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GMA T.50: McLaren F1 Designer Gordon Murray's Ultimate Driver's Car

How does a 12,100-rpm V-12 engine, center driver's seat, and 2,200 pounds sound to you?

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How does a 12,100-rpm V-12 engine, center driver's seat, and 2,200 pounds sound to you?

Almost 30 years ago, Formula 1 race car designer Gordon Murray rewrote the supercar rule book. His light and compact McLaren F1—powered by a 6.1-liter BMW V-12 engine that developed 618 hp and with the driver situated in the middle of a three-passenger cabin—was at the time the fastest and most responsive street-legal supercar ever built. Today, powertrains with 700 hp or more and dual-clutch transmissions that guarantee 0-60 mph acceleration times of less than three seconds and top speeds of more than 200 mph are pretty much the price of entry to the 21st century supercar club. But Gordon Murray's new car, the 2021 GMA T.50, is about to rewrite the rule book all over again.

Like the McLaren F1, the GMA T.50 will be light, compact, and have a powerful, high-revving naturally aspirated V-12 engine. It will also have room for three, with the driver at the center of the cockpit. Just 100 will be made, and you'll need to spend $3 million, plus tax, to own one. But it is more than just a modern tribute to the F1: "I want this to be the ultimate driver's car," Murray says.

The GMA T.50 literally started life as a clean sheet of paper. "I don't use CAD, so all the concept drawings were done on a drawing board," Murray says. Everything—the carbon fiber tub and body panels, the entire engine, the transmission and the suspension, even the interior switchgear and all-aluminum analogue tach in the center of the dash—has been designed, engineered and manufactured to Murray's precise specifications just for this one car. It is a uniquely singular vision of the art of the automobile, more intellectually profound in its detailed execution than anything from Horacio Pagani, or even Ettore Bugatti.

At first glance, the GMA T.50 follows the generic modern supercar format, with a carbon fiber monocoque and carbon fiber body panels, a mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels, sophisticated multi-link suspension all around, and 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels with low profile tires bolted over large carbon-ceramic brakes. But look deeper, and the otherworldly attention to detail of a man who has designed some of the most innovative and successful grand prix racers in history abounds.

 

How Much Power Does The GMA T.50 Have?


We've already covered the T.50's Cosworth-built V-12 engine in detail, but just to recap: The 65-degree vee Cosworth GMA V12 is very light, very compact and designed to deliver high power density. It displaces just under 4.0 liters to keep size and weight down, yet makes 654 hp at a screaming 11,500 rpm and is redlined 12,100 rpm. Peak torque of 344 lb-ft arrives at a dizzying 9,000 rpm, but 245 lb-ft is available from just 2,500 rpm to ensure tractability in everyday driving conditions. Vmax Mode, which trims the T.50's active aerodynamics to low drag settings, unleashes a further 49 hp from the car's 48-volt integrated starter generator to enable the T.50 to hit top speed.

Designed from scratch to power the T.50, the Cosworth GMA V12 has the highest specific output of any naturally aspirated road car powerplant ever built, producing 164 hp per liter. The 29-pound steel crank sits very low in the block, just 3.4 inches from the base of the sump, to help situate the engine as low as possible in the chassis. The 12 connecting rods and 48 valves are titanium, and the camshafts and all ancillaries are gear driven; there are no belts.

The whole engine weighs just 392 pounds and drives the rear wheels through a bespoke six-speed manual transmission designed and developed in conjunction with Xtrac. The transverse transmission weighs 177 pounds, its cast aluminum housing just 0.1 inch thick. The clutch housing is titanium.

 

How Much Does The GMA T.50 Weigh?


The GMA T.50 is about as wide as a Porsche 911, but 6.6 inches shorter, 5.3 inches lower, and it rolls on a 9.8-inch longer wheelbase. And thanks to Murray's fanatical obsession with mass reduction, at about 2,200 pounds it weighs barely 2/3 as much as the steel- and aluminum-bodied 911 Carrera S. The McLaren 720S— 7.6 inches longer, 3.2 inches wider, 1.2 inches taller—dwarfs the T.50. And despite its carbon fiber construction, the McLaren is almost 1,000 pounds heavier.

