This magnificent two-volume book written by Mark Cole is the definitive history of the fabulously successful McLaren F1 GTR.
The book’s Foreword is naturally written by the car’s designer, Gordon Murray, who says that when he set out to design the McLaren F1 in 1990, he was adamant that it should be a road car and did not want to compromise the design by having to consider the car for racing. Murray wanted to create the ultimate road car, which he surely achieved with the F1.
However, Ray Bellm and Thomas Bscher persuaded the management at McLaren to produce a racing version of the car to compete in the BPR series. But rather than have the car modified badly by another racing outfit, Murray reluctantly changed his mind as he said it would not reflect well on McLaren and after all his team were in the best position to carry out the work to a high standard. Murray therefore embarked upon designing the racing version with his small team of engineers.
So, 25 years on from its famous début victory in the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours, the McLaren F1 GTR is the subject of this outstanding two-volume book from author Mark Cole and tells the story of one of the most successful GT racing cars in the history of the sport. The book also provides the reader with a fabulous record of the whole McLaren F1 GTR family. Murray sums it up by saying:
“When I look back on my race career, I count the 1995 Le Mans win as my most treasured motor racing achievement, mainly because we went to the famous race with a lightly modified road car and not only won first time out but dominated. I am also pleased that the McLaren F1 was more successful in racing than the fantastic Ferrari 250 GTO, which remains one of my all-time favourite cars!”
A journalist and TV commentator who covered the BPR GT series and FIA GT Championship during the four-year period in which the McLaren F1 GTRs competed, Mark Cole attended all the races in 1995, 1996 and 1997, plus the majority in 1998. His career included time as club editor of Autosport magazine, press officer at Thruxton and Silverstone circuits, as well as press attaché for the FIA World Sports Car Championship. Cole has also been a commentator on Eurosport TV for 28 years. His previous books have been about Brands Hatch, GT racing, the Ford GT40 and John Fitzpatrick Racing.
As Cole says in his introduction, the name McLaren is synonymous with not only Formula 1 and IndyCar, where it enjoyed tremendous success over the last 50 years, but also with sportscar racing.
Only 106 examples of the BMW V12-powered McLaren F1s were produced, while just 28 of the GTR racing variants were built between 1995 and 1997. Over three race seasons, the GTR proved to be unbelievably successful from day one, winning 41 of its 131 races in which the car competed and winning two international championship titles.
This beautiful two-volume set outlines the life of the McLaren F1 GTR in great depth, with Volume 1 being devoted to race-by-race narrative and Volume 2 to individual car histories and the stories of the people who raced them, along with over 775 fabulous colour photographs which help bring the cars to life for the reader, including many from fellow Guild member and friend John Brooks.
The opening chapter is entitled: “Bruce McLaren: The Quiet Kiwi” and gives an insight into this brilliant engineer and racing driver. He was also sadly, one of those good guys who died way too young, which happened a lot in motorsport in the 1960s and 1970s. He was killed when his McLaren M8D hit a marshals’ post while testing at Goodwood on 2nd June 1970 and did not live to see the team he had created, win 12 Drivers’ and eight Constructors’ Formula 1 championships, as well as 182 races, second only to the legendary Ferrari.
McLaren cars won two Indianapolis 500 races, both of them at the hands of Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and 1976 and the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1995 with the McLaren F1 GTR.
Chapter 2 looks at the revival of GT racing, as by the end of 1992, the FIA had all but killed off the successful Group C sports-prototype formula once and for all. The FIA Sportscar World Championship had been downgraded over time and the big manufacturers such as Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota were forced to build expensive 3.5-litre Formula 1 engines if they wanted to be at all competitive.
So, the survival of sportscar racing apart from Le Mans, was the GT category and soon the BPR International GT Endurance Series was born, named after the surname initials of Barth, Peter and Ratel.
Chapter 3 describes the genesis of the McLaren F1 GTR along with some superb colour photographs and design drawings of the early F1.
When it came to choosing an engine for the car, Honda were unwilling to provide one, therefore Murray said:
“So I went to see Paul Rosche at BMW in Munich, and the deal was done in 45 minutes due to the faith he had in me, just as Ron and Mansour had also had sufficient faith in me to give me a budget to do the car.”
Both Murray and Rosche had been friends since their Brabham-BMW Formula 1 days, Murray continues:
“I had talked to Honda, Isuzu, Judd, Weslake and others. I had a requirement of 100bhp per litre, and I wanted it to rev higher than any big Ferrari engine, about 7,100rpm. Paul came back with an engine that would produce more than 100bhp per litre.”
The lightweight, 6.1-litre BMW S70/2 V12, naturally aspirated and quad-cam, producing 627bhp with 479lb/ft torque, was built in 13 months by Rosche at BMW Motorsport, using McLaren TAG electronics for its TAGTronic 3.12 engine management system. Murray went on to say:
“BMW really did work wonders.”
“I called it ‘McLaren F1’ because F1 was our brand. Also you sat in the middle of the car, and it was the world’s first ground-effect, carbon road car, so it was like driving a racing car. Ron wanted more time to think about the name but in the end he, Mansour and Creighton all liked it. Bernie wasn’t quite so powerful then – today ‘F1’ is trade-marked to within an inch of its life.”
