GETTING READY TO RACE

Le Mans Memories: Part 3

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 third of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series celebrating the 20th anniversary of our remarkable victory, we talk to Barry Lett and Phil Harding, respectively Chief Designer and Senior Vehicle Technician on the F1 GTR project, two men who were at the heart of the development and subsequent motorsport successes of the McLaren F1 race car. 

 

‘On the last lap everyone holds formation and respects where the car ahead of them is finishing. Two McLarens came together across the finish line, and Yannick Dalmas popped the door open so the car saluted as it came past. We were on the pit wall and it was euphoria!’

Phil Harding - Senior Vehicle Technician, McLaren F1 GTR

 

Barry Lett was Gordon Murray’s first appointment to the F1 road car project. As the rest of the team came together, his initial task was to set up his CAD (computer-aided-design) systems, and to create the support and rotation mechanism for the Formula 1™ racing car on display in the foyer of McLaren Cars’ new ‘Genesis’ offices. Subsequently focusing on vehicle architecture and packaging, Barry played a crucial role in the creation of the legendary McLaren F1.

With the road car complete, Barry’s attention was turned to the F1 GTR in 1994, and then in March 1995 when the customer teams expressed an interest in competing at the Le Mans, to creating a version that was capable of overcoming the rigors of a 24-hour endurance race. Unfortunately though, Barry never made it to Le Mans in 1995, the crucial parts he designed deemed more worthy of a seat on a last-minute plane to France than the engineer himself. 

Working alongside Barry on both the F1 road car and F1 GTR race car was Senior Vehicle Technician Phil Harding. Part of the development team on the road car, Phil was the first technician to move across and commence work on the GTR project, modifying the fuel system and reshaping the unique carbon fibre chassis to accommodate the air jacks needed to raise the F1 during pit stops. Ironically, the extra racing equipment, plus the air restrictors mandated by the racing regulations, meant the F1 GTR was both heavier and less powerful than its road-going counterpart.

Phil supported the McLaren customer racing teams throughout the BPR Global GT Endurance Series, and then at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the F1 GTR overcame the odds to triumph – and set records that still stand to this day.

In the third of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series, Barry and Phil remember the part they played in creating the legendary McLaren F1 GTR:

 

 

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LE MANS MEMORIES: PART 1

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