-up for 2012
- Three examples of the MP4-12C GT3 race car and one MP4-12C road car to be presented at Autosport International
- 25 MP4-12C GT3’s to race in Europe in 2012
McLaren GT is building on its successful 2011 development program for the new MP4-12C GT3 by adding Britons Rob Bell and Alexander Sims to its driver line-up for 2012. Bell and Sims will join Portuguese racing driver Alvaro Parente at McLaren GT, with each driver available to teams racing the stunning new MP4-12C GT3 in 2012.
Rob Bell said: “I’m very excited to be joining McLaren GT and the opportunity to drive the new 12C GT3 in its first full season of racing. When I was invited to drive the car last year at Spa, I welcomed the chance to sample this new British racer. As I anticipated from a company which is synonymous with cutting edge technology and a dedication to success, the car lived up to its expectations. It delivered the speed and showed the performance potential necessary to win in the highly competitive environment of sportscar racing. I’m looking forward to contributing to further development of the car with a customer team when we take to the track at the start of this season.”
Alexander Sims won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award in 2008, and joins McLaren GT following a successful period in his career racing single seaters. Sims said: “I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming season with McLaren GT and the opportunity to race the MP4-12C GT3. I am delighted McLaren continue to support young drivers in their careers and I’m proud to join the likes of Rob and Alvaro on the driver program for 2012.”
The 12C GT3 is a unique technical concept in sportscar racing. It features McLaren’s one-piece molded carbon MonoCell chassis and technology normally reserved for Formula 1 race cars. The 12C GT3 has been specified and developed by a team comprising senior personnel from McLaren Racing, McLaren Automotive and successful GT car race team CRS Racing.
McLaren Racing Chief Vehicle Engineer Mark Williams has been at the forefront of technical development of the 12C GT3. Williams said: “Since the 12C GT3 development program began in March, we have entered endurance races all over Europe and more recently in Macau. We have undertaken independent 24 hour tests at some of Europe’s most challenging circuits, and experienced some real highs and of course, had to deal with a number of challenges.
“The 12C GT3 qualified in pole position in the British GT Championship race in Spa in July. We returned to Spa for this season’s 24 hour event and had a car complete the race at its first attempt. That is remarkable and was a good indication that core technologies were proving efficient and reliable in racing. More recently, Danny Watts secured third place in the Macau GT Cup. We’re really proud of these achievements.
“In the last month the McLaren GT team of engineers, technicians and test drivers have been concentrating on refining the calibration of vehicle electronics during tests in Portugal, Spain and Germany. We are very close to the finished article now and I am looking forward to seeing our race cars at the front of the grid in 2012.”
Road and race versions of the new 12C to star at Autosport International 2012
McLaren GT plans to present three versions of the stunning new 12C GT3 at this year’s Autosport International event, which is held from 12-15 January at the NEC Birmingham, UK. One example will feature on the main Autosport Central Stage, another will feature in the Live Action Arena and a third will be displayed by MIS.
In addition, McLaren Automotive will be supplying a very special Production Prototype (PP) edition of the MP4-12C sports car to Pistonheads.com, for display throughout the event. Finished in signature color McLaren Orange, PP7 was the first ever 12C to be tested by the world’s media. Following its debut test at the Portimao Circuit in January 2011, PP7 went on to record a remarkable 1:16.2 lap of Dunsfold Park at the hands of BBC Top Gear’s ‘The Stig’, and subsequently achieved an impressive 7:28.0 lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, this time with Sport Auto’s Editor-in-Chief Horst von Saurma-Jeltsch at the wheel. A short film featuring PP7 in action at the Nordschleife may be viewed here: http://youtu.be/u7WGC1iXS_U
Andrew Kirkaldy, Project Manager at McLaren GT said: “I am excited that McLaren GT and McLaren Automotive will be presenting these fantastic new race and road cars at Autosport International. It is a great opportunity for event visitors to see first-hand how we have developed the 12C GT3 from the 12C road car, which is the essence of a race car.
“This is a great time for fans of McLaren in motorsport. I’m delighted McLaren GT has agreed a new contract with Alvaro, and equally pleased that Rob and Alexander have joined our team. These drivers are some of the best in GT racing and we are looking forward to all three of them working with our customer teams in 2012.”
McLaren GT will deliver 25 cars to established GT race teams and private customers for racing in Europe in 2012. The new race car manufacturer will announce its full line-up of customer teams and contracted drivers prior to the first race of the 2012 race calendar.
Double Le Mans Series champion, Rob is a respected British sportscar driver with a wealth of experience. Rob has raced sportscars for seven years, winning the Le Mans Series title in 2008 and 2009, and additionally racing in the FIA GT, ALMS and Grand-Am series.
