To celebrate what would have been Niki Lauda’s 72nd birthday, legendary Formula One designer Gordon Murray has named his latest car design after the three-time world champion.
Murray, who now runs Gordon Murray Automobiles (GMA), has set his sights on creating the ultimate driver’s car and the result is two-fold: the remarkable road-going T.50 and utterly-mind-blowing, track-only T.50s Niki Lauda.
Murray’s engineering genius was responsible for some of F1’s most iconic cars, including the Brabham BT46B, which featured a fan at the rear of the car designed to extract air from underneath it and significantly enhance the car’s ground-effect aerodynamics.
In its only outing before the fan technology was banned, Lauda drove the BT46B to victory at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix by a huge winning margin of 34 seconds.
Murray went on to design the most dominant F1 car in history — the 1988 McLaren MP4-4 — and the legendary McLaren F1 road car, which remains one of the most desirable road-going vehicles in the world.
His latest venture, GMA, is due to start production of 100 road-going T.50s in 2022 before 25 T.50s Niki Laudas are built from 2023 onward.
Both cars feature a fan at the rear inspired by the BT46B, and Murray felt it was fitting to name the track-focused car after Lauda, who died in 2019.
“The T.50s is named in honour of Niki to commemorate his famous win with the Brabham BT46B fan car in the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix,” Murray said. “Niki was a great racing driver and he was also a good friend and it is absolutely fitting that we are launching the T.50s Niki Lauda on his birthday.
“Niki would have appreciated the innovation and engineering detail in our car.”
The car will feature an upgraded version of the T.50’s bespoke V12 Cosworth engine, which will produce 725bhp and rev to 12,100rpm.
The T.50s Niki Lauda will weigh just 852kg and will be able to produce up to 1500kg of downforce — a number capped by Murray to keep performance levels in an accessible range for non-professional drivers.
“We asked ourselves what would be the coolest thing to drive on track and what would create a track driving experience like no other car in history?” Murray said.
“We had no interest in achieving the ultimate lap time or creating an over-tyred and over-downforced spaceship at the expense of driver involvement, because ultimately you have to possess an F1 driver level of skill and fitness to get the best out of them.
“Instead, I laid out some parameters to create the ultimate driver’s car and experience on track: a central driving position, a V12 just behind your ear revving to over 12,000rpm, producing over 700 horsepower and with an even faster response time than the T.50, downforce limited to 1500kg and a weight of under 900kg. Plus the ability to turn up at any track, make a few basic checks and have fun, without the need for an entire support crew.
“In my view, it doesn’t get better than that and is driving in its purest form. The T.50s Niki Lauda will give a visceral connection between driver, car and track, the like of which has not been experienced to date.
“I can just imagine going round your favourite circuit, sitting in the middle with that unsilenced V12 screaming just behind you — the driving experience will be something special. With a power-to-weight ratio better than that of a naturally aspirated LMP1 car, it is also going to be searingly quick and, with such a low weight, will change direction like an F1 car.
“With the direction of travel of the automotive industry, it’s hard to imagine that there will ever be another car quite like this. Especially not one with a central driving position, a high-revving naturally aspirated V12 engine and that is so lightweight. I believe it will go on to define its era.”
The T.50s Niki Lauda will cost £3.1 million before taxes and each of the 25 cars will be named after a grand prix at which a Murray-designed F1 car took victory. The first car will be designated the Kyalami 1974 and further cars will be named after the 24 subsequent Murray wins in chronological order.