THE BUILD-UP TO LE MANS

Le Mans Memories: Part 2

Our famous win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 was unprecedented. Not only was the McLaren F1 GTR essentially a road car competing against purpose-built prototype racers, but it was also the first entry by McLaren in the world-famous endurance race. Yet we finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th, and we remain the only manufacturer to win Le Mans at their first attempt.

In the second of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series celebrating the 20th anniversary of our remarkable victory, we talk to Jeff Hazell, sometimes referred to as ‘the Godfather of the F1 GTR’, and the man responsible for McLaren’s support and technical back-up to customer racing teams. 

‘PREPARING THE F1 ROAD CAR FOR RACING WAS ACTUALLY NOT A HUGE UNDERTAKING. FRANKLY, IT HAD VERY LITTLE DONE TO IT. IT WAS A TRUE ROAD CAR THAT WON LE MANS IN ‘95’

Jeff Hazell

Working on the McLaren F1 road car was a new experience for Jeff Hazell after a career in Formula 1™ and long-distance sports car racing, but it wouldn’t be long before the pair would be together on the racetrack. Keen on racing the F1, Jeff and then McLaren Cars Marketing Director Creighton Brown discussed the idea with McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, but their proposed competition programme never got the green light. However, a few years later the persuasive powers of McLaren F1 owner Ray Bellm (pictured below with Jeff) would see Ron Dennis agree to turn the 20th century’s greatest supercar into the F1 GTR race car.

Jeff was charged with developing the new McLaren F1 GTR, and the first test session took place 12th January 1995, with John Nielsen completing 40 fault-free laps at Silverstone in chassis #01R. The orange and silver colour scheme was the result of a compromise between Jeff and Ron Dennis. 

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Just a few months later the F1 GTR was racing for the first time, but although the initial agreement between Ron Dennis and Ray Bellm – along with Thomas Bscher and Lindsay Owen-Jones – was to build three F1 GTR race cars, more customers had come forward for the promising competition version of the F1. To support them, a team of technicians and engineers were present at every round of the 1995 BPR GT Endurance Series, working under Jeff’s management.

From the outset the McLaren F1 GTR was winning races, and as it recorded victory after victory in the BPR, the customer teams started to think about competing at Le Mans. Designed as a ‘four-hour car’, the F1 GTR was never meant for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Jeff and his team developed it into a racer capable of taking on the world-famous endurance event. The rest, as they say, is history – McLaren F1 GTRs finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

In the second of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series, Jeff remembers the part he played in creating the legendary McLaren F1 GTR:

 

 

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LE MANS MEMORIES: PART 1

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