Twenty-five years ago, McLaren achieved a racing success that not event the best experts had previously thought possible. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, five brand new F1 GTRs crossed the finish line in 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th places. The maximum that was expected before was a respectable position in the GT1 category. However, after the favored open prototypes had all dropped out and fallen behind due to technical problems, and the weather played into the hands of the closed sports cars for many hours due to massive rainfall, the McLarens were ultimately uncatchable in front. And all this with a sports car that was never actually planned as a racing car and that had been brought from the road to the track with just a few small measures. To this day, the McLaren F1 GTR is the last Le Mans winning car that could have crossed the finish line and then be driven back home on its own wheels without too many problems.
25 cars in Le Mans style
To commemorate this great success, five customers asked to have their new McLaren Senna GTRs designed in the style of the five F1 GTRs that crossed the finish line in 1995. Each of these five cars is a unique one-off, and the painting of each took around 800 hours of work. All sponsor logos and details are hand-painted – with the exception of the scrutineering sticker on the roof of the vehicles, which were allowed to be reproduced exactly from the 1995 originals in agreement with the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) racing association. McLaren Special Operations (MSO) obtained all necessary permission from the respective companies for the advertising imprints.
Inside, each model features gold anodized paddle shifters, titanium nitride pedals, ‘GTR LM’ logos on the six-point seatbelts, and a metal badge with a reference to the F1 GTR it represents, including its chassis number and the names of the three drivers who were at the wheel in 1995. McLaren engineers also increased the power of the four-liter V8 biturbo engine to 845 horsepower, 20 hp more than the regular Senna GTR, by adding new metal matrix composite (MMC) valve spring retainers, higher grade steel for the valve springs, recalibrated powertrain electronics, and CNC-machined and hand-polished cylinder heads. At the rear, unique LM tailpipes protrude from the body, and OZ-made five-spoke alloy wheels in the style of the F1 GTR are fitted in the wheel arches. The five cars were originally intended to be handed over to their owners from the UK, Europe and the USA as part of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race and, at the invitation of the ACO, they would have been allowed to lap the famous racing circuit together with the five original F1 GTRs on the race Saturday before the main event. However, this action had to be postponed until 2021 due to the Corona pandemic.
McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/1 ‘Ueno Clinic’
The most famous of the 28 McLaren F1 GTRs ever built is clearly the car with chassis number 01R. It was exactly this car with the starting number 59 that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995. For this race, the GTR received a two-tone ‘Sarthe Grey’ and ‘Ueno Grey’ paint scheme and sponsor stickers from the Ueno Clinic in Tokyo, Japan. For the Senna GTR LM, inspired by this car, MSO specially mixed new shades of color to best match the characteristic anthracite. The new owner also commissioned special driving lights that can be mounted on the front of the car, as was the case with the F1 GTR. Unfortunately these lights are not yet visible in the press photos.
McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/2 ‘Gulf Oil’
Inspired by the McLaren F1 GTR with chassis number 02R, which took fourth place in Le Mans in 1995 with the starting number 24, a suitably designed Senna GTR LM was also created. The then ‘Gulf Racing Blue’ was interpreted by MSO as the new ‘Gulf 95 Blue’ and combined it with accents in ‘Gulf 95 Orange’ and some areas in ‘Gulf 95 Silver’. In contrast to the original, the new owner wanted the autograph of the former Formula 1 world champion and eponym of the car, Ayrton Senna da Silva, on the rear fenders.
McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/5 ‘The Cesar Car’
Racing fans know Art Cars especially from the brand history of BMW. But also other manufacturers and teams have already used the special stylistic device of art and race tracks. In 1995, it was the French racing team Société BBA, which competed with the French racing drivers Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiere, Marc Sourd and Hervé Poulin in a specially designed McLaren F1 GTR with the starting number 42. It was designed by the artist Cesar Baldaccini, who chose Hervé Poulin’s collection of race trophies as a source of inspiration. In the end, the team finished 13th, and in reinterpreting this Art Car, MSO incorporated new elements such as the 1995 pole position lap time, newer racing trophies and a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of McLaren’s success using airbrush techniques. This car took significantly longer to paint than the other four cars. MSO estimates that a total of several thousand working hours were required.
McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/6 ‘Harrods’
With the starting number 51, Andy Wallace, Derek Bell and Justin Bell started in Le Mans in 1995. Their McLaren F1 GTR wore striking yellow with dark green accents and the London luxury department store Harrods was the main sponsor. They were in the lead for a long time, but had to settle for third place after a gearbox failure two hours before the end of the race. The color scheme of the F1 GTR 06R was already given to a new P1 GTR in 2015. Now, for the first time, MSO was also allowed to re-use the Harrods logo on a vehicle again. The Senna GTR LM has ‘Solar Yellow’ paint with stripes in ‘Heritage Green’ and like the Gulf car the Senna autograph an the rear fenders.
McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/7 ‘Jacadi’
The fifth and final McLaren Senna GTR LM quotes the F1 GTR with chassis number 07R, which finished the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 in fifth place with starting number 50. MSO painted this car in ‘Le Mans Blue’ with a wide side stripe in ‘Polaris’ (blue metallic). Large logos of the French mineral oil company Elf can be found on the bodywork, as well as the French Tricolor flag, which is reminiscent of the Giroix Racing team at the time.