THE GREATEST GT CARS
McLAREN F1 GTR
A COST-EFFECTIVE TRIUMPH
The McLaren F1 supercar wasn’t conceived
with the race track in mind. And nor was
the first competition version, the GTR,
designed for 24-hour racing. Yet a car that
had been little more than an idea 12
months earlier pulled off one of the most
amazing Le Mans wins of all time in 1995.
JJ Lehto, Yannick Dalmas and
Masanori Sekiya beat an admittedly
underwhelming selection of prototypes in
a race held in mostly wet conditions. But
it wasn’t a fluke for the car entered under
the Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing banner and
run by a mixture of personnel from the
McLaren factory and the British Lanzante
squad. The two McLarens run by David
Price Racing led for much of the way, the
Harrods-liveried version finishing third, and
two more GTRs came home fourth and fifth.
It was a triumph against the odds, aided
by wet conditions that not only leveled the
Nine F1 GTRs were
built for 1995. GT1
rules restricted power
to around 600hp,
but an F1 GTR hit
236.742mph on the
at Le Mans.
playing field, but eased the stresses on the
weak link of the car, the transmission. But
it was also a cost-effective triumph. The
development budget for the GTR was just
£750k ($1.2m), and a few hundred
thousand more to develop a Le Mans kit.
“Not much was done to the car,” recalls
Jeff Hazell, program manager for McLaren
Cars. “We took the rubber out of the
suspension and the engine subframes, put a
cage in, bolted on a wing, and went racing.”
The original short-tail version of the F1
GTR deserves its place on this list not just
for its against-the-odds Le Mans triumph.
It put the BPR-run Global Endurance GT
Series, which it went on to win in 1995
and ‘ 96, on the map and was central to
the rebirth of GT racing in Europe.
McLaren’s route to a 1995 Le Mans
victory with the F1 GTR (MAIN)
was made easier by amazing raw
materials in the F1 road car.
Surely no one can argue with two Porsches
making the top-five GT cars of all time. Yet
some might complain that there are only
two. There are any number of other
candidates, of which the 993-shape 911
GT2 of the late 1990s deserves mention.
It was the car that took the fight to the
increasingly competitive Dodge Vipers.
The 935, in all its iterations, might
have made the list, but an onus on real
production GTs explains its absence. The
scope of the Group 5 silhouette
regulations in Europe and the closely-
related GTX regs in the U.S. led to wilder
and wilder creations that ever distanced
the car from its road-going roots.
Same reasoning why there’s no room here
NOT QUITE...AND NOT ALLOWED
for the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR,
winner of the FIA GT Championship in its glory
year of 1997, or the ultimate example of the
late-’90s breed of GT1 machinery, the Toyota
GT-One. They were prototypes in all but name
Chevrolet fans might be disappointed to
see that the C5-R, the first in a line of
ultra-successful racing Corvettes to roll out
of Pratt & Miller’s workshops, hasn’t made
the top five. Its achievements as a factory
racer almost rank alongside those of the
Dodge Viper, and it also notched up an
overall win at Daytona, but it didn’t have the
same success with privateers. And then
there’s the fact that the C5-R wasn’t built
around a production Corvette chassis...
CLoSE, bu T No CIGAR...
Viper-baiting Porsche 911 GT2 of the late
1990s was a “close, but no cigar” decision
when it came to getting on our top-five list.
Toyota GT-one? A fantastic machine, but a GT
car in name only. Ditto for Mercedes-benz’s
gorgeous (though prone to flying) CLK-GTR.
The Chevrolet Corvette C5-R had a
spectacular competition career, but didn’t
really deliver with privateer teams.