Wheels (Australia)




MacKenzie on Gordon Murray’s ripper stripper; Robbo on the power and glory of one of the world’s greatest race cars; Inwood on the unwanted reinventio­n of the wheel

YOU COULD SAY Gordon Murray has been there, done that. He designed a string of race-winning Formula 1 cars in the 1970s and 80s, and a road car that in the 1990s set new benchmarks for accelerati­on and outright speed, the McLaren F1. You might think that Murray, now in his mid-70s and with nothing left to prove, might be a little world-weary, a little blasé when it comes to modern high-performanc­e machinery.

You’d be wrong.

Look no further than the GMA T.50s Niki Lauda, a trackonly version of Murray’s new hypercar, the GMA T.50. The road-going T.50 is powered by a 481kW, 4.0-litre naturally aspirated V12 built to Murray’s specificat­ion by Cosworth that revs to 12,100rpm. The engine drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmissi­on and nestles in a car that is 180mm shorter and 127mm lower than a Porsche 911, and 454kg lighter than a McLaren 720S. Oh, and as in the McLaren F1, the driver sits in the centre of the cockpit, with seats for passengers on either side.

Murray says the ultra-light, ultra-responsive T.50 will be the ultimate driver’s car. But the T.50s Niki Lauda, named after the three-time world champion who drove Murray-designed F1 cars at Brabham and McLaren, is the Spinal Tap T.50, with everything dialed all the way up to 11.

A race-car ram air intake system, titanium inlet and exhaust valves, and a straight-through exhaust system have helped bump the screaming Cosworth V12’s output by 60kW. The six-speed manual transmissi­on has been replaced with a lighter Xtrac paddleshif­t unit that delivers lightning-quick, almost seamless upshifts thanks to a patented gear pre-selector system. And a ruthless dedication to weight reduction that included re-doing the entire carbon-fibre monocoque in a lighter two-layer layup means the T.50s Niki Lauda tips the scales at just over 850kg. Imagine a Lotus Elise with 541kW.

Every exterior panel is new – only the lights and the windscreen are carried over from the road car, Murray says – and race-spec aero hardware delivers up to 1500kg of downforce. “We actually got to 1900kg,” says Murray, “but Michelin said it couldn’t give us slicks to support that, and anyway I think it would have been too much.”

Only 25 T.50s Niki Laudas will be built, and if you have to ask how much one costs, you can’t afford it. And yet there’s a curiously egalitaria­n streak to the car: “I want it to be accessible to good amateur drivers,” says Murray, who adds that unlike other multi-million-dollar track rats, the T.50s Niki Lauda won’t require a specialist team of technician­s to run it: “Take it to the circuit, check your tyre pressures, start the engine, warm the oil up and off you go. There’s nothing special to know.”

Murray insists the T.50s Niki Lauda has not been designed to chase the ultimate lap time. But with a power-to-weight ratio akin to that of an LMP1 Le Mans racer and a naturally aspirated V12 that will zing to redline in less than half a second, this car – all screaming engine and razor-sharp reflexes – promises be one of the most intensely visceral experience­s on four wheels. One that genuinely seems to excite even a man who, when it comes to fast cars, has pretty much seen it all.

“It’s such a petrolhead thing, but I just want to hear one start up in the pits and come flying past on the first lap,” says Murray with an ear-to-ear grin just before signing off our Zoom call. “And I can’t wait to drive it.”

You and me both, Gordon.

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