- the track-only version of gordon murray's t.50 hypercar is here, and it's named for three-time formula 1 champion niki lauda.
- the car's 725-hp naturally aspirated 3.9-liter v-12 revs to 12,100 rpm, in a car slated to weigh only 1878 pounds.
- only 25 will be built, priced above $3 million, and some 15 have already been spoken for.
when gordon murray shared early details about his track-only hypercar last year, he promised that the finished version would carry a "historically significant" name in addition to its t.50s model code. on that, he has absolutely delivered: the car is now to be known as the niki lauda, a tribute to the three-time formula 1 champion who died in 2019 and who would have turned 72 today.
the niki lauda's finalized technical specifications have changed slightly since we first told you about the car, and they are set to make it one of the most extreme vehicles on the planet. gma says it is on track to weigh just 1878 pounds—more than 200 pounds lighter than its roadgoing sibling revealed last summer, the t.50. power will come from an even more highly tuned version of the t.50's naturally aspirated 3.9-liter v-12, making 725 horsepower and revving to a dizzying 12,100 rpm. those figures mean that, as murray puts it, this has got "the same power-to-weight ratio as the car that came second at le mans last year."
"t.50s was always a working title. we needed something to put on the drawings as much as anything else," murray explained us during a virtual walkaround of the new car. "but after niki passed i suddenly realized it was a perfect tribute: a racing car with a fan on the back. niki was a great friend, not just somebody who drove for me—and his family agreed it was a fantastic idea to commemorate the win in sweden."
lauda's victory at anderstorp in 1978 was the only win for the brabham bt46b "fan car" which murray designed, and which inspired the creation of the much more advanced active fan system of the t.50. each of the production run of just 25 niki laudas will also carry a plaque commemorating a race won at a different circuit by one of murray’s formula 1 cars, the first being designated kyalami, 1974.
noise level is a la carte
with no catalysts and much smaller exhaust silencers, the niki lauda will also be considerably louder than the regular t.50. "i know from formula 1 back in the seventies that when you put the pipes close together you mix the pulses and it sounds like double the revs," murray explains. "we've got the pipes right next to each other at the back of the car, so the first time it comes past flat-out it's going to sound like 24,000 rpm." owners will be offered the choice of different amounts of exhaust muffling to allow for different racetrack restrictions.
like the roadgoing t.50, the niki lauda will feature fan-assisted aerodynamics, using a 48-volt-powered fan to increase the effectiveness of its underfloor diffuser. the regular car varies the speed of its fan to create differing levels of aerodynamic assistance, but the track car's assistance will run flat out all the time. peak downforce is 3300 pounds, with gma reckoning that the car is generating more than its own weight—and therefore theoretically capable of traveling upside down—at 175 mph. "in a 150-mph corner, the t.50s will pull around 2.5 g's of lateral acceleration, and 3.5 g under braking," murray promises.
although the niki lauda shares an obvious design relationship with the regular t.50s, it also features substantial differences—the most obvious being a sizable rear wing and an lmp1-style longitudinal fin that connects this to the cabin roof. there is also an intake "periscope" to channel air into the engine. the track car's front end has gained a much bigger splitter and air-channeling dive planes. there are three naca ducts on the panel, the two outboard ones channeling air to the brakes and the one in the middle supplying ventilation to the cabin.
the interior is as minimalist as the rest of the car. the niki lauda keeps the regular t.50's central driving position but will only have a single passenger seat. a yoke-style steering wheel contains basic controls and faces a single digital display screen; other functions are controlled by a panel of toggle switches to the right. the niki lauda's carbon structure will be on proud display throughout, and both side windows and windshield use thinner glass than the t.50.
no manual transmission
one mild disappointment is the lack of the manual gearbox that murray insisted be standard on the roadgoing t.50. a six-speed paddle-operated transmission created by x-trac will be standard. murray says a manual gearbox would have distracted from the experience rather than added to it. "the engine picks up speed even quicker than the road car, it's got less inertia, and the gearbox ratios are closer because the top speed is lower. so the gearchanges are going to be coming so quickly that i honestly don't think you'd want to be letting go of the wheel to find an h-pattern gear slot as often as you would have to."
early hopes that the niki lauda would compete in the fia's proposed hypercar class haven't come to pass. "they ended up proposing a sort of silhouette formula with a basic lmp2 chassis underneath, which wasn't for us," murray says. however, there are hopes that niki lauda buyers will ultimately be able to take their cars racing through what is being called the gt1 sports club. "initially you'd be invited to some of the gt championships, with the chance to watch the race but then stay on for a couple of days and drive it," murray says. "if that's successful then [founder stéphane ratal] is talking about creating a pro-am series that would be a backup to the gt championship."
murray says around 15 niki laudas have been sold already and anticipates the remainder of the run of 25 will be allocated quickly following the car's launch. the price is the equivalent of $3 million to $4.4 million at current exchange rates, with production scheduled to start in january next year.