The outrageously innovative T.50 is probably the most remarkable supercar of the modern age. It’s a rare bird indeed; the untainted magnum opus of Formula One engineering god Gordon Murray, whose last street car, the McLaren F1, is still widely regarded as one of the greatest cars ever made.
Setting out to be the most exciting, precise, involving and exhilarating car that ever wore a set of license plates, the T.50 redefined the concept of lightweighting in the supercar world, at just 980 kg (2,160 lb). Its howling, naturally-aspirated, 654-horsepower Cosworth V12 is a thing of great wonder, revving to a stratospheric 12,100 rpm and setting all kinds of records in the process.
And the aerodynamics are even more extraordinary, including a giant underbody fan that literally sucks the car to the ground. This is Murray’s homage to his most famous hour in Formula One: the Brabham BT46B “fan car” rolled out for the 1978 F1 season. The fan wasn’t technically illegal, but it stuck the car to the road so hard that it cornered some 30 mph faster than anything else if drivers had the cojones to throw it in that quick.
In its first and only race, driver Niki Lauda waltzed the BT46B ’round the outside of a helpless Mario Andretti’s Lotus and walked the field to a 30-second win. With the F1 paddock in uproar over the design, Brabham withdrew the “fan car” after the race and the concept was banned going forward.
Today, on what would have been Lauda’s birthday, Gordon Murray Automotive announced a track-only T.50s “Niki Lauda” commemorating the late and legendary driver. Developed in parallel with the roadgoing T.50, this is far more than a cabin clearout and a colossal rear wing, although it’s those too. Murray says hundreds of components have been changed to make a wild, apex-devouring racetrack thoroughbred for the enjoyment of the 25 people that’ll get to buy one, and the many, many others who’ll be tugging their sleeves hoping for a ride in the back seats.
“We had no interest in achieving the ultimate lap time,” says Murray in a press release, “or creating an over-tyred and over-downforced spaceship at the expense of driver involvement, because ultimately you have to possess an F1 driver level of skill and fitness to get the best out of them.
The headline figures get even crazier than we expected; weight drops nearly 15 percent to a ridiculous 852 kg (1,878 lb). Power is up to 725 horsepower, with a giant ram air intake over the cabin and a “straight through” exhaust that will make this banshee of an engine scream even louder.
Downforce is up to 1,500 kg (3307 lb), nearly twice the weight of the car. Murray said he and the GMA team had it up over 1,900 kg (4,190 lb) at one point, but backed it off to “make the car more manageable.” If you thought the back end of the street car was outrageous to look at, then feast your eyes on the racetrack version with its hang glider-sized rear wing and gramophone head diffusers:
The rear wing is joined to the roof by a large fin, which adds yaw stability and helps push the car into a high-speed turn. The bodywork gains some massive new air intakes at the sides, plus barge boards behind the front wheels, larger splitters, wheel arch vents and brake cooling intakes. The fan isn’t a multi-mode extravaganza like the one on the street car; instead, like the BT46B, the T.50s uses the fan as more of a “blunt instrument,” locking it in high downforce mode.
The cabin is pared back, as you’d expect, with four-point race harnesses in place of seat belts and a tiny carbon steering wheel offering nothing but the basics. It keeps the same three-seat layout as the T.50 and McLaren F1, with the driver front and center for exceptional visibility and feel, and passengers relegated backward and out to the sides.
A vertical panel of old-school flip switches gives you access to the few gadgets that are available, but there ain’t many, and they’re all pretty track-focused. A single small screen gives you a digital readout of the essential information: speed, revs, gear position, settings, telemetry, lap time, tire pressures, g-force readings and a video feed from an inbuilt camera.
Murray has designed the car to be as user-friendly as possible, saying he wants it to be something you can enjoy at a track day without needing a pit crew. “It was essential to me,” he says, “that the T.50s Niki Lauda is easy to live with and enjoy. You will own the car, you will be completely in control of where and when you enjoy it. My vision is that owners will take it to a circuit, check the tyre pressures, climb in, fire it up and have fun. That’s the way it should be.”
Still, each car will ship with a full set of pit tools, including a fuel filler, and an invitation to come thrash the thing on track with the GMA team standing by to provide on-track tuition, chassis and aero setup, and a full day’s lesson from a technician on how to look after the thing and prepare it for a day out. And if you want your hand held, you can always get a tech or a team to come join you at whatever track you’re visiting around the world.
It’s the ultimate fan car for fan car fans, and Murray doesn’t expect it to be rivaled any time soon. “With the direction of travel of the automotive industry,” says Murray, “it’s hard to imagine that there will ever be another car quite like this. Especially not one with a central driving position, a high revving naturally aspirated V12 engine and that is so lightweight. I believe it will go on to define its era.”
Indeed, as the world goes more and more electric, the position remains open for the greatest combustion-powered supercar that will ever be built. And depending on the judging criteria, the sheer technical audacity of the T.50 and its new T.50s sibling have earned them a right to be in that conversation. Truly innovative machines from one of the great legends of the automotive world, and the polar opposite of design by committee.
Enjoy a video below – particularly the bit at the very end. Just try to imagine being in the cabin of a beast that’s screaming like that. I’ve got goosebumps.
T.50s: The Unfair Advantage
Source: Gordon Murray Automotive