GENEVA, Switzerland — Those of us who thrilled to Ayrton Senna’s Formula 1 successes for McLaren Honda in the late 1980s and early 1990s (when American fans could finally watch every race on U.S. television, reliably) take this car very seriously. The race version of the new supercar named for the man who said, “if you are not filling the gap, you are not racing” had better be spectacular.
What is the McLaren Senna GTR? We spoke with McLaren’s chief operating officer, Jens Ludmann, to find out…
1. This is a racetrack-only McLaren Senna.
“It’s not designed for a specific race class,” Ludmann explains. “With the P1, we also had the GTR derivative, which is mainly targeted at track days and our cup racing. So all customers that have orders in [on the Senna] now have the option to also buy the GTR version.” McLaren plans to build 500 Sennas beginning the third quarter of this year, and just 75 Senna GTRs. Price of the GTR is 1 million pounds Sterling, or about U.S. $1.39-million at current exchange rates.
2. Its bespoke twin-turbo V-8 gets a 24-hp+ boost.
Like the “standard” roadgoing Senna, the GTR version uses McLaren’s bespoke 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, with a flat-plane crank and dry sump (no Honda, Renault, nor BMW badging on this engine). It’s rated “more than 825 PS,” or 813 horsepower, Ludmann says. The McLaren Senna is rated 789 hp and 590 lb-ft. Ludmann calls the GTR a concept, and so there are no torque figures for it yet. With extensive carbon fiber used on both, weight of the GTR won’t be much different than the Senna’s 2,641 pounds.
3. But it’s really about the downforce.
The rear wing is active, and moved a bit further back from the standard Senna’s rear wing, and there are two flaps in the front wing “which are actively controlled, to either have low drag or have high downforce,” which, by the way, is 800 kilograms, or 1,764 pounds. Not quite enough to race upside down, Ludmann says, but very close.
4. And the tires.
Pirelli is developing a bespoke racing slick for the McLaren Senna GTR. [The roadgoing Senna is shod with either Pirelli Trofeo Rs or P Zeros.]
5. What’s it like out there?
McLaren is developing the Senna GTR to a handling standard that doesn’t require track day training, Ludmann says. “I think that the level of downforce, if you’re not a professional race driver and you’re not used to that level of downforce, that gives you a very different driving experience. I’m a hobby racer, but I have never driven a downforce of 800 kilograms. The stability you get out of the downforce is phenomenal. If you’re at the end of the straight with the top speed and you then go and brake the car, normally your car settles quite a lot if you don’t fully brake. With this downforce, the car is very, very stable.”