Astonishing new track variant gets more power, more lightness and a sequential 'box for 835hp/tonne
By Sam Sheehan / Monday, February 22, 2021 / Loading comments
Had it been inclined, Gordon Murray Automotive might have slapped a bigger wing and spicier exhaust on the T.50, and announced its track car done. After all, the road version does not suggest that it wants for performance or handling verve. But that is plainly not the GMA way. The just-revealed T.50s 'Niki Lauda' (yes, we'll come back to that in due course) is so radically different that it easily justifies its heavyweight name. Beneath the overhauled exterior there is a completely re-engineered V12 motor, an all-new gearbox and lighter architecture. No compromises have been sought. Professor Murray himself describes the new arrival as "outrageous" and assured PH that it will be as involving as it is staggeringly fast.
"This is a very different car from T.50," Murray explained to us over Zoom last week, the wall behind him dotted with pictures of his Le Mans-winning McLaren F1 GTR. "It doesn't share any body panels, the engine and gearbox are very different and, of course, it uses completely different aero. So really the T.50s is a parallel design, rather than a variant of the T.50, something that's always been a necessity because I wanted this to be a track experience that nobody else could ever get close to. And I think we've done a good job because we've created an 852kg car with a higher power to weight than a naturally aspirated LMP1 car."
Or, to put it more bluntly, that's 835hp per tonne – 163hp more than the T.50 road car and 65hp more than AMG's F1-powered Project One. Take a moment to digest that. The V12 is said to peak at 711hp on the jig, but it'll offer 725hp in the car thanks to the ram air intake that will force feed it. That's 75hp more than the road version, and comes with promise of an even faster reactions to the 28,000 revs per second possible in the T.50. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Murray says the track version is a very different beast – and no two will be the same, as evidenced by the quoted top speed of 170mph to 210mph, with the difference accounting for the assorted ratios that will be offered to customers.
"The main thing is it is going to be faster, with the engine's reciprocating bits and the rotating bits getting a little lighter again," he says. "We're using titanium for all the valves, while the pistons are a bit lighter and we've new cams, plus we dumped the variable valve timing on the camshafts to save six or seven kilos and bring the centre of gravity a bit lower. We've also dumped the plenum chamber and the four throttle bodies, which is all about driveability and emissions. The finished motor is a proper racing setup that uses twelve throttle bodies and a ram induction box sitting on top of that. And an open-pipe 12,100rpm V12." Lordy.
Not having adhere to road regulations means the catalytic converters and silencers could obviously be binned, although the latter can be added back in the owner intends to run at tracks with noise limits. (Obviously that won't be a problem for customers with their own circuits.) No matter the final setup, each T.50s gets thinner Inconel pipes so the system is both lighter and less restrictive. Naturally, there'll be plenty of noise to go with that, not least because the race-grade V12 – which is 28kg lighter than the road setup, including the engine control units and new intake – now begs to be revved all the time.
Murray says it "produces maximum torque and power a little bit higher, making it a little less driveable under three or four thousand revs," but that "on a race track you're never down there anyway". Torque peaks at 358lb ft at 9,000rpm, so the T.50s is just getting going when a new Porsche 911 GT3 is hammering into its limiter. Rest assured this is a thoroughbred circuit machine; so much so that it's been created by a separate team of race engineers in tandem with the road car's development.
Given the attention to detail, it's hardly surprising that the bespoke H-pattern gearbox has been swapped out for an Xtrac paddle shift sequential. Although apparently this wasn't guaranteed from the start, but opted for later, because, as Murray puts it, "you'd appreciate having the reduced workload". It's not completely unique like the T.50's manual, being based off Xtrac's IGS (Instantaneous Gear Shift) saloon racing car transmission. It's a single power clutch unit with electric actuation, Murray noting that "it's one of those systems where you're already in the next gear; you shift a clutch in the shaft or a cam in the shaft, and it's an instantaneous change". Which ought to go nicely with that V12.
