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.

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Nürburgring 24 Hour, 2012 (40th Anniversary Edition) – Event information, live coverage

It’s the 40th anniversary edition this year. There’s multiple significant (yet subtle) differences within this year’s event, as compared to that of 2011 – particularly in the fight for overall honours. The distinct lack of factory supported GTE/2 machines suggests a near certainty 2012 will see the first overall victory from a GT3 machine.

There’s a decent volume of factory-supported entries from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. AMR fields a factory supported 2012 Vantage GT3 (via Young Driver AMR). Porsche’s factory efforts remain within the Manthey stable. There’s also a GT3 Corvette laden with works drivers (Milner, Magnussen, Westbrook and Keilwitz) entered under the Haribo banner.

Schnitzer’s migrating to full-time DTM operations has triggered BMW’s shift from the M3 (GTE/2) to the Z4M (GT3) as BMW’s primary (works-supported) endurance effort within Europe. Schubert takes the reigns as BMW’s primary factory outfit, and assumes factory drivers from the M3 programme. MarcVDS, and Vita4One also field factory-supported Z4M GT3 entries.

Despite an earlier reported boycotting of the event by Porsche (in factory capacity – the stated result of Manthey’s BoP disenchantment), there’s a considerable factory (driver) presence within multiple Manthey entries.

Audi’s efforts are primarily represented by affiliate entries via Phoenix and WRT outfits, as Abt no longer serves the factory within GT racing. Raeder, and Mamerow also field supported entries on behalf of the marque.

Mercedes hopes rest with affiliate entries from Heico, Black Falcon, and Rowe racing. Within which there exists a not-so insignificant volume of factory drivers and, hired guns of a free-roaming nature.

Relevant details below.

Live Video:
– Official ADAC stream
– Audi.tv
– SportAuto
– PistonSpy (KabelEins TV feed)

*There’s a considerable likelihood of additional streams emerging.

Live Audio:
– Radio Le Mans (English)

Live Timing:
– Live timing is embedded within the ADAC official stream page linked above.
 – Independent live timing (ADAC)

GPS Entry Tracking:
– http://www.24stundenonline.de/event.php

Event timetable:
– Time plan (PDF)

Enjoy,

Sportscargeek

Bathurst 12 Hour: 2012 Event preview.

Audisport Team Joest leads the field during the opening lap of the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

With final entries confirmed and, few days remaining until green, Australia’s fledgling Bathurst 12 Hour event is preparing for the 2012 edition of what is rapidly becoming an early season fixture in global endurance racing.

Sporting an increase in the quality and, quantity of competitors, the event’s organisers have once again lured entries of significant substance from both Australia, and further abroad; with teams from the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom having committed entries.

Although multiple factors (e.g. conflicting event schedules, business interests) have inhibited the event’s uptake of local competitors, in both GT and production touring classes, the 2012 event sees arguably the deepest, most diverse and, professional field in recent years.

With increased factory involvement in the fight for outright honours, and the emergence of multiple, high-calibre privateer entries, no less than four marques (Audi, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini) are represented in the battle for overall victory.

AudiSport Team Phoenix - Bathurst 12 Hour, 2012 Australiana liveries.

AudiSport Team Phoenix will sport Australiana-themed liveries for the 2012 event; Left: Lowndes, Luff, Eddy; Right: Mies, Jöns, O'Young.

Returning to defend their 2011 title, reigning champions Audi will this time be represented via esteemed factory affiliate outfit, Phoenix Racing. Renowned for their consistent successes in Germany’s domestic touring and GT series, the Ernst Moser-led operation will make their circuit debut at the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour.

Although competing at Bathurst for the first time, Phoenix racing have enlisted the services of Audi’s successful core driving lineup from the 2011 12 hour; with Mies, O’Young, Lowndes, Luff and Eddy having been retained for the 2012 event.

