Follow our Le Mans anniversary celebrations and join the conversation using  #McLAREN95

RON DENNIS REMEMBERS

Le Mans Memories: Part 6

IV5A1521 copy JPEG cropped.jpg

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 the first attempt.

In the sixth of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series celebrating the 20th anniversary of this remarkable victory, we talk to McLaren Automotive Chairman Ron Dennis about his role both before and during the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.


"BEHIND THE LEAD CAR WE OCCUPIED THIRD, FOURTH AND FIFTH, WHICH WAS AN AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT. IT WAS A GREAT RACE, IN UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, AND EVERYONE AT McLAREN HAS VERY FOND MEMORIES."

Ron Dennis


 

The McLaren F1 was created to be a road car, not a racing car – but its perfect weight distribution, low polar moment of inertia and race car-style suspension geometry made it an ideal GT racer. A handful of enthusiastic McLaren customers saw the potential, and became determined to take the F1 racing.

Realising that invalidating the warranty wasn’t going to be a dissuader, and not wanting an independent race team to undertake the conversion, McLaren Chairman Ron Dennis met with the keen owners and agreed that McLaren would develop and build a racing version of the F1. The McLaren F1 GTR was born, and it was immediately quick.

Campaigned by independent customer teams, the F1 GTR won the opening round of the 1995 BPR Global GT Endurance Series and would go on to dominate the championship. Success in those four-hour BPR races invigorated the customers to enter the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, and McLaren agreed to develop a suite of upgrades suitable for the rigours of the world’s most famous endurance race.

Close to the race, however, a Japanese sponsor approached Ron Dennis, looking to place a Japanese driver at Le Mans. With the agreement of the customers, it was decided that McLaren’s test and development F1 GTR would be entered – but privateer team Lanzante Motorsport was chosen to run the car, underlining the fact it was not a factory effort. For the same reasons, Ron Dennis decided not to attend the race, and made a commitment to the customer teams that the development car would not beat them.

As the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans unfolded the much-fancied (and purpose-built) sports prototypes fell by the wayside, and the F1 GTRs took up commanding positions, with the No.51 car driven by Andy Wallace, Derek Bell and Justin Bell leading for much of the race. When it had a technical issue, though, that moved the No.59 F1 GTR, the McLaren development car, into first place.

With one of the prototypes recovering fast in the final hours, Ron Dennis received a phone call while watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans on television, asking if the No.59 car could be allowed to race. Ron’s instructions were to ask the customers, as racing the prototype would break his agreement with the customer teams – but it was also the one chance of a McLaren victory. Happy with their individual successes, the customers urged the No.59 F1 GTR to race. The lap times duly dropped, and McLaren took a historic win, with the chasing prototype finishing second and F1 GTRs in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th positions.

 

In the sixth of our ‘Le Mans Memories’ video series, McLaren Automotive Chairman Ron Dennis recalls his role in our victory at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

 

 

PM 3 PARA.jpg

LE MANS MEMORIES: PART 1

VIDEO

McLaren London 3 para.jpg

FIND YOUR LOCAL McLAREN RETAILER

RETAILER LOCATOR

650S Spider_harbour_numberplate (1) 3 para.jpg

THE McLAREN 650S

EXPLORE

COOKIE WARNING

We use cookies to make your experience of our website better. To find out what cookies we use, the purposes for which we use them and how to remove or delete them click here. By accepting this notice and continuing to browse our website you confirm you accept our cookie policy.