"The powertrain as a whole is really fantastic and, like the rest of the car, easily beats our initial expectations," Murray explained. "We targeted 890kg all in, gave Cosworth a target of 700hp and we wanted 1,000kg of downforce. The finished car is 38kg lighter than the target weight, 25hp more powerful with 178hp per litre and it produces up to 1,500kg of downforce. We could have gone to 1,900kg but we wound it back to enable the Michelin slicks, which [at 250mm- and 300mm-wide] are relatively narrow for such a high-performance car, to work more cohesively with the package. Still, as it is the downforce relative to static weight is unique and the lift over drag is up there with Le Mans prototypes."
The 123kg carbon and honeycomb aluminium monocoque and body beats Murray's targets, too, weighing 28kg less than the road car's – 13kg better than he requested. And it's already very light. The T.50s's exterior is all bespoke, with no panels shared with its sibling. To balance the added effectiveness of the car's Brabham BT52-inspired fan, which now runs permanently in 7,000rpm high downforce mode, the team "had to start again with the aero at the front".
The T.50s gets a big splitter and a central air foil underneath the nose, with new adjustable front diffusers and a slotted adjustable flap on the rear wing. The latter pair "are the main points of adjustment", so despite the enormous performance on offer, finding a setup that suits a driver needn't be too complicated. That being said, included in the purchase is a training package for a technician, so the new owners can expect to get the most out of the car. Drivers of a "good amateur" level should quickly feel comfortable edging their 725hp machine close to its limit.
"I didn't want to do a cramped driving cockpit or a vehicle where you have to be a racing driver to get the best out of it," explains Murray. "No two cars will be the same. The chassis and the aero is very adjustable, so, for example, if somebody wants a bit of high speed understeer and low speed oversteer, or whatever mixture they prefer, we can set the car up to cater to that. We can set the car up to cater to where they're going to run it most. In all guises it'll be relatively easy to get to grips with, with great visibility out of the cockpit and a left seat for a passenger, if you can find somebody brave enough to jump in."
Inevitably the T.50's third seat was ditched to save weight and clear space for other equipment, but the steering wheel remains a relatively simple thing made from carbonfibre. Murray told us he didn't want to overcomplicate the driving experience with buttons on the wheel because "big wheels with lots of switches are quite heavy from a steering inertia point of view". Moreover: "in the T.50s we've been able to get a little closer to the bone again. Even the body panels, they don't have to be durable for 100,000 miles or deal with people sitting on the front wing. With the car's focus we've managed to take it to the next level again. The 50s is outrageous."
That's exactly what buyers of GMA's £3.1 million-before-taxes track car will want to hear. Just 25 examples are to be produced at Dunsfold, once the run of 100 T.50 supercars is completed. While every one is emblazoned with 'Niki Lauda' – a tribute to the three-time F1 champ's win in the Brabham BT46B fan car – each chassis will be individually named after one of Murray's grand prix wins on different circuits. The first is set to be designated Kyalami 1974 with subsequent wins appearing in chronological order. Each T.50s will also come with a specially commissioned book about the race that it is named after, with Murray's view and memories of the victory. Very cool. Just don't expect a Nurburgring lap time to crow about alongside it; Murray is adamant that the car not intended to go up against the stopwatch, and will remain dedicated to driver reward first and foremost.
Murray does, however, admit to being very interested in taking the T.50s racing one day. He says that even compared to the McLaren F1, which he famously developed to win the 1995 Le Mans, the GMA car is much further along to begin with. You certainly get the impression that Murray – even while he renounces the marketing aspect of a timed lap – would still quite like to demonstrate the project's potential in some objectively measurable way. The prospects look very good, too, with GMA working with Stefan Ratel and his SRO organisation "towards creating a GT1 sports club", which will provide exclusive track days aligned with the GT World Challenge Europe events. Apparently, this is "a first step with a view to creating a future supercar race series", which is an exciting thought. On top of about 1,200 other exciting thoughts. Including the fact that today would have been Niki Lauda's 72nd birthday. What a way to celebrate.
- Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 revealed
- Gordon Murray | PH Meets
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