In 1995, after a terrific year, McLaren was determined to stay competitive – especially against the threat of newer sports cars such as the Ferrari F50 GT and the Porsche 911 GT1. It was assisted by BMW Motorsport, who used its connection to McLaren to enter sports car racing by running its own race team with F1 GTRs.
Among the enhancements were an extension of the front and rear bodywork, including a more aggressive chin spoiler that increased the car’s overall length by 80mm. Set-up changes included a suspension drop by 15mm at the front, while mechanical revisions involved an uprated gearbox housed in a lightweight magnesium casing. This featured stronger shafts, thicker wall casings and wider gear wheels.
Additionally, a weight loss from 1050kg to 1012kg meant the same 6.0-litre BMW V12 performed even better.
In fact,the F1 GTR 1996 was the fastest variant in terms of straight-line speed. It managed 205mph on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in 1996, 8mph faster than the 1997 long-tail F1 GTR and 4mph faster than the 1996 Porsche GT1.
This car is chassis 016R, and it was Team Bigazzi’s car for the 1996 season. Its greatest victory was at the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing 11th place overall with the infamous Steve Soper, Jacques Latiffe and Marc Duez behind the wheel. It would have finished significantly higher up the grid had the gearbox not needed replacing.
The car also ran at Silverstone in the BPR Global GT Series, finishing fourth overall with Nelson Piquet and Steve Soper driving. It was leading for most of the race, but a strategy error caused the car to run out of fuel, dropping a lap.
Following 016R’s retirement from racing, it was converted for road use by Paul Lanzante (who,interestingly, also E prepared the GTR that won Le Mans in 1995), although it is still eligible for the GT90 series. Many of the original parts that were removed during the conversion stayed with the C car,but it was repainted Papaya Orange by McLaren.
Later on it was tested by Tiff Needell on Fifth Gear, and it is now in the ownership of Chris Palmer back in its original and splendid Fina livery. Despite boasting a well documented race history, it’s in exceptional condition throughout.