McLaren looks set to have a continued presence in Intercontinental GT Challenge despite the in-house takeover of its GT racing programs.
The British manufacturer, which will debut the all-new 720S GT3 in international competition next year, is likely to feature in IGTC with its initial selection of customer teams, although details are still being finalized, according to McLaren Automotive director of motorsport Dan Walmsley.
Previously, McLaren had been represented in the first three seasons of the globe-trotting series with customer and factory-supported teams campaigning the 650S GT3 (pictured above), in a program largely spearheaded by the car’s constructor CRS GT Ltd.
“We’re definitely interested,” Walmsley told Sportscar365. “I love the format, I love the pulling together of all of the blue riband races to create some really prestigious opportunities to race in front of exciting crowds and in grueling conditions.
“It’s of huge interest and we feel that those races will really be the proving point of a manufacturer’s car, so we have a huge appetite to be there and to do well.”
Walmsley indicated that McLaren could remain a full-season manufacturer next year, although it faces challenges for two races of the expanded five-round season.
It’s new-for-2019 car will not be permitted to take part in February’s season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour due to the event falling under 2018 SRO Balance of Performance regulations, while the season finale at Kyalami poses a logistical challenge with the lack of customers in the region.
“The interest and the parties that are lining up for next year [to run the 720S GT3s] are global,” Walmsley said. “They cover the majority of the footprint of what the Intercontinental GT Challenge does.
“There are the outliers like Kyalami and we’re looking at how we would best piece together a program on that, and we’re not there on all pieces of the jigsaw.
“For us, we really want to showcase the car well. That blend of circuits, that blend of environments and different continents, will show the versatility of all the products, so it’s important for us to make sure we’ve got a presence.”
Should McLaren commit, it would join Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Bentley and Porsche as registered IGTC manufacturers, alongside the possible additions of Nissan, Honda and Lamborghini to the grid for 2019.
SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel said they “could double” the number of brands in the series next year.
McLaren Set for Limited First-Year Customer Rollout
Walmsley confirmed that McLaren is set for a limited number of 720S GT3 customers next year, although strategically placed in key markets and series around the world.
So far, only Compass Racing has been announced as a customer team, with the Canadian team set to take on the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup.
“We haven’t announced the number but we will be running in limited numbers next year with a real focus on delivering top-class customer service, in making sure [the customers] are well-supported in spare parts, qualified engineers,” Walmsley said.
“We are keen on having global coverage. We are trying to make sure we fit both the championship profile with the team we’re working with. We want to work with the highest-profile teams we can.
“It’s a combination of those two factors that will finally dictate the ultimate entries [for 2019] from the customers.”
Walmsley said they don’t anticipate reaching the FIA’s required initial two-year production run of 20 GT3 cars in 2019, stating that next year’s customer rollout is going to be “quite exclusive.”