McLaren F1 GTR —The Definitive History book review

We’re not going racing! But when Murray got down off his high horse the F1 donned its overalls and set off for the grid. Gordon Cruickshank learns more

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Gordon Murray never meant his F1 to race, but when pressure was applied by two eager racing customers, he had a perfect basis. From the fabulous three-seater F1, his team produced a racing version that first dominated the BPR series and then brought victory at Le Mans first time out.

Author Mark Cole watched their progress as commentator and reporter on endurance racing for many years, attending most of the races described here, and explains the mods needed to make the car run at race speeds first for four hours, then 24 – endless mods, minor or major, which left it looking like its road car basis but substantially quicker and tougher. Frustrated at having to reduce the V12’s power and remove his active fan-assisted aero system for racing, Murray says, “It’s ironic that we had to chuck away all the interesting stuff!” He adds that the ’95 car was 70% road, 30% race; by 1996 those ratios were reversed.

After a biography of Bruce McLaren, Cole describes the revival of GT racing which gave the car a yard to play in, the development of the road car and then the changes that created the GTR. Yet surprisingly all that is over by p41; the rest of volume one consists of complete reports for every single race the cars did up to the 2005 Japanese GT series. And that’s another 300 pages. It’s not bedtime reading. However, there is more to settle down with in volume two where the 28 chassis histories mix with team and driver memories, owner reflections and a fun chapter on driving to Le Mans by road in Ray Bellm’s car that a year before had finished ninth in the race.

Here we enjoy the personal stuff: tales from drivers Bellm and Thomas Bscher (the pair who bullied Murray into going racing), Andy Wallace, JJ Lehto, Derek Bell and plenty of others; from Murray, Ron Dennis and GTR project manager Jeff Hazell, and Paul Lanzante whose makeshift, inexperienced team pulled off that 1995 victory. Says Paul, “Harvey Postlethwaite said I shouldn’t go back because I could never better the achievement. I followed his advice, ensuring my 100% success rate at Le Mans.”

It’s this second volume that makes this book; Cole did 100 interviews, so there’s a great deal that’s fresh, though I’d have liked to trade off race reports for more technical detail and drawings in such an extravagant and costly work.

McLaren GTR history

McLaren F1 GTR – The Definitive History

Mark Cole


Porter Press, ISBN 9781913089153


August 2021 book reviews in brief

QPRS: F1 Grand Prix Racing by the numbers

Clyde Berryman 

Best driver ever? Well, it depends on…

And off we go. There surely can’t be an actual answer but the discussion is always entertaining. However, Clyde Berryman has constructed a complex rating system that tries to balance up cars, years, tracks and competition into one ratings figure which should work across the ages. Integrating best-car advantage and quality of competition, it’s a frankly baffling avalanche of tables, thankfully broken up by artwork from a range of artists. A vast statistical achievement, but in the end it’s one man’s system.…

Dalton Watson, ISBN 9781854433152


Racing Camaros 1966-1984

Steve Holmes

Chevrolet’s ponycar, the prettiest of the bunch, had a remarkably long racing career, all captured in this compact, generously illustrated book from homologation tricks over the pokey Z28 through its great years in Trans-Am, BSCC and down in Australia until the IMSA era saw it fade away. Team mods and fixes carefully described by someone who loves Camaros.

Veloce, ISBN 9781787115125


Nissan Z — 50 years of exhilarating performance 

Peter Evanow

My first awareness of rallying was seeing Datsun 240Zs on BBC News winning the Safari Rally, and that thrusting snout and fastback rear captured me, despite the terrible things they did to that lovely shape later. In between, the Z cars made an impact on stage and track especially in SCCA and IMSA. Involved with Zs in IRL and Steve Millen’s racers, Evanow laces his history of the brand with prototypes (did you know there was a mid-engined 4WD experiment?), one-offs, and even advertising campaigns, taking us up to the 370Z which did well in GT4.

Plenty to read including buyer advice.

Motor Books, ISBN 9780760367131