The Best Le Mans Celebrations Always Involve Supercars
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a race that’s both gruelling and exhilarating, pushing cars and drivers to the brink of their abilities, made iconic in 1971’s Le Mans starring Steve McQueen and revifivied in the public imagination in 2019’s Ford v Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
Automakers love to bring up their list of accomplishments in the history of this incredible race. Porsche always mentions its 19 wins, while Audi seems content with its 13. Lately though, Japanese automaker Toyota has been making a name for itself in the race, though that may have a lot to do with the lack of competition.
To get fans amped up for the race, Toyota teased its upcoming hypercar, dubbed the GR Super Sport at the 2020 Le Mans. Despite its wearing the same red-black-and-white camouflage that we’ve seen in the brand’s other prototypes like the Supra, we can see the sleek overall shape of the new car, and we can expect a mid-engine vehicle from the typically modest brand. The prototype also didn’t feature a roof, which is an interesting development for such a high-speed car.
Toyota says this car was conceived on the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, so it made perfect sense to showcase the vehicle here. Austrian race car driver Alex Wurz even piloted the prototype around the track before the race.
“It was an honour to drive this development version of the GR Super Sport for the first time in public, and especially at a circuit like Le Mans which is so closely connected to this car,” he says. “The GR Super Sport was born at Le Mans, so this felt like a homecoming. This was my first time to drive the car, so a demonstration lap doesn’t allow me to push the limits, but I could already feel that the GR Super Sport has the potential for incredible performance. I could feel the similarities between the GR Super Sport and the TS050 HYBRID in terms of performance, particularly the four-wheel drive and the hybrid system. But the engineers tell me this was only a small taste of the GR Super Sport’s true performance, so I am super excited to drive it again one day in the near future.”
While Toyota was celebrating its future, British automaker McLaren was inspired by its history at the racetrack, showcasing five customer-commissioned examples of the range-topping McLaren Senna GTR, each celebrating a vehicle that participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race of 1995 .
That year, McLaren made quite the showing at Le Mans, with vehicles finishing first, third, fourth, fifth, and 13th in the tough endurance race. These custom Senna GTRs take us back to those days with liveries reminiscent of those participating vehicles, but that’s not all McLaren did with these special rides. All of these five Senna GTRs have seen significant technical changes, as well, including enhancements to the engine to make them lighter and more powerful. The engine now puts out roughly 20 more horsepower, bringing the total to about 833 horsepower, while the engine limit is now closer to 9,000 RPM than the typical 8,250.
The vehicles also have Le Mans–specific add-ons such as satin gold brake calipers, a good accent steering wheel, a six-point harness, anodized suspension, and twin-exit exhaust pipes.
McLaren says each vehicle took over 800 hours to paint and was done by hand. Believe it or not, the company needed special permission from Le Mans, Harrods, and Gulf to recreate those logos. Each vehicle features an etched dedication to its 1995 twin that includes the date of the original race, the names of the three race drivers in that car, and the position in which they finished.
Perhaps the most coveted of the five recreations is No. 59, which is an homage to the vehicle better known as the Ueno Clinic car. The original livery, with its understated charcoal grey paint and the name of Japanese sponsor Ueno Clinic on the hood, has been faithfully recreated on the Senna GTR spotted here. No. 59 even has unique driving lamps and grey OZ Racing wheels, finishing the throwback design. In 1995, the then-two-time winner Yannick Dalmas, Masanori Sekiya, and JJ Lehto won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Ueno Clinic McLaren F1 GTR, making this recreation a surefire hit with McLarens racing fans.
Each of these five recreations has been claimed, but chances are you’ll see them pop up at various high-profile racing events and car shows around the world.
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