Have you ever had that feeling after going to a Grand Prix – or even after watching a particularly engaging race on TV – that you desperately need your very own slice of the achingly exclusive and equally expensive international circus that is Formula 1?
For us, that desire is usually sated by buying a branded cap, coffee mug or scale model racing car. Yet, for some F1 fans – and, among them, we’d wager McLaren lovers are disproportionately represented – overspending on official merch doesn’t go near scratching that itch.
Enter the P1 GTR, from one of two brands that can give you a road car with even a hint of Formula 1 DNA – that’s McLaren (rather than Ferrari). The 35-only, limited-edition GTR was previewed at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance before its official reveal at Geneva last year, and production began with the completion of the 375th and final P1.
Just like the P1, a carbonfibre MonoCage chassis houses the engine in the rear-mid position – it’s the same 3.8-litre M838T twin-turbo 90-degree V8, with a battery-powered twin-motor powertrain in a higher state of tune.
The P1’s body is pulled purposefully taut over mechanical hard points, with the cockpit at the centre to reduce drag and assist in managing airflow over the form and into the various intakes. The GTR is said to produce about 10 per cent more downforce at 150mph (241km/h) – at 660kg – thanks to extra aero including carbonfibre canards and a bigger front splitter.
Further upgrades to the P1 include an F1-inspired carbonfibre steering wheel, lightweight polycarbonate side windows, a light Inconel and titanium exhaust, and 19-inch Pirelli slicks. An ERS-style push-to-pass system and a DRS rear wing complete the F1-esque package.
The GTR is 50kg lighter than the P1 and produces 735kW, though it’s not clear whether the extra kilowatts come from the engine or the electric motors. There’s also no official 0-100km/h figure. Why not? Well, that brings us to the GTR’s raison d’etre.
The justification for all this extra performance is that the GTR isn’t a road car, but a track-focused machine reserved for owners of the regular P1! It’s designed as the centrepiece of a bespoke track-day program and to make punters feel like F1 stars (or, at least, like Pastor Maldonado). Here, only lap times matter. Lap times and money. Lots of money…
The P1 GTR costs 1.98million quid (AU$3.77million), but you can’t drive it on the road, so there’s not much point parking it in the driveway. And, given this is such a specialised machine, wouldn’t it be better off in the capable hands of the McLaren GTR workshop, anyway?
P1 nursery: Inside the vault
1. Holy ship
The McLaren P1 GTR workshop is in Woking, England, near McLaren Special Operations and the McLaren GT team. P1 GTRs, which the brand rightly describes as ‘the fastest and most exciting McLaren this side of our Formula 1 cars’, are garaged at the facility and prepped for and transported to bespoke events as part of the McLaren driver program. McLaren ships 80 tonnes of support equipment to each event.
2. Circuit training
The program’s inaugural event was held at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain last October and future outings are planned at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, the Circuit of the Americas in the United States, and Silverstone in the UK (incidentally, the ‘base’ McLaren P1 already holds the road-car lap record at the latter two circuits).
3. Celebrity status
In the meantime, the GTRs – and their moneyed owners – undergo development back at HQ. There, the talent is fitted for a custom carbonfibre seat, tailor-made race suit, helmet and oversized designer sunnies. There’s also access to VIPs – they can pen their car’s livery with maestro Frank Stephenson, or swap cleaning tips with Ron Dennis over a gin and tonic, for example.
4. Expert help
Hand-picked McLaren engineers and technicians are available at the P1 GTR workshop to discuss set-up and tuning, and drivers can work with personal fitness trainers and driver coaches. Simulator training sessions at the nearby McLaren Technology Centre seal a regime that’s redolent of Formula 1 on every level.
5. Home bodies
Owners can park their GTRs in their garage if they so choose. Some buyers chose to skip the mega track days and just buy their 1:1 scale driveway ornaments for a bargain AU$3.24million. But, hey, why miss out on all the fun, especially when it only costs an extra half million or so.
Pinching F1 tech
GTR is grand prix inspired
You could be forgiven for being a bit cynical about F1-inspired technology in an era when every hot hatch and hi-po sedan makes the claim. Doubly so because we’re talking about the same era in which Formula 1 cars boast passenger-car-inspired technology, such as the petrol/electric hybrid system. However, the McLaren P1 GTR has actual Formula 1 tech at its core. The first racing car to be built around a carbonfibre tub was the 1981 McLaren MP4/1, while the McLaren F1 GTR was the first road car to be built around a carbonfibre tub. Today, the technology is central to the P1 GTR and every McLaren road car.