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Crucial Eyeing IMSA Sprint Cup Outings with McLaren

McLaren squad Crucial Motorsports targeting more IMSA races beyond confirmed enduro program…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Crucial Motorsports is looking to contest some of the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup rounds this season with its McLaren 720S GT3, according to team co-owner Paul Holton. 

The Florida-based outfit is committed to the four Michelin Endurance Cup events but is also considering further outings during its first year of WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

Holton told Sportscar365 that Crucial envisages entering the Grand Prix of Long Beach in GTD Pro but stressed that no plans have been finalized.

The organization’s Endurance Cup program is focused on the standard GTD category and is starting at the Rolex 24 at Daytona this week where Holton is sharing the distinctive orange McLaren with Jon Miller, Patrick Gallagher and Lance Bergstein.

Holton and Miller qualified the car on the front row of the GTD grid by finishing second in last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 qualifying race.

“There is definitely a possibility [for sprint races],” said Holton. “I selfishly want to do Long Beach in GTD Pro and I want to do Detroit as well.

“We’ve had some conversations with drivers to do some more sprint races, so I definitely think it’s possible.

“I don’t think we’ll do a full season, but who knows. Maybe this goes really well and we go back to do a full season after Sebring… it’s all up in the air. But my goal is definitely to do a couple of sprint races this year with the eye for 2023 being a full season.”

Holton added that round three of the season at Long Beach in April is currently the most likely of the potential extra races.

If a deal comes together, it would mark the first entry for McLaren in the top GT class of the WeatherTech Championship.

It would also add a second McLaren to the IMSA grid for Long Beach, in addition to the Inception Racing entry which is signed up for the full season in GTD.

“Long Beach I think is high on the likelihood,” said Holton.

“Detroit slightly less, and then some of the other ones are pretty high as well. We’ve got some good interest to do it. And I think 2023 for a full season is very likely.”

Asked about the factors that will determine any additional races for Crucial, Holton replied: “There are some commercial deals in the works that need to come through.

“For regular GTD, we are in conversation with some Am drivers with backing to do those.

“For GTD Pro it’s all commercial deals at this point. They’re in the works and will hopefully be finalized before we get to Sebring.

“I would hope that by the time we get to Sebring, we would have a definitive plan of the sprint races we’re going to do this year.”

Crucial made its GT3 debut at last October’s Indianapolis 8 Hour where Holton teamed up with factory drivers Rob Bell and Ben Barnicoat, who is now at Lexus.

The team has made some small increases in its personnel for the switch to IMSA competition, including the addition of a second on-the-ground engineer from JOTA after the British squad loaned one staff member for Indianapolis.

Crucial now has two JOTA engineers working on-site and another working remotely, plus three of its own and one from McLaren, as well as some new mechanics.

“We have a pit box full of people for one car,” Holton explained.

“And all new pit equipment from what we had at Indy, so it’s been good to get that set up. That took up a good portion of time in the shop.

“The car was torn down after Indy. We went on the in-house dyno to get baseline numbers.

“We actually re-loomed the whole car, then went down to the tub and built it back up. All three of our lead mechanics have been in there for two months, working on the car.

“McLaren have been a super big help and have done a really good job with their simulations and suggested setups. We did a test in December here, so that bolstered their simulation data. But that is lining up with exactly what we see on track.”

Crucial “Tooling Up” Race Program for Future

Holton added that Crucial is in the process of investing for a larger facility where it can house more racing projects in the coming years.

The company already services vintage and club-level race cars at its shop but is aiming to increase its involvement in professional motorsport moving forward, which would require the expansion to a larger headquarters.

“We’re tooling up and investing in equipment to be able to do GT3 or prototypes,” Holton said.

“We have a new state-of-the-art hauler coming and engineering facilities. We’re looking at a new shop in the Orlando area, a much larger facility.

“We’re in 5,000 sq. ft. right now. We’re looking to do like twice or three times larger.

“We’re not lacking for customer cars right now. We’ve got lots of vintage guys and club racers in and out of the shop, so we have the bandwidth to work on multiple cars and we’re already doing it. It’s just a matter of which category and where we want to be.

“Right now we really like the support from McLaren. The car is, in my opinion, the raciest of the GT3 cars.

“I’m super happy with where we are and we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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