The legendary Brabham BT46B “fan car” took its first and only Formula 1 victory at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, piloted by none other than Niki Lauda. While he may not be with us any more, his fighting spirit continues to live on in many facets of the motorsport arena.
The legend of the “fan car” also lived on through the GMA T.50, Gordon Murray’s latest magnum opus. So when it came to the time to make a track-only special of it, it’s only fitting that Murray (who also designed the Brabham BT46B) paid homage to the driver who brought them their only victory, before it was swiftly banned by the FIA. Feast your eyes upon the GMA T.50s Niki Lauda.
Apart from the name, the T.50 and T.50s could not be any more different from each other, with almost every single part on the vehicle completely re-engineered. Take for example the 3.9-litre V12 engine, which is now even more powerful and faster-revving, delivering 711 hp and 485 Nm of torque.
Thanks to the new roof-mounted RAM air scoop, which force-feeds the engine with fresh air, the T.50s Niki Lauda can also increase its maximum power momentarily to 735 hp. That’s 75 whole ponies more than the road-going T.50.
And remember how the V12 on the original GMA T.50 was already the lightest road-going V12 engine ever made? Well, the Cosworth-made V12 is now 16 kg lighter than that. Pair that with all the other weight-saving measures across the car, the new T.50s Niki Lauda boasts an insane power-to-weight ratio of 835 hp/tonne.
For context, that’s even higher than an actual naturally-aspirated LMP1 car racing in the Le Mans. Just let that sink in for a moment. Professor Murray himself calls the T.50s “outrageous”, and that might just be the most apt descriptor for this car.
Oh, and there’s also no catalytic converters and silencers as standard on the Inconel exhaust systems (in the name of weight saving), so you’ll be hearing the full grunt of the glorious naturally-aspirated V12 all the way up to its 12,100 rpm rev limit. We’re already shivering just thinking about it right now.
While the six-speed Haldex manual transmission might be the road-going car’s best friend, the slower row-your-own gearbox in all seriousness has no place in an all-out race-ready car like this. In its place is a bespoke Xtrac IGS (Instantaneous Gearshift) six-speed paddle-shift gearbox, built specifically to GMA’s standards of lightweighting.
For the exterior, the GMA T.50s was also given a complete makeover, with no panels shared with its road-going sibling. To balance out the ground effect fans, which now runs permanently in 7,000 rpm high downforce mode, the team had to “start again” with the aero configuration of the car.
These new bits include a new a giant splitter up front and a central air foil underneath its nose, new adjustable front diffusers, a trio of NACA air ducts to funnel air to the front brakes, a “shark fin” that runs from the cabin roof all the way to the rear, as well as a large GT-style rear wing with slotted adjustable flaps.
All in, GMA says that the T.50s Niki Lauda can generate nearly 1,500 kg of downforce at 280 km/h.
Inside, the instrument cluster is now replaced by a digital screen, while the standard steering wheel jettisoned in favour for a yoke-type handle-thing. To the right, the space where the manual shifter previously occupied is now replaced by a board of toggle switch for the true race car feel.
Just as before, the driver sits right in the centre of the cabin of the GMA T.50s. But in the name of weight savings, the third seat was removed, clearing out space for other equipment. You wouldn’t be carrying two passengers when you’re whipping this thing about on a race track, anyway.
Only 25 units of the GMA T.50s Niki Laudas will ever be produced, each featuring a plaque celebrating a victory by one of Murray’s many F1 cars, starting with the 1974 South African Grand Prix at the Kyalami Circuit. The cars will also come with a specially-commissioned book about the race that it is named after, with Murray’s view and memories of the victory.
When the GMA T.50 came out last year, we said that it might be the last great analogue sports car to ever grace the earth. Well, this here is just that, with everything turned up to 11. It would have been Niki Lauda’s 72nd birthday today if he were still alive, but we know that Niki Lauda will be smiling from up there – what a way to celebrate.