Compass Racing team principal Karl Thomson has given high praise to the new McLaren 720S GT3, as the team comes to grips with the all-new GT3 contender ahead of its North American race debut next month at Mid-Ohio.
The Canadian squad took delivery of its car late last month, and following a shakedown at Palm Beach International Raceway, recently completed a test at Mid-Ohio in advance of the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup season-opener on May 5.
Thomson, whose team claimed GS class honors in January’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Daytona with its McLaren 570S GT4 car, said their step up into GTD competition has been eased by the established and close working relationship with McLaren Automotive.
“We already know the platform well because we’ve been working with McLaren testing,” Thomson told Sportscar365.
“Paul [Holton] has obviously been very involved with it, since spring last year. Those were the prototypes and not the actual [GT3] cars. And they are different.
“It’s such an incredible piece of kit. It’s beautifully built. They’ve done a really nice job with the engineering. The electronics are great. When folks see it, it just looks like a spaceship.”
While having received the car slightly later than initially expected, Thomson said they still have an extensive testing program planned in the coming weeks.
Paul Holton and Matt Plumb, the team’s drivers for its Sprint Cup campaign, are due to turn laps at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park later this week, with additional testing scheduled after Mid-Ohio.
“I think from a testing perspective, we’re a little behind where I wanted to be,” Thomson said. “But it’s a brand-new car and very bespoke.
“We’ll go with the goal of scoring points in Mid-Ohio. Then we’ve got some testing to do in advance of Detroit. I think by the time we get to Waktins Glen and Mosport we should be pretty solid.
“We’re in this for the sprint championship so scoring points at every round is important.
“Last year, the championship-winning car [in GTLM] didn’t win a race. Do we want to win? Absolutely. But we’re going in with an eye on the championship.”
Two-Car Program Targeted for 2020
Thomson said they hope to expand into a two-car GTD operation next year, with the plan of running at least one McLaren GT3 for the full WeatherTech Championship season.
It would be in addition to its Pilot Challenge commitments, which currently sees Holton and fellow McLaren factory driver Kuno Wittmer in the GS championship fight.
“I think [what] is reasonable is a full season car and one Sprint [only],” Thomson said.
“The Sprint championship is attractive and it [fills] a nice spot between GS and full-season GTD. That sprint championship is perfect.