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McLaren Offers $500,000 Racing Version of Ferrari Challenger

McLaren Offers Race Model of Ferrari-Rivaling Supercar
The Mclaren Group's MP4-12C supercar sits on display at the company's headquarters in Woking. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

McLaren Group unveiled a 310,000-pound ($500,000) track version of the 200-mile-per-hour MP4-12C supercar in a bid to establish race credentials for its rival to the Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Gallardo.

The GT3 racer is priced at double the cost of the road car and will make its competitive debut in an endurance event at the Navarra circuit near Pamplona, Spain, on May 22, McLaren said after presenting the model at its base in Woking, near London.

“We want to do things properly so that McLaren will be seen as the gold standard in super sports cars,” Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLaren Automotive, said today in an interview. “We’re not trying to sell a few cars over a short period; we’re building a brand and we’re here long term.”

McLaren, best-known as the most successful Formula One team after Ferrari, said the new model will do most of its racing in Europe’s FIA GT3 competition. The series currently features cars from Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini and Porsche, as well as the $500,000 gull-wing SLS supercar from Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, new to the circuit this year.

About 20 McLaren GT3 variants will be delivered to customer teams in Europe in 2012, and the car may also be entered in the 24 Hours of Spa endurance race and other events worldwide.

U.S. Boost

The MP4-12C road car, successor to the McLaren F1, the world’s costliest auto in the 1990s and the fastest at 240 mph, has racked up 1,700 orders even before being displayed at 35 global dealerships due to open this year, Sheriff said.

“It’s rising on a daily basis,” he said. “We have seen a fairly linear increase since we opened for orders last summer.”

Concern that the car might struggle to win buyers in North America, where Formula One has a lower profile than elsewhere in the world, was misplaced, Sheriff said, adding that, “if anything, demand in the U.S. has been even higher.”

The model will be available for viewing at McLaren’s showroom in Hyde Park, London, next month. In the U.S., the No. 1 supercar market, it will go on show in August in Greenwich, Connecticut, a town known for its concentration of hedge funds.

McLaren will initially have nine U.S. dealers in cities including Beverly Hills, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and New York.

The MP4-12C takes its name from the MP4 designation given to all of McLaren’s race cars since 1981, the latest being the MP4-26 driven by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. The “C” indicates the road car’s carbon construction and the “12” is a reflection of “internal performance criteria” including weight, aerodynamics, power and down force, Sheriff said.

More Models

McLaren aims to develop further variants of the MP4-12C in coming years, though production numbers will remain “relatively limited” to preserve its exclusivity, the executive said.

“We don’t want to flood the market,” he said. “We don’t to be greedy. Our customers are buying this car because it’s an exclusive car.”

McLaren may consider selling shares through an initial public offering in about 2015, Executive Chairman Ron Dennis said in an interview at the sidelines of today’s event.

The company is currently converting debt into equity and has hit “every financial target” that it has set itself, Dennis said. He declined to assign a value to the business or say how much has been spent developing the MP4-12C and building a production site next door to the Formula One technical center.

“Inevitably investors ask what is the exit, and an exit of course is an IPO, you have to say that,” Dennis said. “Our target for that decision is four years away, and we’ll take that decision when we get to it.”

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