McLaren Is Returning To LeMans…Maybe.

McLaren’s motorsports division is thriving. The 650S GT3 car is one of the more popular weapons in GT3 Racing and its little brother the 570 GT4 is already seeing some success. It is almost enough to make them forget about the 5 alarm dumpster fire their current F1 team is. The GT success has beyond McLaren’s top brass. New McLaren head man Zak Brown wants to the McLaren name back to Le Mans.

“We have won Le Mans and the race is in our history, and part of my job is to decide where the McLaren brand should race,” Brown Autosport. “Going back to Le Mans is something we have identified and are discussing. Personally, I would love to see us go to Le Mans, and I’m not the only one with those views.”

McLaren last appeard at the 24 hour endurance classic in 1998, and hasn’t had a factory effort since 1997. The squad won overall in 1995 in the F1 GTR with drivers JJ Letho, Masanori Sekiya and Yannik Dalmas. Brown pointed out that if McLaren were to return to Le Mans it would be in the GTE category. Such an effort would surround a works entry into the WEC and Le Mans. MCLaren explored a GTE 12c back in 2013 but was canceled due to the failed GT Convergence.

That said, the prospect of McLaren doing battle with the Likes of Ford, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Corvette and soon to be BMW down Mulsanne is very exciting. It appears that McLaren is serious about going back to Le Mans. However, there is one tiny fly in the ointment. The new program wold likely “take several years to put together” according to Brown. That would put it very close to 2020. Why is 2020 important? Well if rumors are to be believed GT Convergence is still on the table and to those pushing for it are looking at 2020 as a potential target. So what is the “GT Convergence? It’s a proposition that has been floating around from the FIA and ACO regarding the merging of the ACO’s GTE spec cars and the FIA’s GT3 machinery. The reasoning is the gap in performance isn’t large enough to justify 2 separate classes. With many manufacturers making 2 cars for 2 set of regulations a convergence could save the manufacturers a fortune. Frankly it makes way too much sense to ignore, and yet it has met heavy opposition ironically from manufacturers. The original idea was shot down in 2013 however the idea is beginning to pick up steam again.

Enter McLaren and their “several years” to complete a car eligible for Le Mans. Convergence would help them enormously. 1 set of rules however the uncertainty surrounding the whole topic means that in order to go to Le Mans they have to build a GTE car. A GTE car that may be obsolete should convergence go through. That’s a big chunk of cash to throw at a car that may only have 1 year of eligibility.

Luckily McLaren is going to launch the 650’s replacement soon. If they’re serious about Le Mans they can follow the Ferrari model. Yes, I know that the mere mention of Ferrari name to anyone from McLaren is a great way to get punched in the face. However with their 488 Ferrari set the standard for manufacturers who want a GT3 car and a GTE car. They built both closely together and they share as many components as the rules will allow. This joint design minimizes the expense and McLaren would be wise to follow in their Italian rival’s footsteps.

Either way McLaren showing more interest in GT racing is great news for fans. Hopefully they can make it back to Le Mans. More big names racing at the most famous race in the world is only a good thing for the sport.

Written by Chad Kennedy

Chad burst from the womb wearing a racing suit and a helmet. Chad's passion for cars is in his very DNA. His father was a gear head and passed on the tradition through owning such classics as a '66 Mustang and a '59 Corvette all while taking him to various race tracks in the area. Chad likes to wrench on his rides whenever possible, forgoing the stealership. Chad is an avid motorsports fan with particular interest in endurance/sports car racing. When not online writing for Shifting Lanes, you can find him working at the local golf course teaching people how to swing or hooning a golf cart at impossible speeds.


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