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Gordon Murray, the creator of the McLaren F1, originally saw the F1 as the ultimate road car, and had no intention to take the car racing. Although the car used many racing technologies and designs, it was felt that the car should be a road car first, without any intent built into the creation of the car to modify it into a racing car. Many teams, such as those run by Ray Bellm and Thomas Bscher, saw the potential in the McLaren F1 road cars, and turned to Gordon Murray in an attempt to convince him to offer factory backing on racing versions for the BPR series. Murray relented and agreed to modify the F1 into a racing car, and to build several chassis for competition in the 1995 season. An unused F1 chassis which was meant to become #019 was taken by McLaren and modified by the company as a developmental prototype. Because of the similarity to a race car, extensive modification was not needed to actually turn the F1 into a racing car. Bodywork modification saw the addition of various cooling ducts, most noticeably a large one in the centre of the nose and two placed in the location of the storage lockers on the side of the car. A large adjustable downforce wing was added to the back.
Because of the rules at the time, the BMW S70 V12 engine was required to use an air restrictor to limit horsepower to around 600 hp, actually making the racing car less powerful than the road car, yet faster and more nimble due to a lowered overall weight. Features such as the central seating position, butterfly doors, and even the stock gearbox were retained. A total of nine chassis would be built for the 1995 season, with #01R being retained by the factory as a test mule, except for a one-off use by Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Kokusai Kaihatsu McLaren obtained victory and the highest practice top speed of the year, reaching 381 km/h on the Mulsanne Straight.