Then Gordon Murray comes in for a quick chat. As he leaves, I ask what he thinks of the all-carbonfibre car. “I love it,” he says. “It’s really interesting, a car based on prototype architecture and aero that you can drive to the track. It’s a completely contemporary take on how racing cars and racing used to be.” And when the notoriously hard-to-please designer of the McLaren F1 takes something seriously, you should too.
The car, the SCG 003 (the third project of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus), is a road and race car that conforms to GT3 rules, even though the need to produce 1000 road examples means homologation for this class of sports car racing is not on the cards.
Glickenhaus will be delighted if he can sell a dozen and, at £1.5 million for the racer (the road car is £1.65m before tax), you can see why. A fully homologated GT3 car from a mainstream manufacturer that can race almost anywhere in the world costs about one-fifth as much.
But Glickenhaus says the car is different from those in two distinct ways. The first is obvious: its shape is more that of a Le Mans prototype than a GT3 car derived from a showroom road machine.
“Because we don’t have to make thousands, we can do things normal manufacturers cannot,” he says. “We do not, for example, need a cockpit that’ll carry two large men, which is why they have a full-width cockpit and we do not. Within the GT3 rules, you can reduce frontal area to exactly the size we have here.” Freed from such constraints, Glickenhaus has been able to design a car he claims has “conservatively double the downforce of a McLaren P1”.
It’s also a clever car. The rules mandate a minimum height for the front wings, so the SCG003 has low fenders bearing little ridges to reach that height, nominally at least. But the cleverest touches are the wing mirrors.
The rules stipulate that mirrors must be fitted, but not that they should be visible by the driver. So Glickenhaus’s mirrors are fully functioning aero devices, containing tiny cameras displaying the area behind the car on a cockpit screen.
Conceptually, it’s entirely different from other GT3 race cars, and while it may look the least suited to the public road, Glickenhaus contends that it’s actually the most.
“Change the rear wing, the diffuser and the splitter and the road car becomes a race car. Those are the only differences,” he says. To prove his point, he intends to drive an SCG 003 to the Nürburgring for the 24-hour race next month and convert it into a racer in the paddock using hand tools. Then if it survives, he’ll convert it back and drive away.
The car uses a Honda HPD twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 originally designed for Indycar racing and modified by Autotechnica Motori in Italy. With restrictors, it has around 520bhp in the ballasted 1300kg race car; in unfettered form, it should be about 650bhp in the 1150kg road car. Which should get your attention. Drive goes to the rear wheels via a Hewland paddle-shift gearbox. Glickenhaus estimates the road car should lap the Nürburgring in under seven minutes.
So how real is this car? Well, Glickenhaus says it has been passed as technically correct by the FIA. It’s done three 24-hour tests already and must have something, because he’s persuaded last year’s Sebring 12-hour winner, Marino Franchitti, to lead the driver line-up at the Nürburgring.
Paired with Manuel Lauck and David Jahn, Franchitti successfully qualified the SCG 003 for the 24-hour race by completing a six-hour event earlier this month. The car seta best lap time of 8min 32.539sec and finished 13th overall.
The car’s bigger problem is its ineligibility for any recognised series; even at the ’Ring it will race in the ‘experimental’ SP-X class. Glickenhaus’s view is refreshing and honest. “We’re not homologated,” he says, “so we’re saying to organisers at Sebring, Daytona and Spa, ‘Let us race, balance the performance to GT3 and class us as experimental’. We’re not looking to come first overall or win GT. We don’t care; let someone else take the trophy home. We just want to race.”
And what of Le Mans? “You’re going to think I’m psycho-crazy,” he says, before revealing his master plan.
“I’ve spoken to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and they’ve told me the other manufacturers will never let me run as a GT car. So they told me to turn it into an LMP prototype. Now, financially I’ve been lucky, but not that lucky. I don’t have a $500 million budget. But the ACO said, ‘Build a non-hybrid evolution of the car and we will let you run lighter and give you more power. We’re not saying we’re going to let you win, but we’d love to see you competitive’.”
And that, ultimately, is the aim. What does he need to do it? “I had 15 serious people all coming to Geneva to see it,” he says. “If I can sell that number of cars, or even close, we will be on the grid at Le Mans in 2017.”
James Glickenhaus's SCG 003 revealed in Geneva
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