Formula One legend Niki Lauda would have been 72 years old if he were alive today. Though he died in 2019, we think he would have heartily approved of the new Gordon Murray T.50s, which will also be called the Niki Lauda as an homage.
That’s because Lauda drove the Brabham BT46B “fan car,” the Formula One car that inspired the T.50’s technological centerpiece, to its only victory. The downforce-generating fan helped Lauda win the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix to the dismay of rival teams. Murray also designed that car, and wanted to pay tribute to his friend and three-time F1 champ.
Like the Brabham, the T.50s is not street legal. It’s billed as a track version of the GMA T.50, the supercar Murray designed as a pure driver’s antidote to the status barges that modern supercars have become. The Lauda leans harder into Murray’s philosophy of lightness. Over 200 pounds have been stripped from the road-going T.50, thanks to one less passenger seat in the 1+2 layout, a stripped-out interior, and thinner glass. Total weight, 1,878 pounds.
However, reduced mass isn’t the only performance enhancement. The Cosworth-built 3.9-liter V12 now makes 725 horsepower, or 66 more ponies than the standard model. Part of that gain comes from a central roof-mounted intake drawing air into the engine, as well as the removal of any sound restriction hardware from the exhaust.
For the track model, one of the street T.50’s dearest features, an old-school manual transmission, has been replaced with a six-speed paddle-shift Xtrac. According to GMA, the gear ratios are more closely spaced on the race car, so a stick shift didn’t make sense; the driver would lose precious milliseconds switching gears and taking hands off the wheel.
The Lauda adds several aerodynamic aids that visually differentiate it from the T.50, starting with a wide lower air dam. A trio of NACA ducts funnel fresh air into the cabin and toward the front brakes. A long dorsal fin like the ones found on Le Mans prototypes extends from the cabin roof to the rear, where a GT-style rear wing spans the tail. According to GMA, it generates as much as 3,300 pounds of downforce at 175 mph.
Inside, the central instrument pod has been replaced with a digital screen, and the standard steering wheel with a yoke-type handle. Taking the space on the right, where the manual shifter and console would have been, is a board of toggle switches.
There will only be 25 Niki Laudas produced. Each will feature a plaque celebrating a victory by one of Murray’s many F1 car designs, starting with the 1974 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami Circuit. Production begins January 2022, and despite a $4.3 million price tag, GMA says 15 cars are already spoken for.