One of the most iconic McLarens ever to hit the track has had a full restoration, becoming the first car to undergo such a treatment in a new dedicated programme by McLaren's Special Operations division (MSO).
The ex-Le Mans F1 GTR '25R' raced in the 1997 edition of the French Classic, failing to finish but being classified in 19th place after oil line damage on the car caused a fire that took it out of the race. The car was subsequently sold to a team in Japan where it continued to race until 2005, making chassis number 25 the final McLaren to race in a contemporary racing series.
Following its retirement 13 years ago, 25R sat dormant in a private collection in Japan, but returned tot he UK in 2016 when it was bought by its current owner. It is currently part of a collection curated by Kidston SA, a firm founded by McLaren owner and F1 broker Simon Kidston.
With 25R's extensive racing history, the car required plenty of work, with the rebuilt being completely from the ground up. Kidston SA returned the car to McLaren for it to undergo a full 'as new' overhaul, using an original stock of McLaren F1 GTR components that hadn't been touched in 20 years. More to the point, the new parts used were all pre-June 1997 components, allowing the car to be taken back to the exact condition in would have been in during the build-up to its Le Mans debut.
This includes the 'tall' Le Mans gearing and the blue roof identification lights – taken from an aircraft’s wing. The blue lights were in fact the only non-McLaren part fitted to the car by the factory, and was added prior to Le Mans. MSO even restored the car to its Le Mans livery of that year – the iconic black and red sides with the famous Gulf Oil blue and orange over the top of Gulf Team Davidoff GTC Racing.
The full restoration of 25R is the first of a new factory restoration programme for McLaren's 1990s icon. Owners pf the 64 road going F1s or the 28 F1 GTR racing cars can have their cars painstakingly restored at McLaren's Woking headquarters.
"Even among F1 GTRs, this car, designated ‘25R’, is unique – and now it is as near to being new as we can make it," said Ansar Ali, Managing Director, McLaren Special Operations. "The car is the exemplar of everything that the new certification programme stands for and we are proud to have ‘25R’ as the very first McLaren F1 Certified car."
The McLaren F1 Certified programme includes a unique Certificate of Authenticity – which McLaren Automotive is the only body in the world able to issue – which authenticates each car’s provenance, originality, service life, road/race history and condition. Owners will also get a bespoke illustrated book documenting the history of their car.
"McLaren cherishes its rich heritage of iconic and world-beating cars such as the F1," said McLaren Automotive Chief Executive Officer Mike Flewitt. "25R presented us with a unique opportunity to demonstrate this by restoring it to precisely how it was when it raced at Le Mans in 1997, thus ensuring its future. Maintaining the integrity of these historically significant cars is paramount and F1 Certified will play a big role in allowing us to do that for the peace of mind of owners today as well as preserving a wonderful heritage for future generations of car lovers."