Since its debut season in 1995, the McLaren F1 GTR had been scoring pole positions and race wins – including the famous victory at Le Mans. But in 1996, rivals began stretching the GT rules to the limit by creating purpose-built racing cars. In order to keep its F1 GTR competitive, McLaren had to make drastic changes for 1997. The result was a high-downforce version of the GTR, dubbed internally as ‘F1 GT’, although it became better known as the ‘Longtail’.
Again with Gordon Murray at the helm the result was dramatic: 135kg was stripped away, major modifications to the bodywork were made to improve downforce and a sequential gearbox and fully adjustable suspension were added. The first competition version of the ‘Longtail’ was completed in November 1996, parallel with three road-going versions of the car.
Teams began to take delivery of cars at the start of 1997 to compete in what would turn out to be the final two seasons of McLaren’s involvement in the FIA GT Championship. Following the completion of the development car, nine more ‘Longtails’ were built – including chassis 20R (pictured here), which was delivered to the Gulf-Davidoff GTC Motorsport team, finished second at Le Mans in 1997, and is now owned by McLaren. Just nine F1 GTR ‘Longtail’ racers were built, along with the original development car. Images courtesy of McLaren.