McLaren F1s to return to Le Mans

The mighty McLaren F1 GTRs that finished the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours in positions 1-3-4-5 will be run at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, as part of a special commemorative parade.

McLaren Automotive and McLaren Special Operations (MSO) have pulled together the five cars which run on the famous La Sarthe track for the first time since finishing the race 20 years ago.

Could McLaren return to Le Mans with 650S?

The short answer is yes, in fact it is inevitable. McLaren GT boss Andrew Kirkaldy has already gone on record stating intent for McLaren to re-engage with the world’s greatest endurance race.

The longer answer involves the timing, which will be dictated by the FIA and ACO GTE regulations for 2016.

The McLaren 650S has inherent design features that would make it able to run from a GT3 to a GTE spec car reasonably straightforward. These include bigger wheels and tyres, as well as aspects of the suspension and wheel hubs on the car.

The new regulations are expected to be a mere evolution of the current regulations, which will ensure that 2015 spec cars are essentially grandfathered over for the 2016 season.

In addition to McLaren, LMGTE will also see new designs from the majority of manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Porsche and Aston Martin. In addition, Ford is set to make an announcement next month at Le Mans confirming its return to Le Mans in 2016 with a Multimatic designed and developed GTE car.

The Parade and that race in ’95

Leading the parade will be the newest McLaren supercar – the McLaren P1 GTR, which will make its public debut. Four times Le Mans winner Yannick Dalmas will drive the new McLaren. His team mates from the successful 1995 Le Mans win in the Kokusai Aihatsu Racing entered car were JJ Lehto and Masanori Sekiya. They too will be involved in the display along with other McLaren drivers from that year’s race.

The 1995 result by McLaren ensured that they are only manufacturer to have claimed the Triple Crown of Motorsport – victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.

The win for McLaren 20 years ago was not without its controversy as the winning car, which was run by Paul Lanzante, had some significant support from the McLaren factory. This was despite McLaren promising at the beginning of the year to not favor one particular team and provide the same support to all of its customers at the time.

JJ Lehto’s legendary night stints in the No.59 car essentially won the race for the car – which featured sponsorship from a Japanese vasectomy clinic. The Finnish driver, whose F1 career was drying up, drove the race of his life and by early morning the black McLaren had a small lead over its nearest pursuer, the Harrods-backed, David Price-run F1 GTR of Andy Wallace and father/son combination Derek and Justin Bell.

When the Harrods car suffered clutch and gearbox problems the path was cleared for the No.59 ‘factory’ car, despite a last ditch attempt by the second-placed Courage of Mario Andretti, Eric Helary and Bob Wollek to challenge for the win.

When Dalmas crossed the line it ensured an historic win for McLaren and the first ever Japanese driver, in Sekiya, to win the race.

For the first time since Ferrari won at its first attempt in 1949, a manufacturer had won on its Le Mans debut. It is a record that is likely to never be equaled.

THE FAMOUS FIVE FINISHERS AT LE MANS IN 1995

Team: Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing (GB) – chassis #01R
Car number: 59
Drivers: Yannick Dalmas (F), JJ Lehto (SF), Masanori Sekiya (J)
Qualified: P9 / Finished: P1

Team: Mach One Racing (GB) – chassis #06R
Car number: 51
Drivers: Derek Bell (GB), Justin Bell (GB), Andy Wallace (GB)
Qualified: P13/ Finished: P3

Team: Gulf Racing (GB) – chassis #02R
Car number: 24
Drivers: Ray Bellm (GB), Mark Blundell (GB), Maurizio Sandro Sala (BR)
Qualified: P11 / Finished: P4

Team: Giroix Racing Team (F) – chassis #07R
Car number: 50
Drivers: Jean-Denis Delétraz (CH), Fabien Giroix (F), Olivier Grouillard (F)
Qualified: P15 / Finished: P5

Team: Société BBA Compétition (F) – chassis #05R
Car number: 42
Drivers: Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiére (F), Hervé Poulain (F), Marc Sourd (F)
Qualified: P20 / Finished: P13

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Series Le Mans
Article type Special feature