Murray might prefer the old-fashioned drawing board, but he acknowledges the huge advances in computer-aided design and materials analysis in the decades since he designed the McLaren F1. And they've given him and his team of engineers a powerful toolkit to optimize the strength and minimize the mass of every single component of the T.50. For example, the forged aluminum wheels on the T.50 are lighter than the magnesium wheels on the F1. Like the F1, the T.50's chassis, monocoque, and body are all carbon fiber. "But," Murray says, "if you add up all those components and put them in a bucket, the T.50's are 110 pounds lighter, with twice the torsional stiffness."

For the perfect illustration of Murray's obsession with weight saving, look no further than the T.50's lattice-work pedals; the clutch and brake made from aluminum, the gas from titanium. Recalls Murray: "I said to the designer working on the pedals, 'I did all the stress calculations on the pedals with the F1. We're not going to get them lighter, just do something similar.' And then I thought, 'Well, that's a bit defeatist.' So, I took over the pedal design, and we got 300 grams [10.5 ounces] out of the pedals." 10.5 ounces. It sounds infinitesimal in the overall scheme of things. But Murray's point is it all adds up to improved performance.

It's simple math: In the T.50, every 100 hp only has to propel 362 pounds of car. By contrast, in the 710 hp McLaren 720S, one of the lightest of today's supercars, every 100 hp has to move 444 pounds. To match the T.50's 595 hp/ton, the 720S would need a powertrain producing 936 hp, which would add cost and complexity, and require heavier components such as brakes, driveshafts, suspension and transmission to handle the extra power. Case in point: While the standard brakes on the McLaren 720S are 15.4-inch front and 15.0-inch rear discs, the GMA T.50 has smaller and lighter 14.6-inch front and 13.4 rear Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors.

And reducing weight is not just about improving straight line performance. As Murray points out, a heavy car can never deliver the dynamic agility and responsiveness of a lighter car, even if it has the same power to weight ratio. "You can disguise mass with electric and hydraulic systems, but you can't cheat the laws of physics," he says. "You'll never get a 2-ton car to feel like a 1-ton car in terms of its transient handling, whatever you do. You just can't."

 

What Is The GMA T.50'S Ride And Handling Benchmark?


When asked what car—apart from the McLaren F1—Murray used as a benchmark to hone the T.50's ride and handling, he has a surprising answer: The Alpine A110. We drove the little French mid-engine coupe back in 2018 and loved its supple ride and calm, light-footed demeanor on less than perfect roads. It's precisely these qualities that appeal to Murray, who has an A110 as his daily driver, and whose setup of the McLaren F1 was softer and more compliant than many expected of what was then the fastest production car on earth.

Murray gave the GMA T.50 engineering team his own A110 to analyze. It was pulled apart, and the torsional stiffness, the bending stiffness, the natural frequencies, and the damping rates all measured. "It's a lesson, that car," Murray says approvingly. "It's nothing trick. But it's got all the basics right, and if you get the basics right you don't need stuff like roll compensation, cross-corner weighting, rear wheel steering—all that sort of rubbish." The T.50 thus has purely mechanical multi-link, rising rate pushrod suspension all around, with steel coil springs and aluminum shocks that don't even have any adaptive damping capability. The pushrod setup added 1.8 pounds per corner to the car, Murray laments, but it was a compromise he was prepared to make to allow for the fact the T.50 has more downforce than the McLaren F1.

 

Does The GMA T.50 Have Active Aerodynamics?


The T.50 eschews the usual array of wings, splitters and spoilers in favor of an aerodynamic underfloor and a unique fan-driven ground effects system that creates more than twice the downforce of the F1. The concept echoes the Brabham-Alfa BT46b F1 racer Murray designed in 1978, which used a large fan to pull air over its cooling radiators while conveniently creating a pool of low-pressure air underneath the car, effectively sucking it down onto the track. Texan racing genius Jim Hall had come up with the idea for his Chaparral 2J Can-Am racer in 1970, using two fans from an M109 self-propelled howitzer powered by a 45-hp, 250-cc Rockwell two-cylinder, two-stroke snowmobile engine. Indecently fast through corners, both cars were banned by racing authorities.

