This McLaren F1 GTR ‘Longtail’ took 18 months to fully restore

September 04, 2018

…but, for the love of God, don’t call it ‘iconic’ around James!

  • Check out the original post on driving.ca HERE


I despise the word ‘iconic’. It’s massively over-used these days alongside ‘passion’, ‘like’, ‘literally’, and ‘#FakeNews’, and is incessantly plastered ad hoc across newspapers, magazine articles, websites, TV and radio commercials, and every single press release ever written. Are you seriously trying to tell me that Amphora-lookalike coffee cups in New York, JT’s double denim at the ’02 American Music Awards, and Jason Bateman’s character in Arrested Development have transcended fame and become ‘conventional religious images’ á la the original derivation of the word ‘icon’? Seriously, these actually came up when I put the word into Google, for Christ’s sake!

You can imagine my barely contained chagrin then when McLaren recently announced a new authentication process for its…[sigh] iconic F1 GTR ‘Longtail’, the 16ft (4,933mm)-long beauty developed from the ’95 Le Mans-winning masterpiece that ALMOST won the FIA GT Championship on its first attempt. The new service is available to all 106 F1s built between 1993 and 1998 and allows owners to guarantee the authenticity and confirm each individual chassis’ history.

To get the proverbial ball rolling, Woking’s finest carmakers have even trotted out this beautifully restored ‘25R’ chassis, an example of McLaren’s almost anal attention to detail that took more than 18 months to complete. Every component has either been cleaned or replaced outright with original F1 GTR parts, and even the…eminent Gulf Oil livery used by the Gulf-Davidoff team in 1997 has been completely repainted.

Granted, it’s not the most illustrious heritage for this ico…epochal model. Its best result that ’97 season was 4th at both Helsinki and Silverstone, and a fractured oil line meant it fell two hours short of going the distance at that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Still, fun fact, having been sold to Hitotsuyama Racing in 1998, #25R was still competing in Japanese GT as late as 2005.

 

“The new service is available to all 106 F1s built between 1993 and 1998 and allows owners to guarantee the authenticity and confirm each individual chassis’ history”

 

Delve deeper, and you’ll find that chassis 25R is one of only 28 track-going examples of the F1 GTR ever built, the ‘Longtail’ accounting for just nine of them (10 if you include the initial development model). The F1 GTR had already won back-to-back BPR Global GT Series titles in ’95 and ’96, but for ’97, pressured by new technical regulations for the inaugural FIA GT Championship, McLaren aimed to evolve the F1 into ‘one of the purest race cars in modern motorsport history’.

The aerodynamic bodywork was extended both at the front and rear to increase downforce and reduce drag, the resultantly dubbed ‘Longtail’ sharing the same F1 chassis but sitting two-feet longer than its predecessor. New regulations meant the BMW-sourced 6,064cc naturally aspirated V12 had to run air restrictors, but still chucked out 600bhp, only 27bhp less than the three – yes, THREE – road-going models that were built. You can check out how that engine sounds on-board a Mika Hakkinen driven example at Laguna Seca below).

From conception to final build, the Longtail – carbon fibre body, sequential transmission and adaptive suspension included – was ready to turn its first wheel in anger after just three months. No wonder McLaren was pissed when that year’s homologation deadline was extended at the behest of the British marque’s rival teams. Still, the Longtail finished 2nd and 3rd at that year’s Le Mans, won five of the season’s 11 races (the first three consecutively), and would have claimed the Drivers’ championship outright had Team BMW Motorsport not finished outside the points at Sebring and the season finale at Laguna Seca.

Here then is an actual motoring icon. Something that, in the world of motorsport, genuinely does transcend ‘fame’. And I just can’t bring myself to describe it as such. Because I despite the word ‘iconic’. Not sure I’ve mentioned that already.