McLaren has used the Goodwood Festival of Speed to confirm the first details of its latest GT3 contender.

Based on the new McLaren 650S, the latest generation track-focused racer will contest GT3 championships across the globe from the 2015 season. Building on the highly successful 12C GT3, which has firmly re-established McLaren at the front of the GT grid over the past three seasons, the 650S GT3 has big shoes to fill, but comes equipped with the latest version of the award-winning, 3.8-litre McLaren V8 twin turbo 'M838T' engine, producing around 500PS - the same power as the 12C GT3, which is controlled by the FIA's Balance of Performance (BOP) regulations.

"The 650S GT3 is a natural progression of an already successful racer, but we have looked at all the different areas where we could possibly make even the slightest incremental improvement," Andrew Kirkaldy, MD of McLaren GT, explained.

"The revised aerodynamic profile looks much more purposeful, and we have managed to incorporate increased levels of cooling without any detriment to performance. A big step forward has also been made in terms of servicing the car, which can be the difference between a race win and finishing off the podium, and the cost of running a car at a competitive level, and this becomes more important the longer and more demanding the event. By simplifying maintenance and repair processes, and cutting down the time and costs involved, the 650S GT3 will be even more competitive at the longer endurance events with time required in the pitlane reduced to a minimum."

Reduced cost of ownership has been a priority during the design and development of the 650S GT3, and this has been achieved through extended component life, including increased engine and gearbox rebuild intervals, together with re-designed components and systems to reduce parts costs. Body panel design and fit have also been optimised which will not only minimise pit lane repair times but also aids weight distribution through the use of lighter components.

Existing owners of the 12C GT3 are also able to benefit from the updates and enhancements offered by the 650S GT3, due to the use of the shared chassis structure and award winning engine. This upgrade package further extends the life of existing 12C GT3 cars allowing them to continue racing competitively through a second GT racing life cycle. For many McLaren GT3 owners this allows them to race their existing car for an average of six seasons.

The 650S GT3 development programme has pulled significant data from the findings and lessons learned from the 12C GT3 programme. Testing of the 650S GT3 will continue throughout the summer with customer car production commencing in the autumn. Pricing for the 650S GT3 has been confirmed at around ?330,000 ex-works plus tax, and around 15 examples of the car are planned to be produced and delivered for the start of the 2015 season. With the optional upgrade package for 12C GT3, this could see an additional 15 cars running the new design from next season.

"This is a car that is improving on a race-winning formula, and is designed and built to offer even greater levels of driver involvement, but also to be easier to drive," chief test driver Chris Goodwin commented, "This is a crucial factor in any racing car, but especially with long-distance and endurance racing, where drivers can double or even triple stint, where we compete on a huge variety of circuits and where weather and track conditions vary regularly throughout a race.

"GT racing attracts a wide variety of drivers [and], if the car is easy to drive and gives good feedback as you approach and sometimes exceed the limit, the driver will be better able to drive consistently, error-free and extract more out of the car lap after lap. This is key for professional race winner as much as it is for the amateur racers that are making up increasingly large proportions of the grids around the world.

"It is the result of continuous development, both in terms of the work carried out by the McLaren GT design and development team, but it also takes the learnings from the thousands of laps, from countless circuits across the globe which have been completed by the 12C GT3 with our highly-successful, race winning customer teams. Real-world data and feedback from the teams gives us a much clearer understanding of what the cars go through which no simulator can provide."

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