With the 24 Hours of Le Mans a few weeks past us—for the second year in a row, congrats to Toyota for the virtually uncontested win—I was due for my Le Mans contribution.
Actually, the connection between Le Mans and the McLaren P1 GTR is a stretch because you won’t be seeing the car rounding France’s Circuit de la Sarthe—at least not during Le Mans week, anyway. However, that didn’t stop the McLaren team from rolling out this track-only version of the P1 (several have since been converted for road use) for the 20th anniversary of their shocking 1995 Le Mans victory.
Remember the infamous Ueno Clinic-sponsored McLaren F1 GTR, car number 59? That’s the one. And don’t bother looking up what Ueno Clinic is.
I’m not big on racecars, but their wild liveries and graphics are sure to pique anybody’s interest. The original F1 GTR adorned a number of memorable designs. Gulf. FINA. Harrods. Lark. Several have found their way onto the bodywork of the P1 GTR, but the one here is a first on a Macca.
The James Hunt livery is instantly striking with its tricolor streaks—coming straight off the old racing helmet he used to wear—highlighting the P1’s every swoop and curve. The “40th anniversary” in this particular edition’s title denotes the two scores since Mr. Hunt’s one and only Formula One victory. I can’t say it’s my favorite flavor of the P1 GTR—the Harrods reincarnation and the orange and silver Pebble Beach debut car tickle my fancy more—but rainbow colors have never failed to sell a product. Besides, having had no prior models from Almost Real, I was genuinely curious about the new kid on the block because I’ve heard good things.
Almost Real is old-school in a plastic-fantastic world, and that’s certainly a good thing. These are true diecast, and with a level of detail and accuracy that flirts with the best of them, they can legitimately lay claim to their namesake. However, I do have a couple of issues with their business strategy. One, they’re releasing the same cars that other brands have already done, and two, they’re production times are far slower than their direct competitors. Not exactly the best formula for an up-and-comer against the more reputable guys in the business.
But about the model itself: it’s sleek, it’s aggressive, and it’s gorgeous. I liked the widespread application of mesh and, obviously, the diecast composition of the model, but the detail won’t really knock you out. You’re convinced that it’s actually almost real until you get to the engine bay, where it’s a heavily watered-down version of the maze of wiring and plumbing snaking through the real thing. On the quality side, mine has a few loose parts and misaligned panels. I was annoyed when the butterfly doors struggled to stay upright and frustrated that I could only raise them half-mast for the obligatory, “spread your wings” shots.
Plus, the molded carbon-fiber thing is blasphemy, and it’s time to put an end to this disturbing trend. It’s probably a cost-reduction technique, but at least this McLaren uses a combination of that (for the exterior pieces) together with the preferred method of traditional carbon-fiber weave decals (mostly on the interior).
Ultimately, the McLaren P1 GTR by Almost Real falls in that gray area of “good but not great”: a good option if you’re searching for your first P1 or if you want this particular livery, but passable if you’ve already scratched that itch elsewhere—highly likely since AUTOart and TSM have had other colorways of the GTR for at least a couple years now. If James Hunt is your favorite racecar driver and idol…like…ever, ever, ever, then this might be the one for you. But if having a metal shell is a requirement and you won’t-be-making-any-compromises-thank-you-very-much, then this is the Big Macca for you.