Following the most successful season for McLaren GT, with the 650S GT3 winning on each of the four continents it competed on, 2016 will see more cars competing in more championships across the world. Plans for Factory Drivers Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente are now finalised along with confirmation of the signing of Côme Ledogar to the works line up. In addition, the recently-announced Driver Academy is further strengthened with Colin Thompson joining for the 2016 season. The announcements coincide with confirmation that the 650S GT3 will line up as part of an impressive display at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show alongside the three-tier model range from McLaren Automotive for the first time.
Joining the Factory Driver line-up for the 2016 season is 24-year-old Côme Ledogar. The young Frenchman made the switch from single-seater racing at the end of 2011, and has since enjoyed success in GT racing including champion of the Porsche Carrera Cup France in 2014, and runner-up in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup Italia last year. Among his plans for the season, it is confirmed that Ledogar will contest the Blancpain Endurance Series in a McLaren 650S GT3.
Rob Bell, 36, and Alvaro Parente, 31, will continue the relationship with McLaren GT having been part of the Factory Driver line up since 2012. The pairing has proved a formidable team with both claiming championship wins with the 650S GT3. Both drivers will join Tekno Autosports this weekend for the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Having recently secured the Asian Le Mans Series title with customer team Clearwater Racing, Bell will now compete throughout Europe with the 650S GT3. He will take on the Blancpain Endurance Series and the Blancpain Sprint Series. Further plans for the season will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Having secured the International GT Open title in 2015, Parente is taking on a new challenge for the 2016 season as he joins customer team K-PAX Racing / Flying Lizard Motorsports as part of the assault on the Pirelli World Challenge which will see four examples of the 650S GT3 on the grid. The Portuguese driver will make his championship debut at the Circuit of the Americas in March for the first of the 20 race calendar. His valuable experience of European circuits will also be added to as he is confirmed for the Blancpain Sprint Series.
Colin Thompson, 21, is the fourth driver to join the McLaren GT Driver Academy alongside Alex Fontana, Struan Moore and Andrew Watson. The young American from Doylestown, Pennsylvania has made a strong impression over the past few seasons securing the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup title in 2014, followed by the Pirelli World Challenge Porsche Cup championship title last season. Thompson will join Parente as part of the K-PAX Racing / Flying Lizard Motorsports two car line-up in the Pirelli World Challenge.
Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director, McLaren GT
‘The 2016 season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting – and challenging – so far, with more cars racing in more championships across the world. It is great to have Alvaro and Rob confirmed again for the year as both bring a huge amount of experience in terms of GT racing, but also in terms of the 650S GT3 specifically, having both driven to titles in its first full year of competition. I am also really pleased to announce Côme as an addition to our Factory Driver line-up and Colin as the latest member of the Driver Academy. Côme really impressed us when he raced with one of our customer teams at Spa a few years ago and we have kept a close eye on his progress, while Colin joined us for a test at Paul Ricard in December and is very exciting to watch in a GT car. With the combination that our factory line-up offers, along with the talent in our Driver Academy, we are hoping for another good year.’
Note: Press release courtesy of McLaren.