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Kirkaldy (McLaren): “We Can Fight for the Victory”

McLaren’s Andrew Kirkaldy on Spa 24 and 650s GT3…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

With McLaren currently leading the Blancpain Endurance Series in the teams standing with ART Grand Prix, and three cars entered in the Pro Cup, the British manufacturer is one of the contenders for the overall victory in this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.

Supporting its six customer cars taking part in the race, McLaren GT is operating in full force in the Belgian Ardennes.

“I see no reason why we couldn’t get a good result here this weekend, the speed is definitely there,” McLaren GT Managing Director Andrew Kirkaldy told Sportscar365.

“Last year we did have a few engine problems, but this year, from a reliability point of view, I think it should be ok… but you just never know. At Spa you’re also at the mercy of the weather, and some gentleman drivers are also unpredictable.

“At the end of the day it’s hard, competing against Audi that [spends] huge sums of money. As always, there’s a lot of luck involved in a race like this. Two years ago we had a lot of cars go out, but nearly all caused by accidents.”

So far, the weekend hasn’t gone all too well for McLaren, with the No. 98 ART Grand Prix entry crashing heavily at the end of Free Practice and the team only getting the car repaired right in time for the warmup this morning.

The No. 16 Boutsen Ginion MP4-12C, meanwhile, substantial damage after an off at Eau Rouge during yesterday’s Bronze Test.

“We have all of our engineers here, which lend their support to our customer teams,” Kirkaldy said.

“Both Boutsen Ginion and ART Grand Prix had major accidents and both cars got repaired. There are not that many manufacturers that have that much spares at the racetrack.”

While the focus is still very much on the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 this weekend, the brand new 650s GT3 is one of the eye catchers in the paddock.

“I don’t really like to call it an upgrade, because the car is a completely new homologation,” he said.

“There seems to be a high demand; it’s probably going to be 15 or 20, most of the teams running the 12C at the moment are planning to do the upgrade.

Testing has already begun, with the car recently completing more than 1000 km at Silverstone and Snetterton.

“Testing has gone very well so far, a lot of what we need to do is put mileage on the car,” Kirkaldy said. “Most of the changes are mainly mechanical, a lot of the other components are carry over, but the gearbox is new and that’s the most important thing to get mileage on.

“We focused on reliability, and that’s the reason for the new gearbox, which was one of the areas where we were struggling. We had electrical problems in the very beginning in 2012, and recently we haven’t seen any of this.

“The car will be at BoP test for the 2015 season in September. We won’t launch it like we did with the MP4-12C; it will just be our customers who will debut the car, possibly in the 24 Hours of Dubai or maybe even the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi.”

As was the case with the MP4-12C, a GTE version of the 650s is being considered.

“This car was designed for it to be able to become a GTE car. The problem at the moment with GTE is that is that we don’t have any engine regulations yet.

“We would certainly like to do it, it’s coming, but slowly. Until we know the rules it’s difficult to know how much funding is required to develop an engine to do it.

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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