McLaren builds race cars and runs a Formula One team (Phto: McLaren)

Apple is interested in buying McLaren or making a strategic investment in the British race car specialist, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The newspaper, citing three people briefed on the negotiations, said Apple is considering a tie-up with McLaren to accelerate its automotive activities.

McLaren has automotive engineering expertise as well as in-depth knowledge of automotive IT systems, which it has developed for the sports cars it builds as well as for the Formula One racing team it owns.

McLaren told the FT it "is not in discussion with Apple about any potential investment,” but the race car maker didn't say whether it had been approached.

Apple has in recent years hired several hundred automotive engineers but the company hasn't commented publicly on the nature of its planned automotive activities. Apple's CarPlay software, which connects the company's iPhone to cars, is being rolled out in many new vehicles.