Will replace the 650S GT3 starting 2019

Launched in 2014, the McLaren Super Series included a batch of spectacular sports cars. Alongside the base 650S model, the British firm also launched the higher performance 675LT and the race-spec 650S GT3. Light, fast, and packed with the latest technology, the Super Series became McLaren’s most successful car. However, the British carmaker decided to replace it after only three years on the market. Its successor is called the 720S and boasts improvements in just about any department. It’s been six months since the 720S was unveiled at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show and McLaren announced that a race-spec GT3 version is also underway.

The new 720S GT3 will replace the 650S GT3, a vehicle that scored titles in all major motorsport series, including the Asian Le Mans Series, Australian GT championship, the Bathurst 12 Hour, Blancpain Endurance Cup and Pirelli World Challenge. But it won’t happen right away. Much like the 570S GT4, the 720S GT3 will have a trial season in 2018 and will completely replace the 650S in 2019, when it will be launched for customer teams.

In addition to the new race car, McLaren also announced plans to introduce a new racing program and a one-make GT series for customers. It’s also planning to appoint a network of motorsport retailers which will sell road and track products alongside each other. But more about all of this below.

Exterior

  • Built around MonoCage II carbon structure
  • Carbon-fiber body
  • Redesigned bumper with big splitter
  • Vented front hood and fenders
  • Carbon side skirts
  • Large rear wing
  • Race-spec diffuser
2019 McLaren 720S GT3
- image 747148
The GT3-spec vehicle is built around the same MonoCage II carbon-fiber structure of the road car

While the 650S GT3 was launched with an actual car, the 720S GT3 is not yet ready to show itself to the world. Apparently McLaren was in a bit of a rush to unveil the car and rolled out some of the details with only two design sketches. Granted, they’re well made and seem to portray a production-ready car, but the final design could see a few changes.

The GT3-spec vehicle is built around the same MonoCage II carbon-fiber structure of the road car, while the outer shell is also made from lightweight composite and carbon-fiber. However, the exterior is significantly different due to the bespoke aerodynamic package that McLaren created specifically for this model.

The entire bumper is made from exposed carbon-fiber, as is the big splitter

The race car looks very familiar up front, but there are plenty of changes to talk about. For starters, the entire bumper section underneath the nose was redesigned. The intakes are taller, wider, and sport a different shape. The entire section made from exposed carbon-fiber, as is the big splitter that nearly touche the ground. The bumper’s aerodynamics are further enhanced by a pair of upswept canards on each side. Due to their placement, the latter forced McLaren to remove the small vents on the fenders.

The front hood now has a new center section with big intakes that improve drivetrain cooling. Much like all modern race cars in the GT3 category, the fenders also have vents just above the front wheels. It doesn’t get more aggressive than this!

2019 McLaren 720S GT3
- image 747149
The rear end is quite radical to look at, and it's not just the massive wing

Changes are less significant onto the sides, but the GT3 sports more massive side skirts, aerodynamically optimized mirrors, and redesigned panels where the front fenders meet the doors. While the road car has a small, angled vent just behind the fender, the race car has a taller opening that’s almost vertical. We can also see a bigger vent in the side skirt, added to feed more air into the engine and the rear braking system.

The rear end is quite radical to look at, and it’s not just the massive wing that changes the car’s appearance. The 720S already sports an aggressive diffuser in standard spec, but McLaren redesigned the unit for track duty. The new diffuser includes no fewer than nine vertical slats and looks as if it’s ready to rake the tarmac of the track. The bumper was heavily modified too, with the rear wheels now being completely exposed toward the back. Mmm, sexy! The exhaust pipes were moved a bit higher in the fascia and brought close together. On the standard model, they’re far apart, with pipes mounted to the inner side of the taillights. The decklid includes additional vents, while the carbon-fiber center section that holds the red light and tow hood appears to float into the fascia.

All told, the 720S GT3 is by far the most menacing race car McLaren has built to date.

Interior

  • Driver-focused cabin
  • Racing, FIA-approved seat
  • Full roll cage
  • Multi-function steering wheel
  • Lightweight configuration
2018 McLaren 720S High Resolution Interior AutoShow
- image 709271

Note: Interior of the standard McLaren 720S pictured here.

