GTx: GT Racing’s Imminent Unification

After multiple years of global GT racing being governed by two independent sets of regulations, the FIA and ACO have declared plans to unify the sport under a single technical-regulatory banner, potentially from 2015 onwards.

As a collaborative effort between the FIA and ACO, the new category will seek to amalgamate the ACO’s GTE class with the FIA’s GT3 class, under a single set of technical regulations, with the aim of improving accessibility between series and events previously divided by regulatory circumstance.

If successful, the unified category will form the basis for a new, global GT racing standard, with potentially more support than any other before it.

Despite wavering health under global economic pressures, GTE remains the predominant domain for factory GT competition. | Image: Aston Martin Racing.

With economic factors cited as a primary motivation behind the decision, the technical working group formed to facilitate the change now faces imminent challenges in creating a scenario of regulatory circumstance which best serves the new category, and its diverse stakeholder interests.

While GTE and GT3 share more in common than at any other time during their period of coexistence, stakeholders from each camp reasoned their involvement under one rule set over another – by however minimal a margin – due to considered benefit or advantage, on the basis of certain ideology, practices, economic realities, or outcomes enabled by one class over its alternative.

It can be reasonably stated that, via the same rationale, should a unified class not sufficiently satisfy the requirements of these stakeholders (to a similar or greater standard than its preceding counterparts), there’s lesser likelihood of said stakeholders seeking involvement in the new enterprise – in similar or greater capacity – regardless of lacking immediate alternatives.

For this reason, there’s a justifiable element of uncertainty in whether unification of the two categories can, or should be enacted.

Image: ADAC GT Masters.

GT3’s regulatory approach, in balancing relative economic conservatism and technical extravagance, has proven popular amongst privateers and manufacturers, at national and regional levels of competition. | Image: ADAC GT Masters.

The primary differences between GTE (nee GT2) and GT3 had originally concerned the nature of efforts attracted by each category; the most fundamental difference being an independence in regulatory and administrative perspective, concerning the economic, technological and sporting factors which determine the nature, technical extravagance, and costs (associated with set-term employment) of equipment required for competition.

Changes in the global automotive environment brought about by both regional growth and worsening economic conditions have influenced a blurring of lines between the two classes (with regard to the above factors) which has, at times, seen their respective rule sets vying against one another for competitors of all traditional forms, and sustained vitality.

While the current scenario sees both classes exist – to a certain extent – in a state of similarity, with regard to the nature of competitors involved, and regulatory approach (as it concerns balancing competition) employed, the solution to issues facing either class isn’t necessarily that which works for its alternative.

The ALMS GTE field continues to yield the highest volume of consistent factory participation of any GT class, globally. | Image: Extreme Speed Motorsports.

Despite this blurring of lines having occurred, distinct (albeit, at times disregarded) elements to each category remain. GT2’s existence as an avenue of greater certainty (in technical-regulatory terms) formed the explicitly-defined foundations for the environment of the current GTE class, regardless of however far detached from original form it may be.

GT3 was, is, and cemented its existence in being, in broad terms, an answer to a similar, albeit less detailed or demanding question. As an alternative route of competition, GT3 offered what GT2 didn’t (or wouldn’t) – the class was, and still is (to an extent) serving specific interests.

Whether unifying GTE and GT3 is best serving in the interests of sportscar racing as a whole, or serving in the interests of select parties is, as with certain other imminent mergers, entirely dependent on implementation.

The more important question is perhaps whether a single category – for which GTE and GT3 serve as a foundational basis – can adequately address needs served by the existing two class system. Should the unified class not sufficiently satisfy the needs of its stakeholders; alternatives will emerge to fulfill those needs – at least, if precedent’s any indicator.

LM24: Porsche announces Le Mans return for 2014.

The 917K sports 5000 prototype of KG Salzburg; Porsche's first outright Le Mans winner. - Image courtesy Porsche Motorsport.

The 917K sports 5000 prototype of KG Salzburg; Porsche's first outright Le Mans winner. - Image courtesy Porsche Motorsport.

After years of intense speculation, Porsche AG today confirmed its long-rumoured intentions for a return to the top-tier of sports prototype racing via the release of a promotional video (see below), signaling its plans to enter the currently factory-diesel dominated LMP1 ranks as of 2014.