Rob began his racing career in karting and enjoyed early success at international level. Moving to single seaters in 1998, Rob started in the Formula Vauxhall Junior championship, progressing to British Formula Ford and then on to Formula Renault, taking the Formula Renault Winter Championship title in 2002 and 2003. He became a front runner in the British and European championships, scoring regular pole positions and podium finishes in Renault V6 (now called World Series by Renault).
Turning to sportscars in 2005, Rob quickly established himself as a strong competitor, winning the GT1 LMES 6 hours of Nurburgring in the first race of his debut season. In 2007 and 2008 he claimed the Le Mans Series Champion title and since that time he has competed in every major sportscar series and blue riband event. With five Le Mans 24 Hour race starts, Sebring 12 Hours, Petit Le Mans, Spa 24 Hours and Daytona 24 Hours to his name, Rob is one of the few top sportscar names who can speak from experience about all of these classic races. He has experience of a broad range of marquees, with a breadth of knowledge which can help to assist a team in a car development program, tire testing and other technical evaluations, evidenced by his involvement with Ferrari and Dunlop for the last five years.
In addition to his race programs, Rob has provided driver coaching services to a number of teams for a number of years and has been able to assist with young race driver development in both single seater and sportscar categories, counting three McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award winners – Alex Sims (2008), Dean Smith (2009) and Lewis Williamson (2010) - as his protégés.
As winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of The Year Award in 2008, Alexander is on the fast track to the world of Formula 1. With the interest of Formula 1 teams, along with his superb results, Alexander is currently one of the most promising drivers below Formula 1.
Alexander competed in Karting for 8 years, winning numerous National and British Titles, The Monaco Kart Grand Prix, The Parma Industrials Championship and 3 British Grand Prix. Finishing his karting career with Pole at the World championships in 2006, Alexander then adjusted to cars extremely quickly, finishing 2nd in his first ever race.
In 2008 Alexander finished the season 2nd in the Formula Renault UK Championship with 2 wins and 12 podiums to his name. He then went on to win the highly prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of The Year Award and receive his prize of a test in the McLaren Formula 1 car.
In 2009 Alexander moved into the hugely competitive F3 Euro Series. Competing with Mücke motorsport, Alexander scored his maiden pole in round 3 along with his first Podium. Winning once and scoring 4 further podiums, Alexander finished the season in 4th place in the Championship and 2nd placed rookie. Alexander raced in GP3 Series for Status in 2011, finishing sixth in the Championship.
Álvaro Parente started his motorsport career in Karting in Portugal, showing exceptional early talent. Aged only nine years old, Álvaro won his first national title in the Cadet category, and continued his success by winning two more National Championships, one National Cup and the European Championship in the junior category.
In 2001, Álvaro started his career in Formula racing, participating in nine of the 13 races of the F3 Spanish Championship. He finished the second best rookie and 12th overall, in a championship with more than 30 drivers. In 2002, the young driver repeated the F3 Spanish Championship with the Racing Engineering team, achieving 4th place overall.
In 2003 Álvaro began a new challenge in the F3 Euro Series Championship with Ghinzani team, participating also in the prestigious F3 Marlboro Masters, with the direct support of Phillip Morris. In 2004 aged just 19 years old (the youngest driver in the championship), Álvaro competed in the F3 British Championship with Carlin Motorsport.
In 2005 he competed for the second year in the F3 British Championship with Carlin Motorsport. Álvaro won the Championship, winning 11 of 18 races. Álvaro was crowned F3 British Champion with four races left before the end of season.
These results lead to an invitation for Álvaro to represent Portugal in the World Cup of Motorsport, the A1 GP, during the 2005-2006 season. Álvaro took sixth place in the Championship, which included 25 participating countries.
In 2006, Álvaro took another step towards Formula 1, participating in Formula Renault 3.5, the headline event of the World Series by Renault. The ultimate prize for this Championship was a test with the Renault Formula 1 team.
Alvaro finished the season in fifth place, only nine points behind champion Alex Danielsson, and 33 points ahead of the sixth placed competitor. With three victories and seven podiums, Álvaro Parente was the rookie driver with the most victories and leading laps in the championship, closing his season with a brilliant win in Barcelona.
In 2007 Álvaro Parente showed he was the fastest driver in the World Series 3.5, winning the Monaco and Spa-Francorchamps races, and subsequently winning the World Series by Renault Championship more than 20 points ahead of his nearest competitor.
Alvaro subsequently raced in the GP2 Series for three years with Super Nova, Ocean Racing Technology and Scuderia Coloni, with his highest season finish in eighth position.
In 2011 Alvaro joined McLaren GT for the development program of the new MP4-12C GT3.