McLaren CEO, Martin Whitmarsh took time out from busy F1 season preparations to talk about the McLaren M4-12C GT programme and plans ahead for 2013.
Did the decision to develop the 12C yourselves for 2013 go as planned?
Development of the 12C GT3 continued to as an on-going process throughout the season, and worked in two stages. We have been working with each of the teams, receiving data and feedback from them, and working closely to understand and manage the performance and characteristics of the car. This process started before the start of the first race, and has continued throughout the full season. The team at McLaren GT has also been working hard to develop the 12C GT3 and improve reliability, driveability and efficiency. This has been done through continued durability testing and looking at ways to optimise the 12C GT3 whilst respecting the SRO, FIA and VLN Balance of Performances.
The start of the season was challenging but, through this dedicated development programme, the 12C GT3 is now proving to be a true contender on the grid. With 19 victories and a further 19 podium finishes in its competitive debut season in all competitions, it is considered by teams to be the ‘GT car to own and race’.
How did McLaren find the level of competition from other manufacturers in the Blancpain Endurance Series this year?
The Blancpain Endurance Series is one of the most competitive GT series in the world, and it was fantastic to see so many McLarens on the grid throughout 2012. It is also fantastic to see such a broad mix of major names in the world of automotive and sports car racing coming together to form such a strong grid. With major manufacturers in the mix, the competition is always going to be extremely high, and I think that has been evident throughout this season which has seen a range of winners from each manufacturer, and some of the closest racing I’ve ever seen.
When dealing with such professional teams and manufacturers, the competition is always going to be tough, but that is what makes the Blancpain Endurance Series so appealing. And, looking at the size of the grids, especially at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, there is a real draw to teams and drivers to be involved. It is a real credit to the teams and the organisers that each of the races have been so close, and that the battles throughout the grid have been so frequent.
Has racing the 12C enhanced the McLaren Automotive brand in 2012?
The 12C GT3 has really helped to support the global growth of McLaren Automotive. As a company, our goal is, and always has been, to win, and this is supported by the McLaren GT programme. The 12C GT3 has had a strong year, in what is the car’s competitive debut season and the results have helped promote the brand and the 12C.
It is great to have a successful product racing in a high profile series, such as the Blancpain Endurance Series, and with many of our customers fans of motorsport, it is fantastic to show what the 12C is capable of. We have seen more than 20 examples of the 12C GT3 racing throughout the 2012 season, visiting 14 countries, and it speaks volumes when you look at the level of support we received in markets where we currently do not have retailers such as Russia and Azerbaijan.
Do McLaren use the GT programme to give its young engineers more experience in a racing environment?
As part of the customer-focused programme that we operate, each team was offered the support of a young McLaren Racing Engineer for the 2012 season. Working in a variety of roles within teams, including race engineers and data engineers, the aim of this has been to provide teams with a McLaren ‘implant’ who knows the car, the company and the processes and, who is a direct link to the factory. The young engineers work with the team to set up the car, optimising performance throughout the season, and gives these young engineers a fantastic opportunity to work in real race situations, and gain valuable experience in a racing environment.
What plans are in place for the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series?
The 2013 season will see an additional production run of the 12C GT3 racing across the globe, and next season is shaping up to be another strong year for the Blancpain Endurance Series. I am pleased to see that there will be a strong presence of McLarens on the grid again. and we will be working with our customers to be at the front of the grid.
The final race of the season saw Hexis Racing claim the first outright victory for the 12C GT3 in the series, and ART took the Pro-Am class win, which was a great way to end the season. We are always looking forward as a company, and will be looking to build on this platform to achieve further success, and challenge for more podiums and victories.