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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Rules extension boosts McLaren's outright Le Mans ambitions

A McLaren entry into the top class at the Le Mans 24 Hours is more a case of “when than if” after Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh regulations were extended

#95 United Autosports McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo: Hiroshi Hamaguchi, Nicolas Pino, Marino Sato

#95 United Autosports McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo: Hiroshi Hamaguchi, Nicolas Pino, Marino Sato

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

McLaren’s ambitions to repeat its 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours victory remain on track and have been given a boost by the extension of the current prototype regulations until 2029.

Zak Brown, boss of McLaren Racing, has stated that an entry into either the Hypercar or GTP classes of the respective World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championships is “more when than if”.

He explained that the decision to extend the lifecycle of Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh regulations by two years beyond 2027 announced last week has given McLaren “more breathing space”.

“Costs in all motorsport are critically important and I think the extension definitely helps our business model that we have laid out internally,” said Brown, who has spoken openly about McLaren’s aspirations at the the pinnacle of sportscar racing since taking up his current role in 2018.

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“We would have to work on a two-year lead time: if we were talking about ’26 we would need to make a decision tomorrow.

“You wouldn’t want to enter a championship [category] in its last season.”

Brown revealed that McLaren is “looking at all the scenarios” with regard to its first top-flight sportscar campaign since the F1 GTR programme of the 1990s.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, celebrates victory with his team

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, celebrates victory with his team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“But clearly if you are in sportscar racing you want to win Le Mans,” he said.

Brown has previously stated that McLaren’s ambitions lay in the WEC with a factory team of LMDhs and potentially customer cars in IMSA.

“LMDh would be the more favourable category,” he confirmed.

What cannot be known is whether there will be room in the WEC for another manufacturer in Hypercar later in the decade: the grid is likely to be at capacity next year despite its expansion to 40 cars.

McLaren’s LMGT3 class campaign with United Autosports in the WEC this year could be crucial in paving the way for a step up in class, explained Brown.

“We need commercial partners and the exposure we get in GT3 will give us a sense of what the commercial market is and how much support we can get,” he said.

Brown also stressed it will be important that a top-flight sportscar programme doesn’t distract from McLaren Racing’s other activities in Formula 1, IndyCar, Formula E and Extreme E.

“If we take on another project we have to make sure it doesn’t disrupt our other activities,” he said.

“We are not far away from feeling we could take on another project without diluting our F1 team or IndyCar team or our electric teams.

#70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo: Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy, Frederik Schandorff

#70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo: Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy, Frederik Schandorff

Photo by: Marc Fleury

“We are turning a profit as a racing team; McLaren Racing is very healthy, and then it is just about timing.”

Michael Leiters, CEO of McLaren Automotive, insisted that none of the key technical decisions about a potential LMDh project have been made.

That includes the choice of engine: the unsuitability of its M840T road car V8 was one reason why McLaren’s prototype aspirations have remained on hold.

“First we have to decide when and how to do it, and then we come to the engine,” he explains.

“It would be perfect to have an engine in line with our road car programmes — that would be our dream — but we would never compromise our competitiveness.”

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