Gordon Murray designed the iconic McLaren F1 as the ‘ultimate’ road car and, despite his renowned background in motorsport, never intended for his new baby to have a career in competition. Privateer racers such as Ray Belm and Thomas Bscher were quick to spot the car’s potential, however, and eventually managed to persuade him to adapt it accordingly, and build a number of examples in time for the 1995 season.
MCLAREN F1 GTR SHORT TAIL: 1996 – CHASSIS NO. 15R
Such was the quality of the standard road car, remarkably little work was in fact required to create a winning motorsport version. The interior was stripped and a roll cage fitted. Various cooling ducts were added and a sizeable, adjustable wing fitted to the rear, while carbon brakes replaced the standard items. Though homologation limited engine output to around 600bph (less than that of the road car) the race version was nevertheless faster and more nimble as a result in the reduction in weight. Defining features of the F1 such as its dental driving position and gull-wing doors were retained; as was even the standard car’s gearbox.
Success came thick and fast for the newcomer and in the 1995 Le Mans 24-Hour race, for example, GTRs finished 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th places and achieved that years highest top speed of 281kph. Buoyed by the first season, McLaren further developed it winner over the winter, extending the front and rear bodywork and lightening and strengthening the gearbox, which resulted in an overall weight saving of 38kg. Due to demand a further nine chassis were laid down to the new specification, while the 1995 chassis 03R and 06R were uprated at the same level.Though slower over a lap than the ensuing 1997 ‘Long Tail’ GTRs, the 1996 ‘Short Tail’ variant was the fastest of all the GTRs in terms of straight line speed, one recording no less than 330kph down Mulsanne during the 1996 Le Mans race.
Chassis 15R was built for GTC Motorsport to contest the 1996 BPR Global GT Series and the Le Mans 24-Hour race and it acquitted itself well by finishing 6th in the team championship and a creditable 5th overall at Le Mans, where it was driven by Lindsey Owen-Jones, Pierre-Henri Raphanel and David Brabham.