It’s difficult to believe 20 years have passed since the McLaren F1 made its Le Mans debut. I was there, as a schoolboy, willing the British car to win. When the chequered flag dropped, the cars from Woking crossed the line in first, third, fourth, fifth and 13th places.
I remember being a little disappointed that the Gulf liveried car didn’t win, because it was by far the best looking according to this then-12-year-old critic (it was fourth), but the F1’s domination of the event in its first outing was a massive achievement. McLaren celebrated at the time by building five road-going F1 LMs, one for each car that finished the race.
Twenty years on, and it’s time to mark the occasion again. This time, McLaren’s MSO division is building a limited edition 650S. They enlisted F1 stylist Peter Stevens, who has added some F1-inspired details to the 650S’s shape. Most notable is the roof scoop, which feeds air to the 3.8-litre V8, but there are also louvres atop the front wings. Just as with the Le Mans winning car, this serves to reduce pressure above the tyres. The lightweight wheels are inspired by the racer’s, too.
You have to wonder whether there were boardroom discussions about adding two spotlights to the bonnet. No doubt regulatory considerations played a part in the decision not to ape that part of the Ueno Clinic sponsored car’s look.
The final nod to its inspiration is in the colour, which McLaren has called Sarthe Grey. (How much cooler would it look if the Gulf car had won?) It’s backed up with lots of bare carbon fibre. The sober colour scheme is enlivened with ‘Le Mans’ scripts in McLaren Orange both inside and out.
Only 50 650S Le Mans will be build for the worldwide market, each one being a coupé and priced at £244,500. The lucky buyers will be invited a celebration event to mark 20 years since the Le Mans win.