Up until now we’ve only seen an artist’s impression of the McLaren’s MP4-12C GT3, so it comes as a rather pleasant surprise to find that the real thing looks even better in the metal. This is the car that marks McLaren’s return to GT racing since the Le Mans winning F1 GTR, which dominated endurance racing between 1995 and 1998.

The McLaren MP4-12C GT3 will be built by McLaren GT – a new company that brings together the expertise of the McLaren Group and CRS Racing – and has successfully undertaken its debut tests at the MIRA proving ground facility and Silverstone Circuit in England.

The initial shakedown tests undertaken with the 12C GT3, whereby new components are calibrated and bespoke aerodynamic body structures are appraised for the first time, will be followed by comprehensive tests scheduled throughout March and April at a number of FIA certified circuits across Europe. News on the development programme, full driver line-up and planned competition for the 12C GT3 will be confirmed after these tests are completed.

Álvaro Parente signs for McLaren GT

Álvaro Parente, the 26-year old racing driver from Portugal whom we last saw competing in the Race of Champions in November, is today announced as the first new professional racing driver to join the McLaren GT race team.

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McLaren GT Project Manager Andrew Kirkaldy and McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin are leading the development of the 12C GT3, and in total six test drivers will be in the team by the middle of 2011.

Álvaro Parente said: “It is a great honour to be selected to drive with the McLaren GT team.

Since receiving an invitation to join the team by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, I have been made to feel like an important part of the team and I hope to give valuable feedback in developing the car.

I have always dreamt of racing a McLaren!”

[/two_columns] [two_columns_last ]Alvaro Parente[/two_columns_last]

The MP4-12C GT3 development programme

McLaren GT Project Manager Andrew Kirkaldy and McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin drove the new 12C GT3 on its first outings. These real-world tests follow months of virtual testing in the McLaren Simulator at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, which is also used to develop the 12C production car and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Formula 1 cars.

Andrew Kirkaldy said: “We have an extensive list of subjective and objective development targets set for the MP4-12C GT3. In the first tests, the car is achieving excellent results in many areas including handling, powertrain and other aspects of dynamic performance.

“The 12C’s carbon chassis and aerodynamic efficiency mean we started with a lightweight, dynamically-optimised sports car. Those characteristics are fundamental to any race car. The car is around 100mm wider than the standard production car and features a new suspension system which we have tested in the McLaren Simulator. Having now experienced this new set-up in the 12C GT3 car, I’m delighted with the progress we are making.

“The McLaren GT team is working with Formula 1 technology suppliers, and several of the senior technical personnel involved in this project have vast experience in Formula 1. This is a unique advantage in developing a GT specification car.”

From 2012, McLaren Automotive and CRS Racing will supply and support a limited number of FIA GT3-compliant racing cars based on the McLaren 12C high-performance sports car for privateers. Professional race teams who are interested in securing one of the initial cars should register their interest at www.mclarengt.com.

Technical Specification

As you would expect, the MP4-12C GT3 is based on the standard 12C road car, but uses a lighter carbon MonoCell chassis and race specification composite body panels and fixed rear wing. The chassis weighs just 75kg and is produced in a revolutionary one-piece mould. A new front splitter, door blade, rear wing, diffuser and louvres in the front fenders are added in compliance with FIA GT3 regulations.

The 12C GT3 uses the same 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 as in the production car, but tuned for racing – no word on the absolute power and torque figures, but these are likely to be limited by the technical regulations of the series rather than the engine’s design.

A bespoke paddle-shift system operating an all-new Ricardo-designed gearbox developed specifically for racing will be fitted. This system eschews the 7-speed SSG dual-clutch Graziano transmission supplied in the standard 12C.

Braking and suspension components come from the same suppliers ad the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team

McLaren’s new GT3 car will feature motorsport-specific braking and suspension components, including bespoke callipers by Akebono, official supplier to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team.

Due to regulations imposed by racing authorities, the 12C GT3 will not feature the road-going 12C’s ProActive Chassis Control System; negating the requirement for an anti-roll bar. Instead, the 12C GT3 will use a configuration comprising race-specific roll bars and dampers.

McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin said: “Those who have seen the new MP4-12C production car won’t be surprised to learn that immense attention to detail has been applied in developing the GT3 version. Quality is a watchword. We know that our potential customers will expect McLaren GT to deliver a competitive car right out of the box and, starting now with a programme covering aerodynamics development and durability testing, we are determined to do just that.

“The McLaren GT team is committed to achieving unprecedented levels of performance, also guaranteeing the levels of quality, reliability and durability with which we expect to delight future race teams entering competitions with the 12C GT3.”

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