On the T.50, a 15.7-inch fixed pitch fan mounted up high at the rear of the car—its rotational axis is roughly at the same height as the top of the rear fender openings—is powered by an 8.5-kW 48V motor and spins at up to 7,000 rpm. Murray won't say exactly how much downforce it produces: "It's not outrageous. Cars that make ridiculous amounts of downforce end up on their bump stops at 150 mph, squirming all over the place." But he says the system allows downforce to be increased or dumped at will, regardless of vehicle speed. The T.50 has six aero modes, two of which are automatic, the other four being driver activated.

 

Does The GMA T.50 Have Power Steering?


The T.50 has electric power steering. But before purists start clutching their pearls, the system has been designed to function only at 10 mph or lower, eliminating one of the major complaints voiced by McLaren F1 buyers: very heavy steering efforts while parking. At speeds above 10 mph, the EPS system disengages and the T.50's steering is entirely manual, and Murray has designed the T.50's front axle specifically to ensure it delivers unrivaled feedback and tactility.

"If you know you're going to have power steering, it's really tempting to cheat on the kingpin inclination to make the package easier," Murray says. "But I never go more than 11 degrees on kingpin inclination. We've stuck within the limits for really good manual steering."

The McLaren F1 was famous for its central driving position. But that's not why Murray has reprised the concept for the T.50. "I want this to be the ultimate driver's car, I really do," he insists, "and you can't beat sitting in the middle. It's better for placing the car in fast corners. You don't feel so much roll because you're sitting on the roll axis, and you can run much softer springs."

Light, with supple and compliant suspension, active aerodynamics, and a compact engine mounted low in the chassis, the T.50 will deliver benchmark dynamics, Murray promises. "The centroid, which is the angle of the sum of all the centers of gravity, gets very steep toward the back of a rear- or mid-rear engine car," he says. "If you've got something with a very high V-12, like a Lamborghini, you get the back end of the car trying to fall over on itself when you are going through a corner. The T.50 is going to be like a Lotus Elise with a 650-hp engine."

Although Murray insists the T.50 will be fast, with handling and responses like no other supercar, he says it's not a number chasing car. "If you ask me honestly what the 0-60 acceleration time is, I'm sure my guys know, but I don't care. And I really don't care what the lap time round the Nürburgring would be. All I know is two things: This is going to be a quick motor car, and it will be the best driving experience anybody's ever felt."

 

Why The GMA T.50 Interior Is Unique


Murray's desire to make the driver the absolute center of the T.50 experience extends beyond things like the driving position and the H-pattern six-speed manual transmission. There are no stalks behind the 13.8-inch diameter carbon fiber steering wheel and no buttons on it, either. "I hate steering wheels with 25 small buttons on them," says Murray. "Try to find the right button when you're driving fast and have to take one hand off the wheel."

All minor controls—lights, wipers and washers, infotainment, aero and engine modes—are controlled via metal rotary switches on pods either side of an instrument panel dominated by a large, centrally-mounted analogue tach. That is flanked by a pair of information screens, the right side showing infotainment details and the left displaying vehicle information such as engine and aero mode. The titanium shifter is mounted in a skeletal carbon fiber structure to the right of a driver's seat, and it is rendered in almost eggshell-thin carbon fiber and weighs just 15.4 pounds.

There are no touch screens. "I hate them with a vengeance in a high-performance car," says Murray, who believes they force drivers to look too far away from the road for too long. "When I was designing Formula 1 cars, I had a rule that the driver's eyeline shouldn't deflect more than 3 degrees so they didn't have to refocus."

 

Conclusion


So, why now? Why, 30 years after the McLaren F1 stunned the world, does Gordon Murray want to challenge the supercar orthodoxy one more time?

"I've been watching since the F1, and I truly believe no one's done another pure, focused driver's car like that," he says. "I drive all the current sports cars, and there are so many with so much more capability than the F1, both on the track and on the road. But with the turbocharged V-8s, and in particular the hybrids, I just don't get that snap acceleration the F1 gives you. I certainly don't get that sound. I don't get the feedback through the controls, and I don't even get the sort of tingly feeling that I want to get back in them again.

"So, I thought, 'You know what? If nobody's done one in nearly 30 years, maybe that's what we should do. '" ทีเด็ดบอลวันนี้

 

 

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