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Geneva Motor Show: Aston Martin, McLaren unveil track-only cars

McLaren P1 GTR and Aston Martin Vulcan cost about $2.3 million each, and the brands are still taking orders

Two exotic car brands used this week's Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland to debut wannabe race cars aimed at their highest-end customers.

At over $2 million each, Aston Martin's Vulcan and McLaren's P1 GTR aren't even street legal.

Instead, the limited-production cars, like similar track-only cars sold by Ferrari, will be driven only on the world's best racetracks at private events hosted by the manufacturers.

It's the newest way for niche automakers to reward their wealthiest and most loyal patrons.

"These brands are trying to create a layer of exclusivity for a very high-end club of buyers," said Tim Urquhart, an analyst with IHS Automotive who was at the annual Geneva show. "It's about connecting with a customer who wants an individual experience that's hard to come by."

These rarefied customers are gearheads who either don't have the time or the inclination to race full-time, Urquhart said. Buying one of these track-only supercars — which come with a suite of support staff — is the next best thing.

The price of admission is steep. Both the McLaren P1 GTR and the Aston Martin Vulcan cost around $2.3 million each, and the brands are still taking orders. Ferrari's latest track-only model, the FXX K, sold out at $3 million each shortly after its December debut.

Having a deep bank account isn't always enough. Only fanatics who already own a McLaren P1, a 916-horsepower hybrid that the company limited to just 375 copies and sells for $1.2 million, are offered the chance to buy the GTR edition.

McLaren says around 40 such customers have already bought a GTR.

The GTR model shaves about 110 pounds out of the road car, and adds another 70 horsepower from the 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 and electric motor. McLaren also made significant changes to the bodywork to add down force and help cool the car.

For Aston Martin, the Vulcan serves several purposes, including providing a crucial stream of cash while Aston prepares an entirely new lineup of production cars.

The Vulcan is not based on any production Aston, unlike the McLaren and Ferrari models that are highly modified versions of existing road cars.

Instead, Aston created the car from a blank sheet of paper in less than 12 months since it didn't need to worry about various global regulations for emissions and crash tests.

That gave Aston a way to grab global attention and also turn around and sell to interested customers. Unlike the McLaren P1 GTR, the Vulcan is available to anyone with around $2.3 million to spend.

Aston plans to build just 24 copies of this rear-wheel-drive car, powered by a 7.0-liter V-12 engine that's loosely based on a racing engine Aston's been using in global competition. Final output has yet to be determined, but it will produce more than 800 horsepower, the company said.

Both Aston and McLaren's entries into the track-only supercar world come on the heels of Ferrari's success with the idea. The Italian automaker has run its XX program since 2006, and has introduced three models to its most loyal paying customers.

The most recent iteration is the FXX K, based on Ferrari's LaFerrari supercar. The FXX K is a hybrid, pairing a 6.3-liter V-12 engine and an electric motor for 1,035 total horsepower.

Ferrari said in December that it planned to build around 40 copies of the FXX K. The new car joins the earlier FXX and 599XX models in the overall XX program, which counts 50 to 60 member-owners globally, according to the company.

Clients of the XX program are chosen from a wait list of loyal, enthusiastic Ferrari owners. Through the XX program, Ferrari flies the vehicles to racetracks around the world — along with engineers, mechanics and driving instructors.

Aston Martin and McLaren's programs are expected to follow a similar format.

Ferrari XX owners who tire of their cars can only sell them back to Ferrari — a tactic the company hopes will eliminate non-enthusiast speculators from buying and reselling the cars at a profit.

That's why McLaren limits its GTR sales to existing P1 owners, who are vetted and trusted by the company — to avoid potential flipping to non-McLaren owners

The three automakers confirmed the programs were money-making ventures but declined to divulge specific figures.

Urquhart said there is a long line of customers globally willing to spend big money for the level of exclusivity and attention from the brands that these cars provide — though he's not one of them.

"If I had $3 million, I'd just go out and do some racing on my own," he said. "But that's just me."

david.undercoffler@latimes.com

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