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29 July 2011

McLaren's MP4-12C GT3 to race round-the-clock at Spa

Words by Christopher Kho | Photos courtesy of McLaren Automotive
Four months after its public debut, McLaren's latest road-based race car has already had a taste of competition. The pair of Chris Goodwin and Andrew Kirkadly successfully qualified on pole and finished as high as fourth at the 2011 British GT Championship in early July. But with only one race weekend's experience under its belt, McLaren is cocky enough to pit the MP4-12C GT3 at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
This weekend, three of McLaren's 12C GT3's will line up on the grid and attempt to race round-the-clock at the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Cars number 58 and 59 will we managed by McLaren's own works team, while the 60 car will be run by McLaren GT customer team VonRyan Racing. Although the trio should be jockeying for position up against more seasoned race cars, one must consider that this race is still part of the MP4-12C GT3's on-going development program. That means it's still a toss up if all three cars will last the full race distance or not. Still, whatever feedback McLaren engineers gather from this 24-hour race will be valuable to further develop the 12C GT3 in preparation of the 2012 season. 
Since the F1 GTR's maiden victory at Le Mans in 1995, it's been a long 16-year wait since a McLaren-based road car last made its 24 hour race debut. Hopefully, the MP4-12C GT3 will share its older brother's success in the winner's circle, besting the squad of Aston Martin's, Chevrolet's, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, and Porsche's. 
Based on the 12C's carbon MonoCell chassis, the GT3 sports race-ready composite body panels and is 100mm wider than its road-going counterpart. It's also been fixed up with a new aerodynamics package that includes a new front splitter, door blade, rear wing, diffuser, and louvers in the front fenders. The 3.8 liter twin-turbo V8, however, has been slightly detuned to 493 hp to comply with homologation, while the standard 7-speed SSG transmission is replaced by a 6-speed racing gearbox. GT3 regulations too prohibit the use of the 12C's ProActive Chassis Control System, so a race-spec roll bar and dampers take its place. A note-worthy feature though on the 12C GT3 is its paddle-shift steering wheel that's lifted straight from the McLaren MP-24 Formula 1 car.