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Thursday, August 14, 2014

McLaren unveils the 650S Sprint, a track car for the well-heeled racer



McLaren 650S Sprint
Only a small portion of buyers will ever track their cars, and that number drops dramatically when looking at customers who purchase a non-street-legal track car. After all, how keen (and rich) must you be to buy a machine that needs trailering to the racetrack, with another form of transportation doing the towing? But those buyers exist, and they're very serious about purchasing the fastest car available for the money.
In the McLaren camp, that car — as of now — is a 650S GT3 race car. It's a machine that will, next season, compete in the highest levels of sports car racing throughout the world. For many well-heeled track day warriors, it might be a bit too much to handle. 
Enter the McLaren 650S Sprint: One of the fastest attainable track day cars on the market, and it still has air conditioning. 

Now, I say "attainable" a little tongue in cheek, because $333,000 is far from cheap — especially when you could buy, say, a Caterham Seven 620 R, go incredibly fast, and still buy a plenty-nice weekend lake house.

 But, in a world of million-dollar Pagani Zonda Rs and the upcoming LaFerrari FXX and McLaren P1 GTR, the 650S Sprint is a more sensible (yet still extravagant) toy for the rich. It's something that a wealthy (non Trump status) CEO with a fetish for track day antics might actually buy.

We've driven the 650S production car, and it's fantastic. What McLaren does well is blend a true performer with a sense of comfort that's typically not associated with a full-bore supercar. The 650S Sprint, while technically the same car, is stripped and tweaked to a level that is likely to be quite different. 

For starters, it has an FIA-approved roll cage, a six point adjustable harness, an integrated fire extinguisher and a lightweight carbon fiber racing seat. It also arrives with GT3-inspired racey decals, only with the colors inverted. 

Of course cooling has been improved, taking cues from the GT3, and more aggressive Brake Steer is adopted as well as refined active aerodynamic settings and race-tuned suspension. Downforce, too, sees an increase due to front wing louvres, a lower ride height and an optional beefy rear wing.

 While all this will ensure the Pirelli slick tires get chewed up rather swiftly, switching them should be a breeze thanks to an onboard air jacking system.

While much has changed from the street 650S, what remains the same is the 641 hp, 3.8-liter twin-turbo motor, with that and the gearbox merely receiving calibration tweaks.

 The retention of air conditioning is a bit of a surprise, as that's usually the first thing engineers ditch in the effort of shedding weight. But track day drivers, who aren't in need of that final tenth of a second, may be thankful for a bit of cool air on a hot day.

While the 650S Sprint will be a low volume, niche vehicle, it should make for a spectacular companion for those few individuals with the means to buy such a car.

 One thing's for sure, those that do will be the envy of the local track-day paddock. And with air conditioning, their helmet hair won't be nearly as bad.