The cabin should include an all-new race seat equipped with a six-point race harness

McLaren had nothing to say about the car’s interior, but much like the 650S GT3, driver safety should be one of the key areas McLaren focused while developing 720S GT3. Protection offered by the already solid carbon-fiber MonoCell chassis will be enhanced with the addition an FIA-approved roll cage, probably lighter than the one in the 650S GT3, but drivers should also benefit from increased leg and headroom, which is more than welcomed during those long, 24-hour endurance events.

The race car should also come with an all-new race seat equipped with a six-point race harness. Naturally, the seat will be built to FIA standards and mounted to the chassis. The dash will be stripped off any unnecessary equipment, while the standard instrument cluster will make way for a custom display that will show vital parameters, including speed and fuel consumption. A new, Formula One-inspired steering wheel and a center stack packed with buttons, knobs, and switches should round off the cabin.

Drivetrain

  • Race-spec 4.0-liter V-8 engine
  • Around 500 horsepower
  • Six-speed sequential transmission
  • Adjustable dampers
  • Coil-over springs
  • New ECU
2018 McLaren 720S High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 708587

Note: Standard McLaren 720S drivetrain pictured here.

The 720S GT3 will draw juice from the same engine as the road-going model

Just like its predecessor, the 720S GT3 will draw juice from the same engine as the road-going model. And by "same" I mean that it will have the same displacement and numbers of cylinder, because everything else will be revised for track duty. The engine in question is a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 that debuted in the 720S. Although larger than the familiar 3.8-liter unit, the 4.0-liter powerplant is a development of the former.

No word on output, but it’s safe to assume that the GT3 car won’t be as powerful as the road going model. For instance, the 650S GT3 had 493 horsepower, a 148-horsepower decrease compared to the road car. The 720S GT3 should have a similar output, but it all depends on the curb weight. Should the new GT3 be lighter, expect output to be lower as well. One thing’s certain, don’t expect it to be as powerful as the road car, which cranks out a whopping 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque.

The V-8 will mate to a six-speed sequential transmission and will use new ECU for turbo boost and shift control. Chassis upgrades will include adjustable dampers and coil-over springs front and rear. Unfortunately, that’s all McLaren was willing to share as of this writing, but it’s worth noting that the overall, the GT3 car isn’t radically different from the road car in terms of drivetrain and chassis components.

Prices

McLaren race cars don’t come cheap and they usually fetch more than their road-legal counterparts. The 650S GT3 was priced at £330,000 back in 2015 and it’s safe to assume that the 720S GT3 will retail for more than that. My best guess is that it will fetch in excess of £360,000, which converts to around $480,000 as of November 2017. Production is likely to be limited to no more than 20 or 30 units.

Competition

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT3
- image 707726
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a certainty for 2019, as is the Ferrari 488 GT3

Since it won’t hit the track as a customer car until 2019, it’s difficult to estimate what kind of competition this car will have, mostly because vehicle that are being raced today might not be around a year from now. In 2017, the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup was populated by race cars like the Mercedes-AMG GT3, Audi R8 LMS, Bentley Continental GT3, Ferrari 488 GT3, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, BMW M6 GT3, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, and the Porsche 911 GT3 R. While some may get replacements by 2019, a few of these cars will carry on to compete against the McLaren 720S GT3.

2016 Ferrari 488 GT3
- image 654718

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a certainty for 2019. Built around the AMG GT coupe, the GT3 packs a large amount of aerodynamic upgrades and a race-spec version of the the company’s twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 engine. The Ferrari 488 GT3 is another race car that will carry on for at least two more years. While Merc finished the season second behind Aston Martin in the Pro class, Ferrari won the Am division. Next up is the Bentley Continental GT3, which just got a complete redesign for 2018. Lighter, more aerodynamic and powered by a new engine, the Conti begins next season as the overall champion. A new Vantage GT3 based on the fresh, second-generation model should also follow now that Aston Martin has unveiled the GTE car. McLaren will face competition from the same cars in the Pirelli World Challenge series in the United States.

New Racing Program and Network

2019 McLaren 720S GT3
- image 747147
McLaren is opening the Driver Development Programme to find young motorsport talent

The 720S GT3 will meet its customers through a new network of motorsport dealers that will retail road and track products alongside each other. Owners will also be able to compete in a one-make GT series in what McLaren describes as an attempt to "bring customers even closer to the action than ever before." The new series that will race in 2018 at iconic European racing circuits and is aimed at owners who already have extensive track driving experience and are looking to take their first steps in the racing world. All participants will be guided by McLaren motorsport experts.

