With GT3 racing booming all over the world, could a world championship be on the cards? The Motorsport Nerd – James Turner – ponders whether or not it could work…
Currently, the Australian Endurance Championship is preparing for its penultimate event at New Zealand’s Hampton Downs circuit. Hampton Downs is a great little track that gives us some pretty good racing (just YouTube last year’s AEC race there for proof) and has taken another step forward by landing a naming rights sponsor in Laser Plumbing and Electrical for the 2017 race.
Hampton Downs was also in the news recently, when it was announced that it would form part of an endurance summer series titled the Asia-Pacific 36. Hampton Downs will be the first 12-hour enduro, joining Sepang and Bathurst’s existing 12-hour races on the schedule. It is hoped that this new series will bring together GT teams from around the region for a close contest. Considering that this series will be held over the European winter, we shouldn’t close the door on the possibility of Europe’s best attending either.
And it’s the creation of this series that got me thinking: We’ve now got the Intercontinental GT Series, this new series, not forgetting the Blancpain GT Series that covers Europe plus various national series’ all over the world. So why is there no World GT Championship?
Sure we see GT cars running in the World Endurance Championship and they always put on a good show (The closing laps of Le Mans this year is proof of that.) but they’re often overlooked for the LMP rocket ships ahead of them. It’s a similar story with the IMSA series in America too.
I would argue that the GT3 formula is big enough for a world series. We’ve seen the occasional global series for GT cars here and there, the most recent one being the FIA GT1 series (ahh those Maserati MC12’s) that sadly ended due to rising costs.
It’s a tricky thing trying to organise a world championship. And then it needs to remain viable and be maintained. I loved GT1. Those cars were some of the most brilliantly evil and purposeful looking racecars ever produced. The races were great and so were some the locations (Remember that San Luis circuit in Argentina? What a beautiful looking track). I remember when there was a possibility the series was coming to Australia, to Sydney to be exact. I was pumped. And then it all just went quiet. I was bummed but still enjoyed the series from a distance. But at the end of the day, it all just got too expensive to justify.
But for arguments sake, let’s say that a World GT3 series is viable and it goes ahead. What would this series look like? In a perfect world there would be:
- Keep the traditional two-race format-with a twist. Make the second race (let’s call it the feature race) longer. Maybe 90 minutes or even two hours long. If it’s a world series, a longer feature race would help give it some real status.
- A two-car team for each manufacturer. Plenty of variety for the fans to enjoy. In keeping with the Pro-Am format that GT racing is all about, one car would be driven by a professional racer and the other car would be handled by an amateur who would most likely be the team owner or financer.
- The championship would be run on proper GT-styled tracks. No street circuits and no modern day forgiving circuits. Proper ye oldie Grand Touring circuits only for this series. Spa, Zolder, Road America, Laguna Seca, Silverstone, Kyalami, Suzuka, Fuji, Phillip Island, Bathurst, Mexico City (the older version, not the ruined new version) and the Nurburgring Nordschleife could be the finale.
- At each round, there would be 5 wildcard spots on the grid for local teams. Let’s say this series visits Australia. Audi Customer racing Australia could enter two cars, Maranello Motorsport could enter their Ferrari, the SRM BMW could join in on the action, as could Zagame Motorsport with their Lamborghini. They could measure themselves against the worlds best and help generate a bit of local interest into each event.
But whilst I, and I suspect others would love something like this to happen, realistically, I honestly can’t see it going ahead. Like I said earlier; the shear cost alone of shipping cars around the world is a big detractor. The GT3 formula is so strong now that even sending teams and cars around the world isn’t really needed. All that is needed is personnel and drivers. Consider Audi at the Bathurst 12 Hour this year. Instead of freighting factory teams down to Australia, Audi instead sent their best mechanics and drivers to support the local crews. This works on two levels: firstly, it’s cheaper and secondly, local teams get factory assistance to help them.
So whilst a potential world GT3 series would be something that many of us would like to see, chances are it won’t happen. The success of the Intercontinental GT Series and waiting in line, Asia-Pacific Series means there probably isn’t room for a global championship. But it’s nice to dream. One day maybe…
James Turner is a life-long motorsport fan and blogger. You can checkout his blog The Motor Sport Nerd at: http://motorsportnerd.wixsite.com/the-motorsport-nerd