McLaren eyeing future IndyCar and WEC LMP1 projects


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McLaren is considering an expansion of its racing activities which could include a full-time IndyCar team and entry into the World Endurance Championship’s revamped top-flight category.

The team’s spokesperson Tim Bampton would neither confirm nor deny reports it is considering a full-time return to IndyCar as soon as next year, but the team is known to be evaluating options in championships outside F1.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend F1’s proposed budget cap could prompt it to expand into other championships such as IndyCar in the “right circumstances”.

“We did the Indy 500 last year,” said Brown. “North America is an important market for us and we’re a fan of IndyCar racing. So as we look at the budget cap and how you manage that, looking at additional forms of motor racing is something we are considering.”

He also said the team would “definitely consider” a WEC entry under its proposed new rules for the 2020/21 season which would bring the top category – currently LMP1 – closer to production car specifications instead of prototypes.

“McLaren has a long history in additional forms of motorsport, whether that was Can-Am, IndyCar, we’ve won Le Mans,” he said. “With the new regulations coming up for World Endurance, we are participating in those meetings and reviewing what that looks like. We’re a fan of the Le Mans brand.”

JJ Lehto/Yannick Dalmas/Masanori Seikya, McLaren F1 GTR, Le Mans, 1995
McLaren has won Le Mans once, in 1995
“We would consider running the new, whatever they’re going to call it, GTP, silhouette, LMP1, I’ve heard various phrases,” he added. “I think what’s exciting is trying to go to Le Mans to win outright. That’s the highest value for a racing team.”

McLaren’s shareholders are supportive of the team moving into series outside F1, Brown added.

“They like the ideas as long as what we do is financially viable, makes sense for our brand and we can be competitive. Our shareholders are a group of racers, which makes it a lot of fun to work for them.

“The Indianapolis 500 project last year, when I brought that forward and told them I thought it was commercially viable and we’d be competitive, it didn’t take them very long to say, ‘Great idea, let’s do it’. So from that standpoint they’re great to work for.”

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19 comments on “McLaren eyeing future IndyCar and WEC LMP1 projects”

  1. Sounds like McLaren is doing anything to keep Alonso happy and with the team. Take your pick Fernando, run in IndyCar, try to win the 500 and pick a few WEC races (LeMans). I think he’s pretty much had it with running around mid field in F1.

    It makes total sense for Ferrari and Mercedes to enter IndyCar too. Good exposure in the States, their largest market.

    1. There’s a video on youtube showing Zak Brown looking the keenest about doing Indy whilst talking to Alonso.

    2. Don, it’s been an open secret for months in the world of sportscar racing that McLaren have been looking at the WEC – I’m surprised it’s taken the F1 press so long to catch up with what’s been going on.

      Whilst you point at Alonso, I think that perhaps this is being driven more by Zak Brown – Zak Brown has an extensive amount of experience in sportscar racing, having raced for a long time in endurance races such as the 24 Hours of Spa, as well as co-running a sportscar team (United Autosport). He did also race in the Indy Lights series as well when he was younger (the feeder series to IndyCar), so he does have some links to IndyCar as well.

      Alonso’s interests may happily coincide with those of Brown, but I suspect that Alonso probably didn’t need to ask too much as Zak Brown already had an interest in those series. It does also fit with what Brown wants to do with McLaren, which is to move them away from just being “that F1 team” and make them a recognised name across a wider chunk of the motorsport fraternity.

      1. Excellent summary. I really think that Zak’s interest and willingness to expand into other categories was the greatest factor (other than money) in keeping Alonso at Mclaren.

        1. It’s a smart move to expand horizons and diversify. I’m surprised other F1 teams haven’t moved to IndyCar because of the opportunity to win the worlds largest race, and compete in their largest market (Ferrari and Mercedes).

        2. I’m also glad that Zac is looking at the F1 cost cap in a completely different and positive way from some of the other F1 team management.
          He’s seeing the opportunity to redeploy potentially surplus McLaren F1 resources – budget, talent, manufacturing and testing capability, etc – and get even more exposure and benefit from other top series … while Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull especially are only looking at negatives and keep banging on about having to retrench staff, ironically (in Merc’s case) while pulling out of other series like DTM.

    3. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
      16th May 2018, 0:12

      What i’d love to see is Alonso come down and do the Bathurst 100.

