Take a long, hard look at the picture above. Waves of elation radiating through your loins? Good. Because it would be wise to cap that unbridled nostalgia with a simple fact: it took Mercedes-Benz’s crack team of AMG specialists just 3,072 hours to build a car that would ultimately humiliate it.
It’s 1997, and McLaren is reacting to the news that Mercedes-Benz is fielding an entrant into the newly formed FIA GT Championship. To compete, it must reconfigure its unrivalled and all-conquering F1 GTR racer into something more monstrous and with greater aerodynamic capabilities.
So the 1997 GTR featured the same carbon fibre monocoque as the road car, but now sported a full, purpose-built racing body with longer front and rear overhangs, along with that Top Gear Approved rear wing (we like Things With Wings). Enter the ‘Longtail’.
The GTRs started off the season with a trio of wins, but then began an epic season-long fight with the growing power of the Mercedes CLK-GTR driven by Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig that would ultimately win the ’97 championship. Come ’98, the CLK won everything, leaving all other contenders wondering where to fit their rear spoilers.
But winning isn’t everything, is it? And anyway, the Mercs were all purpose-built racers – the McLaren was still a road car at heart. Step out of motorsport, and what you’re looking at is a 600-odd bhp McLaren F1 with a fabulous BMW V12, liveried in the coolest racing colours known to man. This particular example, car number 028R (which competed at the ‘Ring, Spa, Donington, Sebring, Mugello and even Laguna Seca) is the 28th and final GTR produced by the Woking factory – a place we really admire and secretly fear – and the last ever ‘Longtail’ made.
Plus, it looks really, really, cool. It’s going under the hammer in August at Bonham’s Quail Lodge Sale, and if you have to ask how much…