British sports car manufacturer McLaren is considering a comeback to the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans race for the first time since 1998. The news comes via McLaren GT boss Andrew Kirkaldy, who says the company could return to the Circuit de la Sarthe as soon as 2016. McLaren’s vehicle of choice for the race will be the 650S , Kirkaldy revealed, meaning the Brits won’t tackle the top LMP1 tier, but the GTE category instead.
"I would be very surprised if you don’t see a 650S running at Le Mans at some point and we hope to be there from 2016," he told Autosport, adding that McLaren is still waiting for The Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the FIA to finalize the GTE class rulebook for 2016. "That’s what we want to do, but we still need a set of regulations to build the car to," he concluded.
McLaren hasn’t revealed any other details, but the Le Mans-ready 650S will be based on the recently unveiled 650S GT3, which will replace the 12C GT3 in the Blancplain Endurance Series starting 2015. We expect the Le Mans-spec sports car to carry the 650S GTE moniker and share many internals, including the 3.8-liter, V-8 engine, with the 650S GT3.
Click past the jump to read more about McLaren’s return to LeMans.
Why It Matters
McLaren’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a 17-year absence is great news for the sport. Sure, it’s somewhat disappointing McLaren won’t be using the upcoming P1 GTR as a base for a LMP1 race car, but the 650S GTE will be equally important for the world’s most important endurance race. The event will further help establish the company’s credentials in the racing scene and enhance the huge potential of the 650S against competition from Ferrari , Chevrolet , Porsche and Aston Martin .
McLaren At LeMans
Although it has been building Formula One and Can Am race cars since the 1960s, McLaren didn’t join the 24 Hours of Le Mans until 1995. However, the debut was crowned with great success, as the race-prepped McLaren F1 GTR won the event and scored third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes. The campaign continued the following year with a fourth position and additional podium classifications in 1997. McLaren’s final race in France occurred in 1998, when the F1 GTR took the checkered flag in fourth, behind Porsche and Nissan. In 1999, the GT1 class was dropped from Le Mans and the McLaren F1s were no longer eligible for the race.
Developed as a successor to the highly acclaimed 12C GT3, the 650S will replace its forerunner in the Blancplain Endurance Series starting next year. Largely similar to its road-legal cousin by design, the 650S GT3 is distinguished by a comprehensive aerodynamic body that includes a carbon-fiber splitter, a fixed rear wing and a redesigned rear diffuser.
Created with driver safety in mind, the race car’s interior hosts a brand-new, FIA-approved roll cage, an all-new race seat with six-point harness, an F1 -inspired steering wheel and a digital dash. Power is provided by the same 3.8-liter, V-8 engine fitted in the road car, but detuned to 493 horsepower as per FIA regulations.