An ode to naturally aspirated V12s that rev to high heavens and beyond.
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you have enough cash to burn a $4.5-million hole in your pocket and that you want a piece of hypercar exotica that will make a LaFerrari look like a Toyota Corolla at your next track meet. As of last month, there was only one option for you, the boldly styled Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s Niki Lauda. Revealed on Niki's birthday and built by the man who engineered the McLaren F1, it was a track weapon the likes of which the world is better off for having. It was an atom bomb of a revelation. But just yesterday, Pagani dropped its own Fat Man on the world, revealing the Huayra R as an equally as crazy, ultra-exclusive track-only toy for the well-heeled. The specs on each read like something out of gearhead nirvana, but after staring at the two for hours on end, we realized they are remarkably similar. So, as any self-respecting car nut would do, the CarBuzz office got to tallying up which we'd rather have…
Both Gordon Murray and Horacio Pagani know their way around designing a hypercar, that much is true, but the two gentlemen go about it in a completely different way. For Horacio Pagani, form could almost be said to supersede function, which is why he sent his designers back to the drawing board for the Huayra R after attaining aerodynamic downforce goals of 2,204 lbs at 199 mph - the design was too clinical, and it needed a human touch. To that end, every surface on the exterior of the Huayra R flows, from its pointed nose to the massive wing and rear haunches that integrate new taillights. Even the roof scoop and its central fin are a work of art, while classic Huayra elements like the organic leaf-shaped wing mirrors on beautifully sylphlike stalks.
The GMA T.50s Niki Lauda is a comparatively boring design - lacking the beautiful aesthetic Pagani has become known for. The upgrades over the already-subdued standard T.50 include big canards, a huge front splitter, and twin NACA ducts on the front hood. The T.50s also has a prominent roof scoop, a prominent central fin, and a substantial rear wing, but its most arresting view is from behind.
Not only does it boast an outlandish central fan that it uses to increase downforce or braking efficiency on a whim, but the rear diffuser is simply comical, almost overshadowing a rear-end cut away to such an extent that the rear tires are almost wholly visible. Two massive gaping arches on either side of a twin exhaust redefine all you thought you knew about the venturi effect, as the walls of the diffuser protrude well beyond the rest of the car's underside, manufactured from shapely carbon fiber.
As for which pulls off the design better, beauty is subjective. But, Pagani has clearly created the hypercar that's easier on the eye. However, Gordon Murray has created something that looks like a rocket ship, like it's doing 200 mph even when it's standing still. If extremism is the measure of judging a track-only hypercar's looks, the T.50s is the most extreme by some margin.
In an era where downsizing, turbocharging, and electrification have become buzzwords for brands even as historically stoic as Ferrari, the fact that two naturally aspirated V12s can now be purchased is something to be celebrated. Both are extraordinarily powerful, and both utilize years of motorsports know-how to go about creating performance only bettered by their intoxicating song.
The T.50s Niki Lauda is a strange anomaly of the hypercar realm, as it eschews displacement in favor of engine speed. Despite boasting 12 cylinders, the Cosworth-developed heart displaces only 3.9 liters. Contrarily, the Pagani V12-R - as the new engine is officially titled - displaces 6.0 liters. It has its own share of motorsport development and has been developed by HWA AG, the engineering firm that built a name for itself in DTM, Formula 2, Formula E, and several other racing series.
The Pagani trumps the GMA T.50s on power outputs, developing a somewhat unbelievable 838 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque while revving to a sky-high 9,000 rpm. The T.50s's figures look paltry, at first: 701 hp and just 357 lb-ft, but there's one figure that's impossible to ignore - the Cosworth-developed motor spins to a 12,100 rpm limit - some 33% higher than the redline of the Pagani. It also weighs less, much less, tipping the scales at a scant 1,878 lbs. Contrarily, the Huayra R is a plump 2,315 lbs dry, negating much of the power and torque advantage it seemingly has on paper.
Both make use of six-speed sequential gearboxes, both utilize composite monocoques, and both are equipped with track-honed double wishbone suspension all around. The Huayra R has slightly bigger bragging rights when it comes to braking, with six-piston calipers front and rear clamping down on Brembo carbon-ceramic discs, but the T.50s Niki Lauda's six-pot front and four-pot rear calipers have far less weight to contend with.
Neither manufacturer has supplied a detailed look at the interiors of each car, but we already know a fair bit even without visual aids. Of the two, the T.50s is the most unorthodox thanks to its central seating position, although it still only seats two, with the right rear seat removed and replaced by a fire extinguisher system. Adding to the sense of theater is a rectangular carbon fiber steering wheel that looks like something you might expect to find in an LMP1 racer, equipped only with the necessary switchgear to control the traction and launch control systems and comms with your own personal pit crew.
The Huayra R is far more orthodox in the layout of its 2 seats being side-by-side, but for the sake of lightness, the seats themselves are cast into the monocoque chassis, with carbon fiber headrests and FIA-approved padding added thereafter. Because the seats can't be adjusted, the pedal box and steering wheel are adjustable, while the latter, much like the T.50s, only hosts controls for stability control, ABS programming, and radio comms. The unit in the Pagani is also a quick-release item, the sort that would be used in genuine motorsports.
While we'll have to wait to see what each interior looks and feels like, both are pared back echo-chambers that focus on making the driver priority number 1, albeit in different fashions.
Remember when we said both of these machines were more exclusive than a comparable Ferrari? Well, the Ferrari FXX-K was produced in numbers of 80: 40 regular variants and 40 Evo versions. Pagani's Huayra R is more exclusive still, with only 30 being produced and all being accounted for at the time of release. The price? 2.6 million Euros ($3.1 million) excluding tax. Gordon Murray wanted the T.50s to be even rarer a beast, and as such, only 25 will be built, with each chassis named after one of Gordon's F1 Grand Prix victories as a chassis designer. Before taxes, the T.50s Nikia Lauda costs an eye-watering £3.1m ($4.3 million), and it's been guaranteed that no two will look the same.
But these machines are more than just "buy them and leave" machines, and each manufacturer wants to make sure they are enjoyed to the fullest. For the T.50s, an initial track day will help tailor the chassis and aero for the driver and each will get a full day's track tuition for the owner's designated technician. Technicians will also be sent to track days at the owners' behest, and Gordon Murray Automotive will be coordinating events around the world for T.50s owners to enjoy their machines. Pagani is doing something similar as part of its 'Arte in Pista' service, organizing track days for owners across world-famous tracks in Asia, the Middle East, North America, and Europe.
When the gods of the motoring world are kind enough to look down upon us mere mortals and provide the world with not one, but two naturally aspirated V12 track hypercars, it's cause for celebration. The reality is, no matter how much one looks at figures on paper and gawks at every photo of every detail of these cars, to pick one as the better distillation of hypercar purity is an impossible feat. Both of these machines are celebrations of what it means to be a gearhead - celebrations of motorsports, celebrations of driving purity, and celebrations of the automobile in a form it will soon not be legally allowed to possess. Before we've even seen them on race tracks across the world, though, both have been catapulted into a pantheon of automotive greatness.
You might have a favorite, but as for us, all we can do is salute both Gordon Murray and Horacio Pagani for creating machines as special as these.