2019 McLaren 720S GT3
Will replace the 650S GT3 starting 2019by Ciprian Florea, on LISTEN 14:43
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.
2019 McLaren 720S GT3
- 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
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!
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.
- Driver-focused cabin
- Racing, FIA-approved seat
- Full roll cage
- Multi-function steering wheel
- Lightweight configuration
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.
- Race-spec 4.0-liter V-8 engine
- Around 500 horsepower
- Six-speed sequential transmission
- Adjustable dampers
- Coil-over springs
- New ECU
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Read our full review on the 2018 McLaren 720S.
Read our full review on the 2017 McLaren 650S GT3.