Finally, the brand is opening the Driver Development Programme to find young motorsport talent. McLaren has already selected four promising British drivers from an existing stable, who will compete during the 570S GT4 in 2018. The project aims to identify and develop talent for future McLaren factory drivers. Each will be assigned a professional mentor from McLaren’s team of drivers, fitness and nutrition assessments, PR, marketing, and sponsorship support. Drivers will be regularly assessed and evaluated before being promoted to higher levels. The International Driver Development Programme will kick off in 2019.

Brief McLaren GT3 History

2013 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 489747
McLaren returned to GT racing in 2011 with a race-spec version of the MP4-12C sports car

McLaren returned to GT racing in 2011 with a race-spec version of the MP4-12C sports car. The 12C GT3 was raced for five years (until 2015) and won 19 races, also scoring further 19 podiums. The 2011 season was rather brief, with only a handful of cars produced, but the 12C GT3 raced at the Spa 24 Hours and the Macau Grand Prix. In 2012, McLaren readied 25 more race cars for a full racing season in the FIA GT1 championship. It scored its first win at the Circuito the Navarra in Spain. It’s final race was at the Three Hours of Sepang in January 2016.

2015 McLaren 650S GT3 High Resolution Exterior
- image 557794

The 650S GT3 came in to replace the 12C GT3 in 2015, but 12C owners were offered the chance to upgrade to 650S specifications. As of 2017, the 650S was entered in more than 100 events, scoring 15 overall wins, two class wins, and more than 20 additional podiums. By far its most important achievements were winning the 12 Hours of Bathurst and the Blancpain Endurance Series teams’ championship in 2016.

Conclusion

2019 McLaren 720S GT3 Exterior
- image 746625

It’s definitely to early to make any predictions here, but the 720S GT3 should become at least as successful as its 12C- and 650S-based predecessors. It’s lighter, it has a new engine, and improved aerodynamics, so there isn’t much that could go wrong. Sure, anything is possible in motorsport and the competition is hot in both the Blancpain and Pirelli series, but McLaren has enough experience to deliver a potent and reliable car to its customers. That fact that it comes with a racing program makes it that much better.

  • Leave it
    • * Still a rendering
    • * Not available until 2019
    • * Stiff competition

References

McLaren 720S

2018 McLaren 720S High Resolution Exterior
- image 708563

Read our full review on the 2018 McLaren 720S.

McLaren 650S

2015 McLaren 650S GT3 High Resolution Exterior
- image 557792

Read our full review on the 2017 McLaren 650S GT3.

Press release

McLaren Automotive, the British creator of luxury sports cars and supercars, is to expand its race-winning activities in GT racing with a number of new initiatives. Headlining these is the announcement that a new 720S GT3 race car will join the successful 570S GT4, and this new model will begin testing next year for launch with customer teams in 2019.

To serve customers engaging with the sport in the best possible way, McLaren Automotive is appointing a network of specialist motorsport retailers who will retail road and track products alongside each other. Also from next year, owners will be able to compete in a one-make GT series. Finally, the company will be helping to nurture young motorsport talent with the launch of a Driver Development Programme.

The actions are all designed to bring McLaren’s customers even closer to the action than ever before – crucial for a brand born on the race-track, as McLaren Automotive CEO, Mike Flewitt, explained: “McLaren is built on racing and providing our growing family of customers with unique and exhilarating driving experiences. It therefore makes sense for us to unveil a dedicated, widened motorsport programme designed to support and enable more of our customers to focus on enjoying the thrill of pushing our cars on the track. The 720S GT3 will provide a stunning race-going addition to our Super Series product family and drivers will now be able to hone their skills under expert guidance backed-up by our technicians at the circuit and our motorsport retailers away from it.”

As the first element in the refreshed programme, and building on the recent successes with both the 12C GT3 and 650S GT3 cars, McLaren Automotive is to develop and build a GT3 race car based on the award-winning McLaren 720S. Two concept sketches have now been released.

The 720S GT3 will benefit from race and championship-winning experience and knowledge accrued by McLaren during six seasons of motorsport activities. Following an intensive development programme in the 2018 season, the 720S GT3 will make its competitive debut with customer teams in the 2019 season and will be fully compliant with GT3 regulations and eligible to compete in all GT3 race series globally.

The MonoCage II carbon fibre structure at the heart of the 720S road car provides the foundation for a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive car set to appeal to professional and budding drivers alike. A race-prepared version of McLaren’s 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 M840T engine will provide the power source, through a six-speed, sequential shift motorsport transmission. The aerodynamically-optimised bodywork of the 720S GT3 will be formed from both composite and lightweight carbon fibre, with a bespoke aerodynamic package. The suspension will comprise tried and tested adjustable dampers and coil-over springs, front and rear.

