As the development phase nears a conclusion, the programme for the new car has now moved to the Middle East, and the 21-year-old – in his role as Factory Driver for the British brand – will take on the driving responsibilities for the public debut in Bahrain prior to heading up an all-star line-up for the competitive debut of the 720S GT3 at the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi two weeks later.
Ben has been part of a dedicated team working on the development of the new GT3 challenger from McLaren Automotive, visiting various European circuits this year to help finalise the specification and set up. His extensive GT experience over the past few seasons have stood him in good stead for this role, which he has grasped with both hands. This dedication to the important role has not gone unnoticed by the team in Woking, and Ben has now been confirmed to drive the development prototype on its public debut at the Bahrain International Circuit as part of a demonstration during the GT World Finals event, 30 November – 1 December.
Adding to this, the young Brit has also been called upon to spearhead the three driver Pro entry by McLaren Automotive, taking part in this year’s Gulf 12 Hour endurance race at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Ben’s confirmation for the race completes a formidable line-up, alongside GT stars Alvaro Parente from Portugal and Shane van Gisbergen from New Zealand, as they take on a grid of more than 30 cars. The race forms a crucial part of the development programme for the new GT3 car, with customer deliveries due ready for the 2019 season.
Commenting on these latest developments, Ben explained: ‘I feel really honoured to have been asked to represent McLaren for these two significant milestones in the development of the 720S GT3. The programme to date has been carried out privately at European circuits, so it is going to be fantastic to see the reaction to the car in Bahrain as we demonstrate the car publicly for the first time. I am also really looking forward to being part of the team to take the car racing competitively for its first ever race.
‘The race is an extremely important element of the testing programme we have been working towards with the car. We have been running a range of different tests with race prototypes on track and in simulations, but there is nothing like the real-world experiences gained by running against rivals who are all as determined as you are. This will be the biggest challenge for the car and the team faced to date, but I am confident in the preparations we have made, and I have two of the best teammates I could have ever wished for in Alvaro and Shane. I cannot wait to be out there racing our new car, and pitching our hard work against some of the best GT drivers and teams in the world.’
Ben raced alongside Alvaro Parente in a McLaren during the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge series in the US, and pairs up with Shane van Gisbergen for the first time, and he is relishing the prospect of sharing the cockpit with the two experienced McLaren racers.
He added: ‘It is great to hear that I will be driving with Alvaro and Shane. I raced with Alvaro in the States, and he was fantastic to work with and really helped me get up to speed on new circuits and I learnt a lot from him during that season. Shane is someone I have watched and admired for his racing successes, and he has proven himself as one of the best drivers in a variety of different disciplines. I am excited to work with them both, and looking forward to seeing what the three of us can achieve with the 720S GT3.’
The public world debut of the 720S GT3 will see Ben at the wheel during the Bahrain GT Festival, 30 November – 1 December. The Gulf 12 Hours takes place at Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi between 13-15 December.