Former Star Mazda and Formula Renault UK champion Adam Christodoulou helped McLaren return to 24-hour GT racing by setting the fastest lap recorded by the new MP4-12C GT3 at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Teamed up with regular Le Mans Series team mate Phil Quaife, plus Glynn Geddie and Roger Will, Christodoulou took the #60 McLaren to 11th in class and 25th overall on the company’s first outing of its kind in 15 years.
McLaren fielded three of the GT3-spec McLaren MP4-12Cs in the race, with GP2 drivers Oliver Turvey and Álvaro Parente joining Andrew Kirkaldy in the #59 car while the #58 was driven by Rob Bell, Chris Goodwin and Tim Mullen.
Christodoulou said: “The race went really well for McLaren GT – their objective was to finish the race and learn, as they are the first manufacturer to put a car into a 24-hour race as part of their development programme. You have to be pretty confident that you have a great car to be able to do that.
“The car is a great piece of machinery. It’s easy to drive, it’s fast and it’s proven to be reliable and safe. It was an honour to be asked by McLaren to be a part of their development programme and also to race at Spa. It’s one of the best drivers’ circuits and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car soon.”
Christodoulou managed to score the car’s fastest individual lap, taking the 12C GT3 around the circuit in 2:23.214 on lap 256. Mullen’s car was retired by the team after a small fire, while Kirkaldy had to be taken to hospital after his car was forced into a wall by a competitor.
He said: “I’ve had the opportunity to review the incident and the impact was clearly significant. If anything positive can be drawn, it’s that we are delighted to be using the 12C road car’s carbon ‘MonoCell’ chassis in our race car as it proved to be an incredibly robust safety cell. Just a few hours after the incident I was back at the circuit with the team.”
McLaren Automotive said in a statement that the performance of the car had been promising and the result laudable: “Despite still being at an early stage of its development, Christodoulou and his team-mates demonstrated the potential of the car on Thursday by scoring fastest in the first free practice session.
“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.”
Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin said: “The performance of the 12C GT3 and its drivers in car 60 was pleasing. Feedback from the team’s engineers and drivers indicates that the 12C GT3 is meeting its reliability and drivability targets.
“This level of endurance racing is a crucial test for the car technically, and we needed the best possible team working with us to ensure we receive intelligent, objective feedback on the 12C GT3 driving experience. I’m delighted with the quality of the drivers we enlisted.”
The 12C GT3 is the first race car converted from a McLaren road car to make a 24 hour race début since the McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans sixteen years ago.
Christodoulou said: “It was a great opportunity for me, first of all being privileged enough to be one of the first drivers to race the new McLaren 12C GT3 and secondly to race around the Spa circuit in the 24 hours.
“It’s definitely rated as one of the year’s best races in sports cars, alongside Le Mans and the Nurburgring 24 hours. I knew it was going to be a very special race from the amount of effort McLaren GT put into this programme and I was really looking forward to getting behind the wheel.”