Pre-Race: McLaren MP4-12C GT3 At The Spa24 -- SHAKEDOWN

Uploaded by drive on 27.07.2012

LEO PARENTE: We're here at Spa-Francorchamps.
We've arrived for the 24-hour race.
And all the manufacturers are here too.
65 GT3 cars.
You're going to say a lot of special
programming from Drive.
But for now, let's get started by taking an up-close look at
one of the stories of the 24-hour race--
the arrival of nine McLaren MP4-12C GT3 cars.
Let's take an up-close look at the Gulf livery MP4-12C from
Gulf Racing, and one of the development drivers from the
McLaren factory.

LEO PARENTE: Rob Bell, we're here at Spa before qualifying,
so I don't want to take a lot of time.
But you're more than just a driver of
this beautiful McLaren.
You're a development driver for McLaren the company.
I was taken on this year primarily to develop the GT3
racing car.
But in my role there, I've done other bits and bobs.
I've worked on the road car also, done some events.
And it's good, from my point of view, to develop the race
car but also get the feel for the road car.
Because in essence they're the same machine.
So it's really good for me experience that.
LEO PARENTE: So let's start with the first part.
McLaren's gotten serious about this GT3 racing.
Remind everyone what GT3 is.
It's not unlimited technology.
I mean, GT3 is, first of all, for manufacturers to show off
their product.
And the great thing is, they look like the road car.
So that's the first and foremost, you can
identify with them.
And the idea is that you have a homologated car.
So at the beginning of each season you'll say, this is our
car, this is what we want to do.
And we go racing from there.
So essentially, that's the blueprint for rules.
And you can't then just go off and
develop new bits of engine.
Because the cost is then huge.
And then you get into testing.
So it's very much limited to homologated car that derived
from the road car.
You know, the engine has to be in the same place, the
wheelbase is the same.
So in that respect, it keeps the cost down.
But then you've also got the racing technology involved,
slightly different suspension, in a lot of cases, a little
bit simpler than a road car, actually.
Less to potentially go wrong.
LEO PARENTE: And we'll get to it before
the end of the interview.
But the systems that you specifically worked on to
develop for this car were?
ROB BELL: I did all the TC works, the traction control
obviously a huge part of endurance racing.
Because it's not necessarily a huge part of a lap time.
But to make the tires last longer,
you can't have wheelspin.
So we do a lot of work with traction control to try and
minimize wheelspin in the first place to make the
longevity of the tire work for us.
But also, I've done a lot of ABS work, which is braking.
You can have ABS in this class, GT3 car.
Which just helps a general driver.
LEO PARENTE: Now, the street MP4-12C is all about
aerodynamics and balance.
But there are some kicks here that have taken it up a notch.
Like, starting at the front, we've got wider front tires,
looks like the fenders are different.
LEO PARENTE: We've got this little device.
What are we doing here aerodynamically?
ROB BELL: Well, just cleaning it up.
So again, within the regulations you can make
various small changes.
So for example, the dive planes here.
This just channels air past the front of the car, creates
downforce, and also we have cooling ducts here, there, and
So a lot of the things you see are aerodynamics, but also
trying to get cooling through the radiators or brakes.
So that's the main difference.
LEO PARENTE: Underneath here is the engine.
Now, if I'm right, this is the only turbocharged
engine in GT3 here?
Absolutely correct, yeah.
LEO PARENTE: But it's not that different from the engine
you've allowed me to drive in the road car.
Talk to me, what's going on here?
ROB BELL: So essentially, again, it's a standard base,
two turbos.
So the road car's actually got more horsepower.
Which everyone says, wow, that's crazy.
Well, road cars are built for a set purpose, you can be as
extravagant as you want with horsepower.
But when we come racing, your certain rules and regulations
mean we can't have 1,000 horsepower.
But also, if you have 1,000 horsepower, you
gotta use more fuel.
So the balance of this car, the tuning on this engine, is
actually to make, again, longevity, fuel consumption at
high revs, and also to make it last a 24-hour race.
LEO PARENTE: Well, I think it's pretty close to the
production engine?
ROB BELL: Absolutely spec.
So blocks spec.
Turbos are spec.
Exhaust pipes are a little bit different because of cooling.
But essentially, every component on there is derived
from the road car.

