We saw the new McLaren 675LT earlier today, which takes its name from the legendary McLaren F1 GTR Longtail racing car.
The F1 was originally conceived purely as a road car, but the creation of the BPR Global GT Series prompted many teams to ask the car’s designer, Gordon Murray, to modify it for racing. Murray resisted at first, but he finally agreed. The F1 GTR was born.
It proved a winner straight out the box, taking ten victories from 12 races in BPR and famously triumphing at Le Mans. It won BPR honours again in ’96, but the writing was clearly on the wall as Porsche dominated the second half of the season with the purpose-built 911 GT1.
In an effort to keep pace, McLaren went back to the drawing board and devised the Longtail. Both the nose and tail were made significantly longer, in an effort to improve the aerodynamics and the BMW engine was heavily modified.
The car pictured here was campaigned during ’97 in the renamed FIA GT1 Championship by JJ Lehto and Steve Soper, driving for the factory BMW Motorsport/Schnitzer team. The duo took four wins and finished second in the drivers’ championship.
It was Mercedes who took both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, though. Switching focus to a new prototype car for ’98, BMW pulled out. A single privateer team fielded a Longtail in GT1 racing that year and only scored minor points.
The F1 GTR Longtail’s front-line career was short-lived, but it’s legendary status was assured. It was the only machine during that unfettered period of GT racing that was clearly derived from a road car and it was by far the best-looking thing on the grid, as well.