      Zak Brown has partial ownership of one of the teams, Walkinshaw Andretti United and I think it must be something that he’d like to see happen in the future, maybe even a wildcard entry of Alonso/Power?

  2. The commercial appeal makes sense but I can’t help but feeling maybe they should focus on competitiveness in F1 before diversifying into other top tier categories and risk spreading themselves too thin.

    1. On the contrary, I see it perhaps as recognising F1 wins and championships are harder to come by in the near future, so they’re looking at other categories to achieve that. Which is a bit sad for Mclaren fans, but that’s the reality.

      1. @RL I guess you’re right. That’s the ground reality. Even after changing from Honda to Renault power they’re still significantly off the pace of the frontrunners and even some of the midfield runners. It doesn’t look they’re gonna win anytime soon though they have made some progress with the new aero updates.. It’s the lack of straightline speed that’s been a handicap for them. I just wonder why can’t they figure it out.

        I really hope that I can see them win in F1 one weekend, at Indy the same weekend and at the WEC another weekend. But first they need to address their straightline speed issue.

  3. pastaman (@)
    15th May 2018, 14:58

    Please, please, pleeeeeease come to Indycar! The Honda engine is competitive! :)

  4. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    15th May 2018, 15:28

    Excellent news.
    I had been hoping we might see Lando in a Carlin Indycar next year, but perhaps we will see him in a McLaren Indycar instead.
    Indeed taking over the sophomore Carlin operation would be a good entry strategy for ZakLaren…

  5. Mark in Florida
    15th May 2018, 17:15

    If McLaren could team up with Penske and Ilmore would build him another world destroyer engine , Alonso would be able to get that 500 win. Indy car rules are fairly stable and since the chassis is spec everyone has the same chance to win its more up to the drivers. Penske does the small things well and their chassis tuning is world class. It would be a no brainer for McLaren to race Indy league.

    1. Ilmor is partnered with Chevrolet. Unlike their F1 engine, Honda’s IndyCar engine is excellent, and either would be a fine choice. Sounds like another manufacturer will be entering soon and I can’t see McLaren risking things with an unproven power plant.

  6. This is excellent, McLaren has all the brand recognition they are ever gonna get in the near future from F1. Unless they can be WCC or WDC it is almost 0 benefit.

    But being competitive in Indy or WEC will add value don’t you think?

    Winning Le Mans with that McLaren F1 cemented F1 as the best supercar of that generation. Today it is worth north of 10 milion euros.. Pretty amazing.

    If they can do the same, that will be excellent.

    And Indy is more popular than F1 in USA, their primary market. Infact it makes most sense for them to do all 3 series. Maybe until Liberty cancels legacy bonuses for historic teams?

  7. I like it.
    McLaren will surely get into Indy and WEC series. I’m wondering if this could be the beginning of the end for them in F1, especially if they continue to lag hopelessly behind Merc and Ferrari. Let’s face it, it will be at least 3 or 4 years before they have a shot at truly being competitive. Without a sponsor, how many 100s of millions are they willing to flush? The Return on Investment is horrible.

    Ferrari and Merc would never join Indy because they won’t have any influence or power in Indy. All teams with the same chassis – their chances of dominating would be slim and none and their legacy would take a hit. Equality is not what they want. They were successful at keeping McLaren at the bottom – they wouldn’t sell them engines. They don’t want competition.

    Alonso is extremely popular over here as he is worldwide, especially after his successful foray in the 500. His presence in Indy would grab race fans attention worldwide. I will go so far as to say Indy would be as popular if not more than F1 due to the fact it is true racing, not a predictable battle between two teams. A farce!! F1 is not the pinnacle of racing – it is the pinnacle of racing technology. Big difference.

    Come on over Alonso, take Mario’s advice, quit wasting years in a rigged series where you have no chance. You deserve better – you were happy here and you are not there. You were successful at Indy last year and it will only get better.

    1. Ferrari and Merc could become engine manufacturers. Merc was previously.
      McLaren will use Honda or Chevrolet power.

      1. Sure they can.
        But they won’t wield the influence they have in F1.
        No more dominating which is good.

  8. It’s really cool. It will get more people interested watching indycar and wec, and make them realise there is other series besides f1, and other great drivers in the world

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