The racing version of Gordon Murray's T.50 is here – the T.50S Niki Lauda
It creates 1.5 tonnes of downforce
Gordon Murray’s T.50 supercar was arguably the car reveal of 2020, being a true successor to the McLaren F1 and bringing proper fan car technology to the road. Of course, one of the main questions that sprung to everyone’s minds was whether Professor Murray would take the T.50 racing. And now, we have our answer.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the T.50S Niki Lauda, with that name paying tribute to Murray’s ex-Brabham teammate who famously drove the BT46B fan car and would probably have thoroughly enjoyed the recipe of this new track weapon. 25 will be made, with each car being named after one of Gordon’s Grand Prix wins, the first chassis being called ‘Kyalami 1974’.
First up, the aero
The biggest change is clearly the aero. This is what happens when one of the greatest automotive engineers of all time gets to throw the road car rulebook out the window, whilst still using the base T.50 chassis.
The T50.S has a front splitter with a central aerofoil section (essentially a small front wing), the most aggressive dive planes I've seen on anything outside of an F1 or LMP1 car and a set of barge boards either side. So all of that will keep the front axle welded to the floor, as well as clean up the air heading towards the rear of the car.
Then, like all prototype racers these days, we have a shark fin from the roof scoop back to and mating with a dual element rear wing for high speed cornering stability. And look at the shape of that wing with its creased endplates that angle everything back in towards the car, and that visually stops that picnic table looking too big for the car.
And let's just swing round the back fully - that wing, the now familiar fan sitting below it and those Venturi tunnels. Here you can very clearly see just how steep Professor Murray has been able to make the rear diffusers thanks to the fan doing such a good job of sucking the air through them. Normally you'd get unwanted flow separation at that steep a gradient with normal airflow, but the sheer suction from that fan means Gordon can send the downforce levels through the roof.
Speaking of the fan, unlike the T.50 road car that has numerous aerodynamic modes which alternate between fan speeds, the 400mm ground effects fan is constantly on full blast in high downforce mode in the T.50S.
In fact, I had a chat with Gordon and he admitted to me that the T.50S originally created too much downforce. When all the CFD was said and done, the car created 1900kg of downforce. That is a scary amount for a car that - after being stripped out inside and the engine lightened - weighs just 852kg.
It turned out that was simply too much downforce for what Murray was looking for.
It's crazy to think that this aero has been PAIRED BACK from the original design, meaning that the T.50S Niki Lauda 'only' creates 1500kg of downforce. 1900kg was deemed too much to handle for the average supercar owner and their neck muscles, especially when matched with a set of Michelin slicks.
And then there's the engine
Something you’ll need to train your neck and core for however is the revised engine. The Cosworth V12 in the T.50 is already mental, revving to 12,100rpm quicker than any road car engine ever. But the engineers at Cosworth have eked even more out of the 3.9-litre naturally aspirated unit with a revised cylinder head and camshafts upping power to a peak of 725bhp.
That is aided by a higher compression ratio and a more simplistic induction method of 12 individual throttle bodies, all fed via the aggressive roofscoop up top. Oh, and because it’s track-only, there are no cats, so this 12,000rpm supercar is straight-piped.
Another big change has been the transmission – that short-throw manual gearshift has now made way for an Xtrac paddleshift ‘box which can be geared to 210mph for high speed tracks or just 170mph for those tight, technical layouts. That may seem like a bit of a shame compared to the manual road car, but considering how quickly this thing looks to devour tracks, a manual gearbox would only be a hindrance.
So the big question is, where will this thing race?
Well, there technically isn’t a race series for it just yet, but the ball will start rolling with T.50-specific track days at European circuits, with the aim being to then create a championship similar to the BPR series in the 1990s that will be called the GT1 Sports Club – road-going supercars that are trackified and downforce-heavy.
In other words, putting a middle finger up to the current Le Mans hypercar fiasco and committing to racing cars that actually resemble things you can theoretically buy and drive on the road.
Imagine a series that snaps up all the super and hypercars that never made it to Le Mans – the T.50, Valkyrie, Senna, Ford GT MkII, whatever Ferrari kicks out soon and even the Bugatti Bolide.
A T.50S will cost you £3.1 million before taxes and production starts in December 2021, straight after the 100 road T.50s are built. With the prototypes currently putting in the hard miles and Gordon soon to get behind the wheel himself, the T.50 is frustratingly close to changing the supercar game forever. And I will do everything in my power to follow the development of this car and get it on the channel when physically possible.