Porsche Motorsport revealed preliminary details of the marque’s historic return by announcing the undertaking of its LMP1 development programme, with a planned factory assault for outright honours at the the 2014 edition of the Le Mans 24 hour event.

Technical information has not yet been provided. Further details regarding the nature of the chassis, engine, or programme are yet to be confirmed.

Porsche's most recent outright Le Mans winner, the 911 GT1. - Image courtesy Porsche Motorsport.

Porsche's most recent outright Le Mans winner, the 911 GT1. - Image courtesy Porsche Motorsport.

“Porsche’s successes in Le Mans are unrivalled. We want to follow up on this with the 17th outright victory.” – Matthias Müller, President of the Executive Board at Porsche AG.

Given Porsche’s already clear desire for the development, demonstration, and motorsport application of energy recovery technologies (as evidenced by the GT3R Hybrid), the manufacturer’s new LMP is expected to be bear a petrol-hybrid powertrain. This is yet to be confirmed by official sources, and likely dependent on allowances afforded by (not-yet published) ACO technical regulations.

Porsche last raced for outright honours in 1998, when the marque’s factory lineup of McNish, Ortelli and Aiello secured the German manufacturer’s sixteenth and most recent outright victory at Le Mans.

What effect (if any) the announcement may have on the motorsport future of VAG sister company, Audi is yet to be confirmed.

Edit:

AudiSport official response:

“This is the decision of Porsche company, a decision in which Audi is not involved. Audi relishes the prospect of every strong new opponent at Le Mans and in the new FIA World Endurance Championship. Porsche’s entry into the LMP1 class is evidence of the high level of attraction of sport prototypes.”

Video:

Comments: 

Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport:

“We’re looking forward to the task of developing new technologies and to continue on with the success of the Porsche RS Spyder. After the conclusion of our works-supported sports prototype programme in the American Le Mans Series we have kept up with the latest technological advances.

Now we will begin with detailed research in order to evaluate the various concept alternatives for our new car. These obviously depend on how the regulations for the year 2014 look in detail. In principle, these regulations are interesting for us because the integration of our hybrid technology in the vehicle concept is one possible option.”

ILMC: 2011 entry list revealed.

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Logo.

Entries for the 2011 running of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup were today revealed. Announced during the lead up to the ACO’s unveiling ceremony for Le Mans 24 Hour entries, the 2011 ILMC entry list boasts a healthy field of 26 competitors, yielding both factory and privateer representation from eleven auto manufacturers.

Entry listings can be seen in full below.

LMP1

  • AudiSport Team Joest – Audi R18 – Timo Bernhard/Marcel Fässler.
  • AudiSport Team Joest – Audi R18 – Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish.
  • Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 – Anthony Davidson/TBA.
  • Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 – Stephane Sarrazin/Franck Montagny.
  • Hope Racing – Oreca 01-Lehmann – Steve Sacchia/Olivier Lombard.
  • Rebellion Racing – Lola B10/60-Toyota – Nicolas Prost/Neel Jani.
  • OAK Racing – OAK Pescarolo-Judd – Matthieu Lahaye/Guillaume Moreau.
  • OAK Racing – OAK Pescarolo-Judd – Richard Hein/Jacques Nicolet.
  • Aston Martin Racing – AMR-ONE – Stefan Mücke/Darren Turner.
  • Oreca-Matmut – Peugeot 908 HDI-FAP – Nicolas Lapierre/Loic Duval.

LMP2

  • SignaTech-Nissan – Oreca03-Nissan – Franck Mailleux/TBA.
  • OAK Racing – OAK Pescarolo-Judd – Frederich Da Rocha/Patrice Lafarque.
  • Level5 Motorsports – Lola B10/80-HPD Coupe – Scott Tucker/Christophe Bouchut.

GTE-PRO

  • AF-Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia – Giancarlo Fisichella/Gianmaria Bruni.
  • BMW Motorsport – BMW M3 E92 – Augusto Farfus/TBA.
  • BMW Motorsport – BMW M3 E92 – Andy Priaulx/TBA.
  • Luxury Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia – Francois Jakubowski/Anthony Beltoise.
  • Luxury Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia – Stephane Ortelli/Frederic Makowiecki.
  • Lotus Jet Alliance – Lotus Evora GT2 – Vitus Eckbert/TBA.
  • Lotus Jet Alliance – Lotus Evora GT2 – Lukas Lichtner Hoyer/TBA.

