McLaren’s Speedy First Impression
Thursday, April 27, 2017

After IMSA announced in August 2016 that the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge would see a transition to the GT4 technical specifications in its Grand Sport (GS) class, there was a wave of excitement throughout the racing world about what the changes would bring.

Two races into the season, GS has seen a bolstered number of cars battle on track, but there has been one newcomer in particular that has caught the eye of many- the McLaren GT4.

Three teams, C360R, Motorsports In Action and VOLT Racing, were quick to pounce on the new McLaren racecar, which until the end of last year, had only been made for the manufacturer’s internal use and testing only. 

“The first five cars all came to America and to run in GS, the first five cars produced,” Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 C360R McLaren GT4 said. “The only car they made before that was the test car they ran in British GT last year.”

Because the cars are fresh off the production line, each of the three teams have benefited from McLaren’s unwavering support. The manufacturer has sent representatives to each race in order to work with the teams to gather information and improve the car’s performance.

“It’s been exciting because we’ve been able to work really closely with McLaren,’ Holton said. “It’s just a learning process for the entire team to get on the same page with the car, the drivers, the crew and the manufacturer and right now, I’m pretty optimistic.”

For Motorsports In Action (MIA), McLaren’s decision to produce a GT4 car was the primary reason Team Owner Eric Kerub chose to enter IMSA competition. Kerub was formerly the president of TAG Aeronautics, a branch of Techniques d’Avant Garde, which holds a stake in McLaren.

“It’s a brand I’ve been familiar with since Day 1 and it’s my passion,” Kerub said. “The fact that Carl (Hermez, team crew chief) came to me and said that IMSA is changing their GS approach for 2018 starting in 2017 and everything’s going to be homologated to GT4, we looked at the program and said it’s a perfect fit for us. It all started with McLaren.”

MIA currently fields two McLarens in GS, one of which is driven by a pair of Porsche GT3 Cup champions with Chris Green and Jesse Lazare. Kerub isn’t surprised by the McLaren’s strong showing in the Continental Tire Challenge so far, but admits there is a big change his drivers are experiencing.

“The GT4 homologation of these cars make it much more of a street car than a racecar,” Kerub said. “Every racecar in the world, while you’re throttling, you can still apply the brake in the corner to balance the car out. In these cars, you can’t. The minute you tap on the brakes it’s like a street car and it wants to stop. Then when it wants to stop, it wants to cut all the power to the right foot. It’s very street-safety oriented.”

But power is definitely something the McLaren doesn’t lack.

“It’s detuned to be able to fit in the class, so having a super series car to begin with and then working downwards gives slightly more of a benefit than what you’re capable of doing than to try and bring a car up to its maximum potential.”

Much like MIA, it was an easy decision for VOLT Racing to partner with McLaren for its first season in the Continental Tire Challenge.

“When I realized we had an opportunity to be an early adopter and literally get car number one off of McLaren’s line, that was an exciting proposition,” said Alan Brynjolfsson, VOLT Racing team owner and driver. “It’s been a great two-way street in terms of how McLaren has been supportive of us and I don’t think we would’ve gotten that personalized level from some of the other manufacturers.”

Along with McLaren’s support, there were many factors about the new car that appealed to Brynjolfsson, whose racing career began only 18 months ago but quick success in development series led him to make the jump into GS.

“The car is low and aerodynamic and should do great for high speed tracks like Daytona,” Brynjolfsson explained. “It’s low and wide, so it should have great cornering ability. It’s mid-engine, so it should be balanced and it’s been detuned, so it’s got the power. I’m confident in myself and my co-driver Chris Hall, so if we’ve got the car and we’ve got the drivers, we’ve got a shot.”

Technical aspects aside, Brynjolfsson circled back to one of the most fundamental points of racing when talking about his love for the new McLaren GT4.

“Why not drive a cool car, right? I mean, that’s why we’re doing it in the end is to have some fun and excitement. I love it, the fans love it. It’s a win-win.”