Only one car can ever truly be considered royalty. Only one car can garner respect and reverence in its presence. Only one car can be better than any other in every way, and somehow be better than even that. It also helps that the toy looks bloody incredible, too.
For LaLD Car Week, I present to you all: two iterations of the 1995 McLaren F1 GTR, as rendered by Hot Wheels.
In 1992, the world saw the McLaren F1 road car for the first time. Three years later, it won Le Mans. No other road car since was able to replicate the feat. Nothing that isn’t turbocharged is faster. The F1 turned the supercar from mere sporting novelty and technology demonstrator to transcendent, world-conquering machines, the defining product of a car manufacturer, an ultimate aspiration.
So mythical is the F1 and its GTR racing variant that at times I think we’re losing sight of what makes the car a legend, and why its triumphs can only ever come by because it was designed from the start to supersede anything on the road. With HW’s F1 GTR model, I aim to at least collate all that’s been said and use them to help shape my opinion about the F1's worth and place in car culture.
BORN TO RULE
Thing is, the F1 GTR isn’t supposed to be a thing at all. Gordon Murray set out to create the best road car on the planet, but the resulting car had flaws that Mark Blundell thought would make it a middle-of-the-road racer if it wasn’t for its towering BMW V12, itself more capable than Murray anticipated. No, the F1 GTR is entirely customer-requested.
Ray Bellm wanted to race it, see, but Ron Dennis had trepidation about the proposal, telling Bellm to find three friends for a bulk-buy if he can’t afford a bespoke racer. The result? Something that passed FIA GT regulations, but otherwise kept the car more or less stock. Anti-roll bars only existed in front, it needed a new steering rack, and lifted at speed (which seems like a red herring but I digress). Barring the engine, almost everything else about the car is tuned explicitly for street use, proving itself to be a challenge when it raced at Le Mans in 1995.
But then, the car won Le Mans on its debut, which means the package, despite its compromises, was sound, and capable of outrunning just about every other entrant. Blundell’s team with the Gulf car ran it back from last to fourth. GTE racers today are incapable of equaling the feat even if the limiters come off—and the F1 GTR itself is already 27 horsepower weaker than the 240mph road car. Murray, Bellm, and the rest of McLaren’s GTR teams drove the chariot of gods to victory. Well, most of them at least.
DRIVEN IN SECRET
Roland Ravenwest and his Sports Driving Team were—and still are currently—based in West Sussex, England, running around in open-wheel formula, Super Touring cars and grand tourers until Ray Bellm told him about a prime opportunity to race a truly incredible machine at the most difficult endurance event in the world. Bellm tapped Ravenwest for their deep driver pool and experience at the Nurburgring and Bathurst, and was soon part of the Lanzante effort that took top honors in 1995. For the most part, everyone was elated—the F1 GTR experiment worked.
Behind the scenes, however, Roland had been planning a bigger campaign with Paul Lanzante, with a stint in the All-Japan GT Championship and even an American campaign. After Lanzante’s F1 failed to get through British GT, McLaren provided Ravenwest with that chassis as well as the winning F1 GTR for use, and guaranteed Ravenwest full factory support.
This particular livery was supposed to debut at the 1996 24 Hours of Daytona, but spare parts were suddenly pulled at the last minute, meaning the car wasn’t able to even qualify for the race. Sebring was more of the same, and before the race at Watkins Glen, Ravenwest flew back to Britain, cutting their losses by discontinuing the IMSA effort and telling Goh Kazumichi to continue without him. Until today, no one has ever known of Ravenwest’s involvement in the F1 GTR programme, in line with Ravenwest’s own secretive practices.
Today, the Ravenwest McLaren is raced in historic series, and with Roland’s son Richard now running 720S GT3 cars for Ravenwest, this F1 and the journey it went through is now shown to the world.
UNBRIDLED BY SCALE
What about the models, then? They’re quite good, actually, especially for at most Php200 (rounds out to about US$2.00 because currency conversions don’t really reflect actual costs). The mainline F1 GTR is a bit tainted by its moulded wing, but I actually like the livery more than the test colors on the orange car, as well as the 10SP wheels. On the other hand, the orange on the Gran Turismo car is simply impeccable, and photographs better than the resulting shots actually show (I apologize).
Both samples seemed impossible to find here in Manila, but two separate lucky chances netted me my idol car in two forms. About the only car I’d ever look for is the Gulf Car Culture version and Nick Mason’s car from Speed Machines. I’m happy I have these, and they’re a truly integral part of my collection and fiction. What I have are miniature toy versions of true greats, a grave understatement for Her Highness McLaren F1 GTR, Conqueror or Le Mans.
So ends my feature for the third day of LaLD Car Week, shot and written under duress. I had to move this post further back to ensure I can still nail the epilogue shot through to the night. Golly me, I can’t work like this.
Thank you for clicking in and reading on!