Gordon Murray eyes Le Mans return with McLaren F1 successor

by Dominic Tobin on 24th September 2019

Gordon Murray confirms that he's in talks to race his T.50 McLaren F1 successor at Le Mans

McLaren F1s at Le Mans in 1995

McLaren F1's spiritual successor could return to Le Mans Photo: Motorsport Images

Legendary car designer Gordon Murray is planning to return to Le Mans with his new supercar – almost 25 years after his most famous creation, the McLaren F1, triumphed in the world’s biggest endurance race.

Murray is in talks to run his new T.50 design at Le Mans, which will feature a new class for hypercars from 2021 as part of a shakeup of the FIA World Endurance Championship rulebook. The new rules are meant to allow road-based sports cars, prototypes, hybrids and non-hybrids to compete for overall victory.

The T.50 has been billed as the spiritual successor to the McLaren F1, with its V12 engine, three-seat layout, and lightweight construction.

Like the F1, it has been developed as a driver-focused road car, but its compact size and sporting dynamics should boost its chances. One element that won’t be carried across to the track, however, is the car’s downforce-generating fan, which will likely have to be removed for competition.

Speaking at a Motor Sport Game Changers event, Murray confirmed that he was in talks with Le Mans organiser, the ACO, about entering the T.50.

The supercar is being built by Gordon Murray Automotive, a company set up to manufacture the 100-car production run.

Gordon Murray T.50 sketch

T.50 sketch shows layout and airflow Image: Gordon Murray Automotive

Toyota, Aston Martin and Glickenhaus have all confirmed entries into the new World Endurance Championship hypercar category, so an overall victory by Murray’s niche sports car would mark a much greater upset than the McLaren F1’s Le Mans victory in 1995.

The highest-placed car qualified just ninth, behind prototype WR-Peugeots, Courages and a Kremer, as well as Ferrari F40s.

But wet weather, technical issues and inspired driving from the McLaren drivers closed the performance gap and meant that the top three places were filled by F1s by midnight.

Victory was far from assured, as the McLarens’ clutches started to drag in the final hours of the race, enabling the Courage car, driven by Mario Andretti, Eric Helary and Bob Wollek, to close in by ten seconds a lap.

Andretti made it through to second in his final stint, but Yannick Dalmas held on to take victory alongside his team-mates, JJ Lehto and Masanori Sekiya.


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Yannick Dalmas, JJ Lehto and Masanori Sekiya on the podium after winning the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours

Sekiya, Lehto and Dalmas on the podium Photo: Motorsport Images

Murray told the Motor Sport audience that he was initially “horrified” when McLaren F1 customers asked about racing the car. “I didn’t think it would be quick,” he said.

“But it was light, with a low centre of gravity and with ground-effect aerodynamics”.

The first T.50 images emerged in June, with Murray saying that his aim was to build the “purest, lightest, most driver-focused supercar ever”.

It’s powered by a bespoke Cosworth V12 engine that revs to 12,100rpm and comes with a £2m price tag — before taxes.

 

 

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