Ultimate Le Mans Duo: The McLaren F1 GTR LT & The Ferrari F40 GT/LM
Tall Tale Of The Long Tail

When it came to surviving legends, the Sonoma Speed Festival meant business.

Cars like the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow, numerous Ferrari 250 GTOs, and even the John Player Special F1 car made their appearances and took the breaths of thousands of spectators away as they lapped Sonoma Raceway throughout the weekend. But amongst these heavy-hitters were two poster cars from the ’90s – a McLaren F1 GTR Long Tail, and a Ferrari F40 LM.


When McLaren first developed the F1, Gordon Murray had no intent of turning it into a race car. Although the F1 was primarily derived from top-tier racing technology, the goal had always been to create the ultimate road car – which they obviously succeeded in. To this day, enthusiasts of the F1 vouch that the car has yet to be topped, despite the astronomical spike in automotive innovations since the model’s birth.


But when the BPR Global GT Series first debuted in 1994 (later renamed the FIA GT Championship), numerous teams believed that the F1 could play as a fierce competitor in the top GT1 class, going against rivals like the Ferrari F40 LM, Porsche 911 GT1, and Venturi 600LM. While Murray was against this initially, a few of the teams collectively managed to persuade McLaren to finally produce the race cars, which resulted in 10 GTR Long Tails.


Chassis 27R is the one specific to this post, and was initially sold to the British Parabolica racing team. It was first raced in the British GT Championship and later entered into Le Mans by Team Lark. Furthermore, it was raced in most of the remaining FIA GT races alongside selected British GT rounds.

The F1 GTR LT displays an unprecedented track record amongst its peers, winning numerous races from various teams under nine different chassis. It was also the first car ever to win Le Mans in its first attempt.

Bear in mind, this was a road car converted to a race car, and competing against full-blown and purpose-built prototype racers.


When the car was retired, its new privateer owner decided to paint the car orange, which it continued to sport for the next 10 years under his ownership. Luckily though, when the McLaren underwent restoration again, it was returned to its original Parabolic Motorsports blue and yellow racing livery. It made its first debut to the public after years in restoration at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2011, and is now showcased at select events around the world.

The Most Successful F40 Ever

The Shell-livery-wearing F40 is perhaps the most iconic and successful F40 to exist. You can probably find an entire encyclopedia on this specific car – chassis 80742 – if you really wanted to dig deep into its historical significance, and that’s notably due to its incredible racing pedigree throughout the 1990s.


This is one of the very early F40s, which in essence meant it was considered one of the more ‘lightweight’ F40 road cars. After passing hands through an owner or two, it was eventually converted to CSAI-GT spec by Giuliano Michelloto, in readiness for the upcoming Italian GT Championship in 1993. Michelloto had earned his trust with Ferrari after successfully modifying and tuning iconic championship winners, like the Lancia Stratos and the Ferrari 308. He ultimately built seven CSAI-GT F40s for privateer racing teams, 80742 being one of them.


Throughout the rest of the ’90s, this F40 GT underwent constant revision and upgrades. It was raced in numerous different specifications to meet requirements in an assortment of different classes, primarily in various GT series championships, whilst frequently taking home wins or podium finishes at the bare minimum.


Finally, in late 1994, the Japanese Super GT championship received entries from three-time championship-winning team, Team Taisan. Team Taisan was known for racing numerous legendary cars, including two F40s in ‘LM’ spec, one of which was chassis 80472. Ultimately, Team Taisan won first place in the the series, but the trophy was thanks to their other F40, as 80742 finished in eighth.


Ironically enough, both of these cars competed in the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and both resulted in iconic finishes for their manufacturers, though for different reasons.

For McLaren, the P1 finish in the LMGT1 class meant that Murray and his team developed the ultimate race car, despite having the handicap of the GTR being based on a road-going car. Ferrari on the other hand, for the first time in many years actually managed to finish the full 24-hour race. And even if they only finished in P8, the completion of the race was promising for the upcoming monster that followed the F40 – the F50.

I must admit, seeing these two up close and personal for the first time was quite extraordinary. These were cars that I’d grown up watching on the television, driving in video games and, most recently, reminiscing over on the web. I’m happy to say that they lived up to my expectations.

Naveed Yousufzai
Instagram: eatwithnaveed



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Thanks for showcasing these two cars and especially their story!


Below the legendary video of Jacques Laffite testing the F40 LM :


Speaking of Le Mans-worthy modified road cars, you guys better be all over next year's 24h of LM, and by that I am obviously talking about the hypercar class. Take as many pictures of that Aston as you can in order to indulge us. I have a feeling that next year will be a special one.

Anyway, considering that the man who designed the F40 went to such great lengths to keep the weight down (thinner paint, some piece of string instead of a door handle, etc) I could never understand why he gave the road car pop up headlights instead of ones similar to the race car we see here.

Also love the golf ball gear knob on the McLaren. If I recall correctly the F1 was the first (and so far the only) 'gaijin' car to ever win JGTC/Super GT. Between that, Le Mans and the general records that car held one has to conclude that the stars were aligned when Murray designed it.


Hypercar was delayed for the 2020-2021 season. Next season will be developments of the current P1 cars AFAIK.

Michael Rinaldi

I believe the pop up headlights made it street legal for the height of the lights reg in a lot of countries. I could be wrong, and certainly others will know more.


Yeah I figured it'd be something like that. Still, they could have been made in a fixed, flush-with-the-body position, surely.

Naveed Yousufzai

I'm sure we'll have someone there.

Antonio Alvendia

nice work Naveed! Nice seeing you in Sonoma for 3.5 seconds too, haha

Naveed Yousufzai

Likewise man, sorry we didn't get a chance to chill longer. It was quite a busy weekend lol.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

This is illegal! I have a hard-on just looking at both of them!


Thanks for the detail and history! I know pictures usually speak for themselves but it's nice to have some juicy backstory to bite into as well.


please make a feature on the venturi 600LM if you can find one, such a beautiful car and would fit right with this article


unreal! I had 3 posters on my wall as a child. The McLaren F1, Ferrari F40 and Bugatti EB110. To think those three are still regarded as some of the absolute best cars to ever grace the road and track.


Naveed is putting the Speed back in SPEED HUNTERS. Get rid of all this stance crap and have this guy cover more events!


Sorry to say but lots of of inaccuracies in the article. First F1s to race were not Long Tails. The racing version of the F1 was always called F1 GTR and they had short tails for 1995 and 1996. It was only in 1997 that the long tail was added though not in the name.

So McLaren F1 GTR did win at Le Mans on first try but the long tail, not. In 1997 McLaren did win their class but not overall.

And come on, John Player Special F1 car? Should we start referring to Mclarens as Marlboros?


Speedhunters bro, style over substance. Just enjoy the pics like I do, the writers all tend to have very limited actual automotive knowledge.


I believe back in 1994, Japan's Super GT has yet to exist. It was the first year of JGTC.