GTE-AM

  • Larbre Competition – Chevrolet Corvette C6.R – Patrick Bornhauser/Julien Canal.
  • Krohn Racing – Ferrari F430 GT2 – Tracy Krohn/Nicolas Jönsson.
  • Gulf AMR Middle-East – Aston Martin Vantage – Fabien Giroix/Roald Goethe.
  • AF-Corse – Ferrari F430 GT2 – Piergiuseppe Perazzini/Marco Cioci.
  • CRS Racing – Ferrari F430 GT2 – Pierre Ehret/Shaun Lynn.
  • Proton Competition – Porsche 997 GT3-RSR – Richard Lietz/Horst Felbermayr.

LMP1: 10  LMP2: 3   GTE-PRO: 7   GTE-AM: 6   Total: 26

Wirth Confirms LMP1 For 2012; HPD Contract Renewed.

 

Highcroft Racing's Wirth Research-designed ARX01c during the 2010 Petit Le Mans.

Highcroft Racing's Wirth Research-designed ARX01c during the 2010 Petit Le Mans.

Having rounded out successful seasons on both sides of Atlantic with it’s HPD-branded ARX-01c chassis, Wirth Research has revealed the company’s future plans and details of the renewed partnership many endurance fans had been hoping for.

In a recent announcement Wirth Research founder, Nick Wirth revealed the firm’s desire to further build on it’s endurance successes, unveiling plans to update the highly popular ARX-o1 LMP2 design to the now ‘d’ spec phase (i.e. ARX-01d) of it’s development life.

The announcement arrives shortly after British squad, Strakka Racing confirmed their intentions for continued use of the chassis (coupled with HPD’s new 2.8L Twin-Turbo V6 powerplant) throughout the 2011 season within the LMP2 category.

Wirth also provided details of a renewed multi-year partnership with HPD, and immediately announced the firm’s intention to enter the LMP1 category under the HPD banner with a coupe design as of 2012. Further details regarding the package and programme are not yet known.

Additionally, Wirth Research will also provide a further iteration of the ARX01 chassis bearing the designation ARX-01e, updating the chassis to 2011 LMP1 specifications. The chassis is rumoured to be destined for the garage of an as yet unconfirmed US team.

Reigning ALMS LMP champions and long-time HPD stalwarts, Highcroft Racing have, as yet not confirmed the details of their 2011 programme.

LM24: Audi Unveils R18 TDi LMP1 Challenger.

Audi's R18 TDi.

Audi's new R18 TDi LMP1 Coupe. - Images Courtesy AudiUSA.

Following months of rumours and intense speculation within the sportscar racing community, AudiSport today revealed its next generation LMP1 chassis, the R18 TDi.

After achieving nine victories utilising the advantages afforded by open-top roadsters, Audi’s launch of the R18 TDi marks the manufacturer’s second foray into the use of closed-cockpit prototypes, following the use (and subsequent shelving) of the R8C Coupe in 1999.

Manufactured by Dallara, Audi’s latest LMP chassis is quite clearly a product of evolution, utilising a similarly radical (albeit simplified), raised-nose flow design pioneered by its predecessor.

With 2011 LMP1 regulations stipulating the use of both smaller chassis and engines, the R18 arrives sporting a variety of improvements from shortened wheelbase to new engine package. As had been suggested by numerous sources, Audi has confirmed the use of a 3.7L V6 TDi powerplant and, although the nature of the cooling system would suggest the use of a twin-turbo system, this has not been officially confirmed.

Although finer design details were at first overshadowed by the mere revelation of an Audi coupe, a closer observation reveals the effort invested thus far, with updates having taken place on virtually all of the chassis’ viewable surface.

Sidewall height has been reduced, with rear wheel-archs now extended forward, protruding over what was previously occupied air-intake real estate. Due to the demand for increased mechanical grip, front tyre width has increased and, as a result wheel archs are now heightened and much more pronounced.

The expected addition of the now mandatory ‘sharkfin’ concept can be seen adorning the cars’ rear bodywork. Some form of additional practicality appears to have been achieved, with the fin attached to a now roof-mounted air intake system. The purpose of this modification is not yet known.