In Part Two of the book, Cole looks at the memorable 1995 season where in Chapter 4, the McLaren F1 GTR wins its début race at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Besides the celebrated McLaren victory at Le Mans, F1 GTRs dominated the BPR Global GT Endurance Series that year, winning 10 of its 12 rounds, with John Nielsen and Thomas Bscher narrowly finishing the season as champions in the Bscher’s West-sponsored car.
Chapter 5 goes into details of the 1996 season and the BPR and All-Japan GT Championship, where the McLaren F1 GTR enjoyed a second all-conquering BPR season, giving the championship title to Ray Bellm in his Gulf-sponsored car, partnered by James Weaver. While over in Japan’s national championship, John Nielsen and David Brabham were crowned champions.
The 1997 season is the focus of Chapter 6, where the F1 GTR evolved into Long Tail form and a BMW-funded team arrived on the scene, taking all five McLaren victories in the new FIA GT Championship, although the Schnitzer-run team’s quickest drivers, JJ Lehto and Steve Soper, narrowly missed out on the championship title.
Part Five of the book takes a look at the 1998 season, where Steve O’Rourke’s privateer McLaren F1 GTR Long Tail finished fourth overall but by now the FIA GT Championship had become a Mercedes benefit and the two participating McLarens were simply outclassed.
The McLaren F1 soldiered on for six more seasons and Chapter 8 looks at the highs and lows with the car’s twilight years in Japan, where two F1 GTRs competed from 1999 to 2005, achieving one more victory, at Miné in 2001, where #19R led the whole race from pole to finish.
Volume Two opens with Part Seven looking at many of the individual cars in detail, starting with the 1995 race cars in Chapter 9 and who the cars were built for, when and where they were raced, changes in colour and liveries and what has subsequently become of the cars and who owns them today, with a few converted for road use.
The 1996 race cars are the subject of Chapter 10, again with detailed histories of each of the cars built, while Chapter 11 focusses on the 1997 race cars, a number of which were on display at this year’s Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace in early September and Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace at the end of September.
Chapter 12 is entitled ‘Three Wise Men’ with a focus on McLaren’s key members, starting with Chief Executive, Ron Dennis and Jeff Hazell, McLaren’s anchorman. David Clark, McLaren’s Sales & Marketing Director, is regarded as one of Britain’s top historic racers, as well as an historic car purveyor par excellence. Other key members of the team included Kaye Wilson, Michael Cane, who was co-owner of GTC Motorsport with Ray Bellm. Then there was Martin Allerton of Gulf, a key sponsor, whose hands-on approach and willingness to assist the team, helped not only GTC but also the whole championship.
Chapter 14 looks at the success of David Price Racing, where race engineer and manager David Price and designer Peter Stevens were renowned for their thinking outside the box, running Thomas Bscher’s and Mood Fayed’s McLaren F1 GTRs in the 1995 season.
In Part Ten, Cole looks at some of the drivers and heroes of a golden age. These include Dane John Nielsen, German Thomas Bscher, Finn JJ Lehto, Frenchman Yannick Dalmas, Japanese driver Masanori Sekiya, Brits, Andy Wallace, Derek Bell and Mark Blundell, Merseyside-bred Welshman Lyndsay Owen-Jones, Frenchman Pierre-Henri Raphanel, London born James Weaver, Brit, Steve Soper, British-born David Brabham, Brits Andrew Gilbert-Scott and Geoff Lees, Chris Goodwin, Pink Floyd manager Steve O-Rourke and Brit Tim Sugden.
Part 11 looks at what has happened to some of the cars that have been converted into road going vehicles, breathing a new lease of life into these 20+ year old cars, such as Aaron Hsu’s #12R, Nick Mason’s #10R and Chris Vassilopoulos’s family owned #02R.
Chapter 19 brings Volume 2 to a close by taking a look at the specialists that have restored and keep these cherished cars running in tip top condition, with a focus on father and son Paul and Dean Lanzante, based in Hampshire.
This two-volume history of the successful McLaren F1 GTR is limited to only 1,000 copies, all of which are numbered and signed by Mark Cole. There is also a special Collector’s Edition, which is limited to just 50 copies, which are all signed by Gordon Murray, Ray Bellm and Thomas Bscher. The Collector’s Edition is handcrafted in the finest quality leather by Ludlow Bookbinders, as is the slipcase. You also get a period reproduction McLaren metal badge affixed to the front of both volumes.
Publication date: November 2020
UK Price: £450.00
ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-913089-15-3
Format: 340 x 245mm portrait format, hardback
Illustration: 775 colour illustrations
Two specially bound volumes in a slip case
Limited edition of 1,000 copies
Collector’s Edition of only 50 copies
Ultimate Series No. 3
McLaren F1 GTR – The Definitive History
By Mark Cole
Published by Porter Press International
For more information and to purchase your own copy of the book, please visit the Porter Press website: https://porterpress.co.uk
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Illustrations courtesy of Porter Press International