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McLaren discussing Le Mans return

By Cameron Kirby, 10 Feb 2017 Motorsport

McLaren discussing Le Mans return

The new McLaren CEO wants the British brand to return to the La Sarthe circuit.

McLAREN’S relationship with the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans was relatively brief, but remains one of the most famous stories in motorsport.

The tale of how a GT-spec McLaren F1 GTR took outright victory in 1995 in its debut year is retold and revered to this day, with the race-spec versions of the F1 road car becoming cult classics, fetching inordinate sums of money at auction.

Now new McLaren chief Zak Brown wants the brand to head back to the La Sarthe circuit, and has confirmed there are ongoing internal discussions regarding a new racing project.

"We have won Le Mans and the race is in our history, and part of my job is to decide where the McLaren brand should race," he told UK publication Autosport.

"Going back to Le Mans is something we have identified and are discussing. Personally, I would love to see us go to Le Mans, and I'm not the only one with those views."

Brown clarified he wouldn’t be the man to make the final call  that task would ultimately fall to McLaren Automotive and chief operations officer Mike Flewwit.

It is likely if McLaren did return to Le Mans, it would be in GTE (a variation on GT3 which McLaren competes in with the McLaren 650S GT3 racer), against the likes of Ford, Ferrari, and Aston Martin.

On the chances of an LMP1 effort in an attempt to recreate the brand’s outright victory in 1995, “Never say never,” was Brown’s reply.

If the company did decided to go ahead with a GTE assault, Brown said it “would take several years to put together”.

The McLaren 650S GT3 program is handled by the independent and self-funded McLaren GT.

Brown was unclear on whether a GTE program would be handled within McLaren Automotive or by the GT division.

McLaren GT boss Andrew Kirkaldy said his company, with ongoing contracts for the 650S GT3 and 570S GT4, would require the support of McLaren Automotive to be competitive in GTE against the factory might of Ford and Ferrari.

"There have been discussions, but I can't say too much," he told Autosport. "The hope is that we would be involved."

A MP4/12C GTE project was ready to start development in 2013, but was shelved when the WEC and 24 Hour of Le Mans promoters launched an unsuccessful bid to merge GT3 and GTE regulations.