Suspension trouble thwarted an otherwise stunning performance for the new McLaren 720S GT3 at its Gulf 12 Hours debut on 15th December at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The McLaren 720S GT3 run by McLaren Customer Racing, set impressive times at the three practice sessions but was pipped at the post for pole position by just half a tenth of a second on aggregate times and ended up being second on the grid in the GT3 class ahead of 16 competitors and third overall on the 33-car grid.
With the race underway, the new McLaren 720S GT3 came so close to what would have been an amazing and unexpected win on its global competitive debut at the Gulf 12 Hours. Particularly as this is the very first GT racer to be designed and built in-house by McLaren Customer Racing. The car dominated much of the second half of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi before suspension trouble caused the car to drop down the field but still finishing in an impressive fifth place.
Despite the car’s suspension set back, the pace of the McLaren 720S GT3, which ran trouble-free for 10 hours of the race in the hands of McLaren Automotive Factory Driver Ben Barnicoat and his teammates Álvaro Parente and Shane van Gisbergen, impressed top GT racing car teams and drivers from around the world in the paddock.
Ben Barnicoat took the 720S GT3 into the lead after just an hour of the first six-hour stint of the race and the team reached the mid-point of the race in second overall, which is quite an achievement.
The McLaren 720S GT3 really showed its potential in the second six-hours of the race, with the number 5 car taking the lead and by the end of 10 hours, it had remarkably lapped the entire field. The jubilation was unfortunately short-lived though, as an issue with the right front suspension forced the car to head to the pits. 13 minutes later after some lightening quick repair work by the team, the car set off after the leaders. Ben Barnicoat, who was behind the wheel, managed to reduce the gap in the closing 90 minutes of this long race to cross the finish line in a truly impressive fifth place in the GT3 Pro class and eighth overall, completing 309 laps of the Yas Marina circuit.
Dan Walmsley, Motorsport Director of McLaren Automotive said: “It’s been a great start to the competitive life of the 720S GT3, which has proven itself against a world-class field and just as importantly, successfully progressed the development programme. I am incredibly proud of the efforts of the team at the circuit and back in Woking, who have achieved this result against world-class opposition.”
“The experience of going wheel-to-wheel with the teams and cars that our customers will be aiming to beat with the 720S GT3 in the future has proved invaluable as we continue to learn lessons about how to get the very best from the car. Add that experience to the vast amount that we have learned during the design, build, testing and development with the McLaren 720S GT3 so far and we are growing in confidence about the prospects for the newest racing member of the McLaren family.”
Following the successful racing debut at the Gulf 12 Hours, the McLaren Customer Racing team will continue the test and development programme of the 720 GT3, ahead of its homologation in early 2019, enabling the car to compete in a number of GT3 racing championships around the world.
For more information on the McLaren 720S GT3 please visit www.mclaren.com
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel and Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of McLaren Automotive Limited