McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh says the Formula 1 team's MP4-12C project is just the start of what it intends to be a long involvement in road car design and sports car racing.
A GT3 version of the 12C (ABOVE) will race in 2012, with the CRS team in charge of the program. It will mark McLaren's first foray into motorsports beyond F1 since its F1 GTR car won GT championships and the Le Mans 24 Hours in the mid-1990s.
"The ambition is for McLaren is to be more than an F1 team," said Whitmarsh. "We are passionate about that and want to win in F1. We have decided we need to be a road car company, and the 12C is just a start. Over the coming three to four years we are going to roll out a whole range of products."
He said that McLaren's GT ambitions did not depend on the success of the 12C and the collaboration with CRS.
"Regardless of the success of this partnership – and I am sure it will be successful – we will race. There will be GT2s and GT4s and GT Endurance," said Whitmarsh. "The nature of the cars we are developing – not just 12C – is they are race-bred and have technology that we have in our F1 cars. It is about what our brand is and what our passion is. This is the first of a new era."
Whitmarsh explained that there was no question of McLaren running its GT program in-house, and that while "engineering authority" would remain with his company, he had absolute faith in Andrew Kirkaldy's CRS team to handle the rest of the project.
"Launching a road car business, we are passionate about going motor racing, it's easy for these things to become distracting. While we have raced in GT with some notable success, it would be arrogant of us to believe we understood the market," said Whitmarsh. "Andrew and his team have been active recently – they know how the GT market works. This is an equivalence formula, it has to be tempered by the fact the cars have to be controlled. We have no experience of that and no knowledge of it.
"It is always right to have good, strong partners, and we are happy with the relationship. I told them that we would be a tough partner. Hopefully he has enjoyed some of it, but we are enjoying it and there is a lot of excitement with CRS and McLaren to go racing in the near future."