So this is my office.
LEO PARENTE: As cool as the road car interior is--
ROB BELL: Absolutely.
LEO PARENTE: I love that wheel.
ROB BELL: You should get a shot in here.
But then, I'll jump in.
I'll jump in now.
And it's easier said than done getting in and out.
But effectively, in a pit stop, we're getting in and out
as fast as possible.
So to get in, we're jumping in the car.
When we get in the car in a pit stop, we'll do our belts
up ourselves, but then our teammate can help also.
But then you've got a really, really fantastic driving
position to start with, which has been, again, well thought
out, actually.
LEO PARENTE: Well, and a big part of it, just to elaborate,
the whole car was designed for visibility.
The A-pillars don't intrude.
The top of the fenders are where the turning axis
of the front is.
That may help racing.
ROB BELL: All those things, I guess, were done way before I
got involved as a racing driver.
But it all plays into it.
You know, if you can see more, then you're more comfortable.
Then you've got the ability to maybe just push
a little bit harder.
So all these little things add up.
LEO PARENTE: Let's talk about the controls
on the wheel, here.
LEO PARENTE: You mentioned TC and ABS.
LEO PARENTE: Tell me a little about the adjustability of
traction control.
And how do you use it?
Well, this is a thing, again, we worked on.
And I suppose it's my little stamp on this car at the
moment, which is cool.
Because I developed the ABS along with Bosch, our partner
for the car.
And TC is all done in-house.
So for example, we've got positions--
let's look at ABS, it's anti-locking brake system.
So in a perfect world we want to run as
little of this as possible.
Because, as a racing driver, we want to do this sort of
thing ourselves.
It's our job to feel the brakes, get your braking point
right, and not rely on all the electronic systems.
It's there for a back up and, again, more to the point, to
help the tire wear.
So we've got position two would be the
least intrusive position.
And then as you go up, as the tires wear, you might need a
little bit more help.
We can go up.
And if it's wet, we'll be in position eight.
There are more, but that's as far as we go.
And basically, you're making it more aggressive.
So as you increase the number, the aggression, the help you
get, is more and more.
Which is the same with all of the switches, so it keeps it
very simple.
As is the TC.
So in a qualifying simulation, or qualifying run, I'll be in
TC2, which is just to help me--
at maximum, we're talking about the horsepower coming
out of this car--
out of a hairpin, you whack the power down, it all gets
delivered, there's a lot happening.
So we want maybe just a little bit of help.
But as the tires wear and you start to feel that little bit
of movement at the rear, we'll be TC four and five, more
So when we're putting our foot down, before we've felt it
slide, it will be working out, it's just about to slide, and
it'll stop that.
LEO PARENTE: And these are judgment calls
you make in the car?
ROB BELL: Correct.
This is down to us, our feeling.
LEO PARENTE: Last one.
We understand engine mapping, but TPS?
ROB BELL: TPS is the throttle position.
Now you think about it more of how the power is delivered.
So we've got whatever we've got behind us, 500 and
whatever we may have on the day, because of weather,
temperatures, or whatever.
525 horsepower.
If it's damp and cold like Spa can be sometimes, and we go to
full power, we might not want that 525
horsepower straight away.
So you can then alter the mapping so that we can have it
just coming in.
If you look at a graphic, it would just be becoming a
little bit later.
Power delivery a little bit smoother, to
maybe just again help.
And it works with traction control.
LEO PARENTE: And if you were a driver, which do you go to
first for adjustment?
ROB BELL: It very much depends.
Very much depends on the day and the situation.
Generally speaking, we've actually worked really hard to
get throttle position as we want it.
So now, throttle position four is your standard.
We're happy with that.
It's what I would call a medium option.
So it delivers the power relatively quickly.
And in that respect, we'll start with TC4 at the
beginning of the race, and then we'll judge it.
We usually use the traction control, because it's the
easier one to feel, actually.
And that's a really important part of endurance racing.
LEO PARENTE: So all that said and done, the cars come
together to be one piece, not separate systems?
If I had to task you for an objective for the McLarens for
this race, the Spa 24, how are you approaching it?
What's the deal?
ROB BELL: Well, we're here to win.
There's no doubt about that.
LEO PARENTE: That's the McLaren ethic.
ROB BELL: Absolutely.
There's no McLaren personnel who--
if you cut everyone in half it'll say "win" in the middle.
That's what we're here for.
LEO PARENTE: I've seen the trophy aisle.
Exactly, exactly.
But to finish first, first you must finish.
And a 24-hour race, just so many things, especially at
Spa, can be thrown into the mix.
With weather, with other--
don't forget, we've got 65 other cars out there all
trying to win also.
And they're going to do lots of crazy things.
So it's stay out of trouble.
We're going to be quick.
And we're going to bide our time.
And at the end of 24 hours, keep our fingers crossed and
we'll be there.
We'll be in the mix.
LEO PARENTE: We'll cross our fingers too.