THE BIRTH OF THE McLAREN F1 GTR

Le Mans Memories: Part 1

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 McLaren finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th, and we remain the only manufacturer to win Le Mans at their first attempt.

In the first of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series celebrating the 20th anniversary of our remarkable victory, we talk to Ray Bellm, the experienced sports car racer and McLaren owner who convinced Ron Dennis to build a racing version of the F1 road car, the iconic F1 GTR.

 

"RON DENNIS CAME TO MY HOUSE. WE WERE SITTING OUTSIDE IN THE BEAUTIFUL SUNSHINE, AND I SAID: “RON, I DON’T WANT MY ROAD CAR, I WANT A RACE CAR.”’

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Competing in the inaugural 1994 BPR GT Endurance Series, Ray Bellm realised his McLaren F1 road car would make the perfect race car, thanks to its outstanding power-to-weight ratio, excellent visibility, compact size and low polar moment of inertia.  McLaren, though, had never intended the F1 to perform double duties on road and track, being unwilling to compromise on its vision for the ultimate road car.

Undeterred, over lunch at his house Ray convinced his long-time friend, McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, to turn the F1 road car into a race car. Ron agreed, on the condition that Ray found two further customers for the new F1 GTR.  That part was easy, and at the French Grand Prix in July 1994, Ray Bellm, Thomas Bscher and Lindsay Owen-Jones met with Dennis to sign contracts for their F1 GTR race cars.

The new McLaren F1 GTR made its race debut in the spring of 1995, and Ray, together with team-mate Maurizio Sandro Sala, went on to win five rounds of that year’s BPR GT Endurance Series.  The pair, alongside Mark Blundell, would also secure 4th position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 as part of McLaren’s record-setting success.

In the first of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series, Ray remembers the part he played in the birth of the McLaren F1 GTR legend:

 

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THE McLAREN 675LT

FIRST LOOK

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FIND YOUR LOCAL McLAREN RETAILER

RETAILER LOCATOR

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THE McLAREN P1™

EXPLORE

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