Meet the track-only version of Gordon Murray’s T.50 hypercar, which has just been unveiled alongside confirmation that its name will be the T.50s Niki Lauda.
“T.50s was always a working title,” Gordon Murray told CarAdvice when we were given a virtual walkaround of the car a couple of weeks ago, “after Niki passed I suddenly realised it was a perfect tribute – a racing car with a fan on the back. Niki was a great friend, not just somebody who drove for me – and his family agreed it was a fantastic idea to commemorate the win in Sweden.”
Murray is referring to Lauda’s win at Anderstorp in 1978, the one and only win for the Brabham BT46 ‘fan car’ which Murray had designed, and which was voluntarily retired by team boss Bernie Ecclestone after strolling to an effortless victory in the only race it was ever entered in.
The Brabham’s huge underskirt-sucking fan played a significant role in inspiring the creation of the much more advanced active aero system in the T.50s, so there’s unarguable justification for the famous name. It’s also why the car has been formally launched on what would have been Lauda’s 72nd birthday.
The road-going T.50 is off-the-charts special, but the Niki Lauda is set to better it in every performance regard. Freed from the constraints of worrying about street legality, GMA’s design team have managed to find significant increases in power and downforce, while cutting extra mass from the T.50’s already MX-5-svelte kerbweight.
Written together, the Niki Lauda’s specs look impossible: this is a car that is going to weigh just 852kg (134kg less than the T.50), be powered by a naturally-aspirated 3.9-litre Cosworth V12 that will make a peak of 540kW and rev to a dizzying 12,100rpm, and while will be able to make up to 1500kg of aerodynamic downforce.
“Put it this way – this has got the same power-to-weight ratio as the car that came second at Le Mans last year,” Murray says.
The Niki Lauda’s exhausts has been shorn of catalysts and breathes through a barely-silenced exhaust system (although with more effective mufflers available for those needing to meet decibel limits at specific tracks). It gets redesigned cylinder heads from the regular T.50, while each cylinder gets an individual throttle body fed from a racing style airbox.
The Niki also gets a six-speed X-Trac sequential gearbox in place of the road car’s H-pattern manual. “I honestly don’t think you’d be wanting to let go of the wheel as often as you’d need to,” Murray says.
Buyers will be able to choose between different gear ratios according to how they want to use the car, the shortest set limiting top speed to around 275km/h, the longest increasing that to around 338km/h.
Above: The GMA T.50s, alongside founder and legendary aerodynamicist Gordon Murray (right), and GMA development driver Dario Franchitti
The most obvious visual difference between the Niki Lauda and the T.50 is the arrival of a sizeable rear wing and a longitudinal ‘fin’ that links this to the roof of the cabin, and which also incorporates an air intake periscope.
The new car keeps the active aero system, which uses a 48-volt fan to create clean airflow in a very aggressive diffuser, but this will operate flat-out at all times – whereas the T.50 can vary assistance levels. The peak 1500kg of downforce is actually less than the car could develop – “we were making up to 1900kg at one point, but we backed it off because it was getting a bit LMP1-ish,” Murray says.
He reckons the car will make up to 900kg in high speed corners, allowing up to 2.5g of lateral acceleration to be generated. Oh, and 281km/h is the magic number, the speed at which the car starts to generate more downforce than it weighs and would therefore be able to travel upside down.
As you’d expect from a track-only special, the cabin lacks anything in the way of luxury.
The Niki Lauda keeps the T.50’s central driving position, but will only have a single passenger seat on the left. The yoke-style steering wheel incorporates buttons for essential functions including the car-to-pit radio, with secondary controls on a large motorsport-style panel to the driver’s right.
Unlike other track-only hypercars, Murray is keen to point out that buyers of the Niki won’t need to find extra for pit equipment or a full onboard telemetry set.
Murray says he isn’t concerned by lap times, but admits the Niki Lauda is set to be one of the quickest cars ever created. He also reckons that performance and technology is well beyond any of the McLaren F1 variants that he previously designed.
“It isn’t a variant, it’s based on the T.50 but we started it as an independent project in parallel,” he says, “the original McLaren F1 LM that we did to commemorate the win at Le Mans was a body kit and the engine from the racer in a road car.”
15 Niki Laudas have been reportedly sold before the car was officially unveiled, from a total run that will be limited to 25.
Each chassis will be named after a race won at a different track by one of the Formula 1 cars that Murray designed, with the first set to be designation “Kylami, 1974.”
“So lucky that I’ve won Grands Prix on more than 25 circuits,” Murray says.
The Niki Lauda’s ‘ex works’ price in the UK is £3.1 million (AU$5.5 million) before taxes, with production scheduled to begin in January next year.
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