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McLaren MP4-12C Can-Am (2012) racer revealed

Wed, 15 Aug 2012

McLaren will show this MP4-12C Can-Am racing car at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August 2012. It's only a one-off design study at the moment, says McLaren, but the Can-Am racer could morph into an off-the-shelf racer for well-heeled enthusiasts keen to take their racing seriously - if there's enough interest.

What are the specs of the McLaren MP4-12C Can-Am racer?

Though the engine is ostensibly the same 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 that nestles in the regular 12C, optimised cooling and recalibration ups power to 624bhp. That's 13bhp more than the 12C Spider, making the Can-Am can the most powerful 12C yet shown.

Adding to the car's potential performance is a weight figure of just 1200kg - around 270kg lighter than the regular hard-top road car. Of course, there's masses of aero at play here too. Pushing the Pirelli slicks into the track surface is a myriad of carbon addenda: a new splitter and front winglets team up at the front, and the rear is dominated by a huge fixed wing in place of the road car's active air-brake spoiler.

Because the Can-Am 12C isn't constrained by the same pesky FIA regulations that the MP4-12C GT3 has to conform to, its completely redesigned aero package produces 30% more downforce than the GT3 racer. This is one area where McLaren's extensive F1 know-how has genuinely come in handy.

Is anything carried over from the standard roadgoing MP4-12C untouched?

It's a testament to the design of the standard 12C's carbon 'Monocell' tub that it sees duty in the Can-Am racer. Although the interior is stripped out and fitted with a roll cage, the car's basic underpinnings remain unchanged from the road car's, providing the all-important driver safety cell.

There are even two front seats inside the Can-Am 12C. However, even if it went into low-volume production (as seems likely for privateer racers), you won't be able to drive your trophy wife to a track day, as it's not road legal. 

Why has McLaren used the Can-Am name?

The 12C Can-Am Edition wears the same shade of McLaren Orange as the cars of the company's namesake founder Bruce McLaren, and also Denny Hulme, which were successfully campaigned throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Poignantly, McLaren was killed while testing a new iteration of his Can-Am racing car on 2 June 1970, at Goodwood Racing Circuit.

If you want to pay your own tribute to Bruce, you can't just stroll out and buy a Can-Am 12C, though. McLaren confirmed to CAR that the concept is just that: a pure design study from which the marque will gauge public reaction, and only then consider production plans.

By Ollie Kew