INTERNATIONAL road and track journalists gathered last week to hear McLaren Automotive unveil the business’s first motorsport strategy and its plans for nurturing young drivers.
A series of new initiatives as part of the company’s motorsport GT offer were announced in the Thought Leadership Centre within McLaren’s vast Woking campus
The event marked major GT motorsport expansion plans by McLaren Automotive, which has a workforce of around 2,100 and now forms the largest part of the newly combined sports and technology-based McLaren Group.
McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt unveiled details and concept sketches of the new 720S GT3 race car which is to join the successful 570S GT4. It will be built in a dedicated facility at Woking and testing is due to begin next year for launch with customer teams in 2019.
Confidence in the future of its GT success was underpinned with the launch of a new driver development programme to nurture GT racing talent of the future. The first four drivers selected for the scheme are Jordan Albert, 21, and Michael O’Brien, 22, Charlie Fagg, 18, and Lewis Proctor, 21.
The young team will be given the benefit of having McLaren Automotive factory driver Rob Bell, the most accomplished GT driver of his generation and winner of multiple championships, as their mentor.
“The McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme has been established to help gifted young drivers realise their motorsport ambitions,” said Mr Flewitt. “If they have the talent, regardless of their background we want to be there to guide them and foster their racing skills. These four will be our future in endurance racing
Speaking to the News and Mail, he added: “This programme is a part of a wider commitment to encouraging young people. We are very much a part of the local community and already do quite a lot to help young people here.
“We run apprenticeships, we offer work experience and do tours of our site here. We also organise for McLaren people to speak about what we do at schools. McLaren has become a far more open company.”
A further plan announced is the development of a network of retailers, specialising in selling road and track products. An initial 10 retail locations around the world, offering motorsport support and service, were announced, the first of these being in Glasgow.
The company also plans to extend the existing Pure McLaren customer track day series with race plans set to take off next year at iconic European racing circuits in 2018. This new series is aimed at McLaren owners who already have extensive track driving experience, taking them to their first steps in the racing world in a controlled and familiar environment with the support of McLaren motorsport experts.
“The 720S GT3 will provide a stunning race-going addition to our Super Series product family and drivers will now be able to hone their skills under expert guidance backed-up by our technicians at the circuit and our motorsport retailers away from it,” said Flewitt.
The new development programme will get into gear when the young drivers compete in pairs in two 570S GT4 cars during 2018.
They drivers will receive motorsport education and driver support that includes fitness and nutrition assessments and advice and PR, marketing and sponsorship support and guidance.
They will undergo regular assessments and evaluation on their performance with a tailored programme developed to ensure each delivers their best performance. This will include simulator access and working with the engineering teams to better understand telemetry data and race strategy.
For Jordan who lives in the village of Silverstone, Northamptonshire, racing has always been a part of his life and he has been driving competitively for almost four years. He moved into GT4 competition after a number of wins in BRDC F4 (British Racing Drivers’ Club Formula 4). A highly successful debut in 2016 ensured he came to the attention of McLaren’s selectors.
Over the last four years he has trained and raced with Michael, who is also from the Silverstone area. Michael had started racing in 2014in the historic Formula Ford and on moving into the British Formula Ford Championship he achieved a succession of wins. Clearly someone who likes a challenge he has also turned his hand to pick-up truck racing.
Lewis Proctor from Aberdeen, broke on to the McLaren scene this year, after competing nationally in saloon championship and only returned to the UK from a McLaren’s event in Austin, Texas the day before the press event.
The youngest of the McLaren protégées is Charlie from Durham, who graduated from Ginetta Junior driving ranks last year after a number of podium finishes since he began driving in 2014.