The 720S GT3 race car follows on from the 650S GT3 which has proved itself as a race winner and world-beater on the highest GT stages globally following its launch in 2014. It has scored titles on all four continents on which it has campaigned, including the Asian Le Mans Series, Australian GT championship, the Bathurst 12 Hour, Blancpain Endurance Cup and Pirelli World Challenge. This was a development from the original 12C GT3 which was launched in 2010. After an intense development programme throughout the 2011 season, the 12C GT3 debuted with customer teams a year later, winning 19 races, a further 19 podiums and pole position for the legendary Spa 24h race.

To support a further part of the expansion plans for customer racing and track activities across the globe, McLaren Automotive has also confirmed the first details of retailers approved to retail the brand’s motorsport products. Appointed from the existing McLaren retailer network, initially 10 retailers will offer motorsport support and service with the first such retailer to be announced being McLaren Glasgow, the recipient of the brand’s retailer of the year award. Alongside Glasgow in Europe will be Zurich; North America will be represented by Dallas, Newport Beach, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Scottsdale and Toronto, while the Asia-Pacific region will have representation in both Melbourne and the spiritual home of McLaren, New Zealand, with the Auckland retailer.

“Motorsport retailers represent an important milestone for McLaren Automotive – strengthening a core part of the business, and bringing the world of road and track models even closer together,” said Jolyon Nash, Executive Director, Global Sales and Marketing, McLaren Automotive. “Motorsport has been, and will continue to be, a core value to the McLaren brand which truly was born on the track, and this runs through the DNA of each and every product that we hand assemble.”

The company has also unveiled plans to extend its existing popular Pure McLaren customer track day series by creating the Pure McLaren-GT race series that will race in 2018 at iconic European racing circuits. The new series is aimed at McLaren owners who already have extensive track driving experience and are looking to take their first steps in the racing world in a controlled and familiar environment with the support of McLaren motorsport experts that allows customers to tap into over five decades of racing know-how.

Open exclusively to individual McLaren owners with the minimum of an International D grade licence, they will be able to take advantage of a full ‘arrive and drive’ package with all cars maintained and run by McLaren engineers and technicians, freeing owners up to concentrate on their driving. More details, including venues and dates for the new Pure McLaren-GT series, will be announced in due course.

McLaren is as committed as ever to developing future racing talent. Alongside new cars will be a driver development programme designed to nurture a new generation of GT racers. To kick-start the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme, four promising British drivers have been selected from an existing stable of driving talent connected with McLaren who will compete in pairs driving two 570S GT4 cars during 2018.

The Programme will identify talent and create a breeding ground for future McLaren Factory Drivers by providing them with motorsport education and driver support. That support includes being assigned a professional mentor from McLaren’s team of drivers, fitness and nutrition assessments and advice and PR, marketing and sponsorship support and guidance.

Drivers will be regularly assessed and evaluated on their performance with a tailored programme developed to ensure each delivers their best performance every time they compete. This will include simulator access and working with the engineering teams to better understand telemetry data and race strategy.

Jordan Albert (21), Charlie Fagg (18), Michael O’Brien (22) and Lewis Proctor (21) will each have a driver coach from the roster of Pure McLaren driver coaches and share a driver mentor in Rob Bell who joins McLaren as Factory Driver.

In 2018, a competition will be launched for drivers to participate in a 2019 International Driver Development Programme run by McLaren Automotive. More details will be announced next year.

“The McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme has been established to help gifted young drivers realise their motorsport ambitions: if they have the talent, regardless of their background, we want to be there to guide them and foster their racing skills. These drivers will be our future in endurance racing and in the four we have selected this year, we believe that with McLaren’s support all of them are potential GT championship winners. I am also delighted that Rob Bell joins the team as a Factory Driver for the 2018 season, as his knowledge and experience will be of enormous benefit to the Driver Development Programme. More than this, he will ensure that the 720S GT3 car builds on the success of our previous models in this class and is capable of competing against – and beating – the best that the GT world has to offer,” added McLaren Automotive CEO, Mike Flewitt.

Only in its seventh year, McLaren Automotive now forms the largest part of the newly combined sports and technology-based McLaren Group and has a workforce of around 2,100.

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