Adding to the growing list of overhauled components, halogen headlights have been removed in favour of LED lighting. Despite this, the LED-strip lighting that once adorned the surrounding area of any Audi’s headlights (a feature which became synonymous with the marque’s racing machinery) is no longer evident.

Despite the likely presence of an R18 in Florida during March, Audi has ruled out any possibility of a Sebring debut for its latest LMP. Electing to participate regardless, the team will utilise a modified version of its current R15+ chassis for the 12 hour event.

The R18 will instead make its first public track appearance at the reinstated Le Mans test day on April 24, its maiden competitive debut following shortly after at the 6H Spa on May 8, 2011.

ILMC: Revised 2011 Calendar Unveiled.

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Logo.

After weeks of intense speculation and animosity following the release of a provisional 2011 ILMC schedule (namely over the omission of Petit Le Mans), the ACO yesterday released an updated calendar for the 2011 running of the Intercontinental Cup.

Despite prior speculation suggesting otherwise, the updated calendar sees the approval of both Sebring and Petit Le Mans as part of the North American arm of the cup.

The move comes as a relief to many North American fans, after recent rumours suggested the famed Petit Le Mans event would be replaced by a South American round. The event, which is now displayed on the updated calendar, has been reinstated at it’s usual date on the first weekend of October.

In addition to the already confirmed European events at Spa, Le Mans, and Silverstone, the second rendition of the cup will feature an Italian round (LMS Round 3) hosted at the Imola GP circuit and, despite the unfortunate omission of a Japanese round for a second time, China will continue to host the final and, so far only Asian Le Mans series event of the ILMC at a yet to be determined venue.

ILMC General Manager, Frédéric Henry-Biabaud issued the following statement in relation to the announcement:

“We’re convinced that this calendar is going to enhance the values of endurance through a technological, responsible and sporting approach towards racing that will give endurance the place it deserves.

For its first full season, this programme meets the expectations of spectators, manufacturers, teams and partners with seven events on some of the most legendary motor racing circuits in strategic economic markets.”

The second running of the cup will feature an altered race format for otherwise distance based events. With priority now placed on timing, ILMC races will now run for a minimum of six hours. As opposed to the combination of distance/timed (i.e. 1000km/six hours) used in the past.

The updated 2011 ILMC schedule can be seen in current form below:

  • Sebring 12 Hours (Florida USA) March 19, 2011.
  • Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours (BEL) May 8, 2011.
  • Le Mans 24 Hours (FRA), June 11/12, 2011.
  • Imola 6 Hours (ITA) July 3, 2011.
  • Silverstone 6 Hours (GBR) September 11, 2011.
  • Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta, Georgia, USA) October 1, 2011.
  • TBA 6-Hours race (China) November 12, 2011.

ILMC: Provisional 2011 Calendar Unveiled.

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Logo.

Having finalised what many would consider to be a highly successful and entertaining season on both sides of the Atlantic, the ACO has unveiled the 2011 schedule for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. As mentioned during previous releases, the 2011 calendar will see the series move to a new and extended format, featuring seven rounds of competition.

The second running of the cup will feature a slightly altered race format for certain events. With the adoption timed events, the minimum running time for any ILMC race will be six hours (as opposed to distance/timed – i.e. 1000km/six hours). Despite the listing of several TBA notices on the calendar, one can safely assume the inclusion of both Chinese, and Japanese rounds (at yet to be determined venues) will be forthcoming at a later date.

As expected, both Sebring and Spa have been confirmed as pre-Le Mans rounds, with the Le Mans 24 Hour event itself now featuring as a round of the cup. Silverstone is currently the only round confirmed as a post-LM24 event. The notable omission of Petit Le Mans from the schedule came as a surprise to many, with only a ‘TBA/Overseas’ notice listed adjacent to the month of October.

When interviewed, ACO sports manager Vincent Beaumesnil responded with the following statement:

“For sure, we’re speaking with everybody. Sebring is an ILMC event, so this is proof. We will confirm the overseas event when we’re in the position to say something. I cannot say more.”

The provisional 2011 schedule can be seen below:

March 19 – Sebring Twelve Hour (ALMS)
May 8 – Spa (LMS)
June 11-12 – Le Mans 24 Hours (Double Points)
July – TBA (Europe -LMS)
Sept. 9 – Silverstone (LMS)
October – TBA (Overseas Event)
November TBA (China)