Last weekend, former British Formula Renault champion and Star Mazda champion Adam Christodoulou was given the first opportunity to put the new McLaren GT3 MP4-12C through it’s paces at Magny Cours, the world famous French track. Joining Christodoulou was Pierre Kaffer, and his familiar team mate, Klass Hummel.
Testing kicked off at the former Formula One circuit on Thursday with testing in dry conditions. This was Christodoulou’s track debut here, and he reported that the balance of the car seemed to have improved positively since the 24 hours event at Spa a number of weeks ago.
Despite a dry Thursday, Friday was the opposite, and with constant rain it provided the perfect opportunity for tuning the car’s wet setup too.
Saturday’s three hour race followed pre-qualifying and the main qualifying session. Each driver had 15 minutes to get a qualifying lap time, and Christodoulou was out first. On the second lap he had managed to snatch the second fastest time on track, then on the third lap pushed himself to the top of the leader board. With traffic building up ahead, the team decided to conserve tyres and fuel and so eased off the throttle, but with the car performing magnificently, everything was set to make for an excellent day out on track.
Hummel took the wheel for second qualifying, but the session ended early, delivering a frustrating blow to the team as neither he or Kaffer had by this time managed to file a qualifying lap. Regulations stipulate that all three drivers must qualify, and after the corresponding penalty was applied, the car was relegated, and the team had to start from the back row of the grid in a poor 34th position.
At 6.15pm the race began, and Hummel began proceedings with a unbelievable start, ascending the ranks quickly from 34th into 23rd in just the first three laps. A safety car period soon handed the team an additional blessing, and at the 45 minute mark he had climbed to 18th position. But the team’s luck wasn’t to last, and even before Kaffer and Christodoulou got their chance, the car had to retire from the race within the first hour.
It was a terrible disappointment for the whole team. Christodoulou commented after the race, “Everyone is gutted. Looking at our pace, a top five or even a podium finish looked to be a real possibility. The car had so much grip and the speed was fantastic, but it just didn’t work out for us.”
Christodoulou returns to the UK for his next race in the McLaren at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, on October 8th and 9th. However this coming weekend he will also be fitting in one additional race and heading to Austria to the Red Bull Ring to compete in his debut appearance in the Ferrari Challenge.
Many young drivers aspire to race for McLaren. Lewis Hamilton was just 10 years old when he met McLaren Group Chairman Ron Dennis, and told him so at the Autosport BRDC Awards dinner.
Like Hamilton, Adam Christodoulou is a British Formula Renault Champion and BRDC award-winner. Early in 2011 Adam began work with McLaren Automotive as a development driver for the new 12C sports car. Its racing equivalent, the 12C GT3, is now well into a rapid development programme and Adam will be driving a car at Magny-Cours today.
As he prepares to pilot the 12C GT3 for the second time in racing, Adam explains what it’s like to take Eau Rouge flat-out and the fantastic opportunity he’s got working on development of two versions of the new 12C.
Q. You raced the 12C GT3 in the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July. Despite the challenges presented by endurance racing, you were able to set a best lap time faster than the 3rd placed driver overall. Were you happy with the performances of you and the car?
I thought the performance of the car was incredible. I’d really like to congratulate McLaren GT for developing a great car in a short amount of time as entering a 24 hours race as part of a development programme is almost unheard of. The 12C GT3’s a real pleasure to drive and after completing a 2 hour stint, I could have continued for that again. You get in the car and you just feel as one.
Q. The 12C GT3 features technology supplied in the 12C sports car and by McLaren in Formula 1. How does that level of technology make an impact when racing at such a demanding circuit?
The traction control works beautifully, the ABS is the best I have felt in a race car and compared to other manufacturers we are able to brake much later thanks to our partners from Formula 1, Akebono. The paddle shift gearbox is almost seamless and with all the controls at your fingertips you can really concentrate on achieving the ultimate lap time.
Q. How is the 12C GT3 responding to the challenges presented by the Magny Cours circuit?
The Magny Cours circuit provides different challenges to Spa. It’s my first time here but because of the amount of grip the car produces it’s really easy to drive. Learning the track has been straight forward and as we proved in testing, there’s been no problem for the team to get on the pace.
Q. How would you describe the opportunity to work with McLaren GT on the development programme of the 12C GT3?
It’s been one of the turning points for my career, for sure. To work with a manufacturer is any racing driver’s dream and who better than McLaren? I’ve been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. It has been a real eye opener and I’ve learnt so much this year being part of the development programme, seeing what goes on behind the scenes of GT racing and benefiting from nearly 50 years of Formula 1 experience.
Q. You’re also a development driver for McLaren Automotive. How does the 12C sports car stand up to track tests?
I’ve been very lucky to drive a number of pretty exotic super cars over the past few years, but the McLaren 12C is the best handling car I have driven to date. Wherever you point it, it goes. And when you need it to stop, the brakes are just amazing.
Q. What are your personal and team goals for today’s race?
We have proven the car can last 24 hours and today we are racing to be on the podium.
Former British Formula Renault and Star Mazda Champion, Adam Christodoulou, has returned from Spa with a well-earned finish in Belgium’s prestigious 24 hour endurance race.
Just missing out on a top-ten class finish at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Christodoulou was partnered with regular Le Mans series team mate Phil Quaife, as well as Glynn Geddie and Roger Wills in the #60 VonRyan GT3-spec McLaren MP4-12C.
Despite still being at an early stage of its development, Christodoulou and his teammates demonstrated the potential of the car on Thursday by scoring fastest in the first free practice session.Taking eleventh in the Pro-Am class, and 25th overall, the new car showed promising form for McLaren who were making their return to twenty-four hour GT racing for the first time in fifteen years.
Changeable conditions during qualifying generated a succession of red flags, which saw the team beginning in 38th place for Saturday’s race start. However, slick driving quickly moved them into the top ten and twenty-four hours on, they brought the car home intact and with a laudable result.
Christodoulou managed to score the fastest individual lap, taking the 12C GT3 around the circuit in an outstanding lap time of 2:23.214 on lap 256.
Commenting on the team’s impressive performance, Chris Goodwin, McLaren GT executive and McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver said, “The performance of the 12C GT3 and its drivers in car 60 was equally pleasing. Feedback from the team’s engineers and drivers indicates that the 12C GT3 is meeting its reliability and drivability targets.”
As McLaren now looks to develop the car for a full consumer programme in 2012, this key race feedback will help to shape the development of the vehicle in the coming months.