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The MP4-12C, McLaren’s first GT3 car in 16 years, has landed. It looks… well, just look at it. Earlier this month, Top Gear was granted an exclusive audience with 2011’s most stunning racer, a car with a fat weight of expectation pressing down on its wide arches. The MP4-12C’s racing predecessor, the F1 GTR, won Le Mans outright in 1995. Talk about pressure…
So let’s get this out the way straight off: the MP4-12C GT3 won’t emulate its dad by winning Le Mans. Not outright, not even a class victory. The McLaren isn’t eligible to run in the world’s biggest 24-hour event: instead, it’s been built to compete in the FIA GT3 class, and will make its competitive debut at the Spa 24 Hours in late July.
GT3 cars are, in essence, road-going supercars turned up to 11 and beyond. The MP4-12C racer retains the road car’s 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 (making it the only turbo to run in the GT3 class), carbon tub and delicious scissor doors, but gets a 10mm wider track, roll cage and slick tyres. Oh, and all that fantastic aero slattery…

See more pics of the new MP4-12C GT3 

The reason the MP4-12C looks far more joined up, more cohesive than the average GT3 car - and, indeed, how it has reached the track so quickly after the road car’s debut - is because it was developed in-house by McLaren alongside the road car project from an early stage. The GT3 car was finessed in McLaren F1’s insanely powerful simulator, the £50m supercomputer used by Lewis and Jenson to fine-tune their F1 cars. A useful secret weapon.
But will it be quick? Well, GT3 racers operate under a devilishly complicated handicap system, so a car’s competitiveness depends on more than its raw pace, but the McLaren team sound mighty confident.
“This car will be winning from the very first race,” asserts Colin Goodwin, McLaren Automotive’s chief test driver, and head of the development project for the road car. “I’ve driven - and won - in GT cars that were less driveable than this on the first day of testing…”
We’ll find out at Spa in late July. And don’t forget that the F1 GTR racer spawned a road car variant, the gorgeous F1 LM. Imagine a road-going MP4-12C GT3: big wing, less weight, more noise. Just a thought, McLaren. Just a thought…
For the full story on the MP4-12C GT3 you need the May issue of TopGear magazine, on sale now

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