Young AudiSport GT talent, Christer Jöns (widely known for exploits within ADAC GT) will partner Mies/O’Young in the #1 Audi; the 24-year old German assumes the position vacated by Marc Basseng’s omission; a change presumably enacted due to the event’s driver seeding regulations (stipulating a maximum of two ‘seeded’ or, professional drivers).

Bearing the most collectively experienced driving lineup (in regards to both circuit and vehicle knowledge), thoroughly proven machinery and, a record of consistent successes elsewhere, there remains little evidence to suggest Phoenix Racing won’t enter the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour as firm contenders for outright victory.

One of multiple Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG entries during round nine of the 2011 VLN Endurance Championship. - Image courtesy Black Falcon.

Following a recent overall victory at the Dubai 24 Hour, German endurance outfit and Mercedes factory-affiliate, Black Falcon will also enter the 2012 event for the first time.

Headed by an entry consisting of drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen, Tim Slade, Peter Hackett, and Bret Curtis, the team’s primary lineup bears collective experiences in endurance (both GT and Prototype), touring, and open-wheel competition, contributing arguably the event’s most diversely skilled driving outfit.

Local drivers Slade (V8SC) and Hackett (AustralianGT) will significantly contribute valuable circuit knowledge to both the team, and fellow drivers, Bleekemolen and Curtis; both of whom will, despite lacking circuit knowledge, draw on their respective (and considerable) experience with similar endurance events.

Although fielding (two) entries of a collectively lesser experienced (and professional) nature than closest rivals Phoenix Racing, Black Falcon enter the 2012 event as a potential and, realistic threat to Audi’s established success at the 12 hour race.

Despite significant involvement on behalf of Audi (via Phoenix Racing) and Mercedes (via Black Falcon), increased commitment from a viciously competitive privateer contingent renders the potential for either marque to effortlessly secure outright victory considerably unlikely.

Representing the majority of the GT field, privateer runners enter the 2012 event against the collective might of both Audi and Mercedes factory (affiliate) outfits. Although entering a class overshadowed by the successful reputations of both Phoenix Racing and Black Falcon, multiple privateer squads enter the event with ample offensive capabilities afforded by both machinery and driving talent.

Maranello Motorsport's Ferrari 458 Italia during testing, at the 2012 Bathurst drive event. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

Local entries Maranello Motorsport, Lago Racing, and Consolidated Chem. Co. will spearhead an Australian assault on outright victory. While foreign privateer outfits Clearwater Racing (Malaysia) and United Autosports (Britain, United States) will also field single car Ferrari 458 and, Audi R8 LMS entries respectively, each with factory-afforded customer assistance.

Having enlisted the services of ace GT pairing, Allan Simonsen (Denmark) and Dominik Farnbacher (Germany), in addition local touring car legend John Bowe, Melbourne-based outfit Maranello motorsport has secured a lineup bearing considerable pace and circuit knowledge. With the squad fielding proven package in Ferrari’s 458 Italia, Maranello Motorsport emerges a significant contender for outright victory.

Lago Racing's JBS-sponsored Reiter Lamborghini LP600 GT3 challenger. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

Queensland-based team, Lago Racing has also increased their level of commitment for the 2012 event. Following the achievement of a class (B) victory at the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour, Lago Racing sought out proven GT3 machinery in the form of Reiter’s Lamborghini LP600 challenger. With the team having enlisted the services of talented local (V8SC development series) driver, David Russell, Lago Racing remains one of multiple local entries in contention for a well-placed finish.

The Reiter Lamborghini LP560 GT3 entry of McConville, Kox, Huglin, and Searle. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

Fielding the second of two (local) Lamborghini entries, Consolidated Chemical Co. will also enter a Reiter-developed package, the LP560 GT3. With a squad consisting of V8SC endurance driver, Cameron McConville and, endurance ace/Reiter factory driver, Peter Kox, the Ted Huglin-led outfit is one of many entries favoured for a top five finish.

Entering one of two Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 entries in the 2012 event, Malaysian-based outfit, Clearwater Racing emerge as a considerable threat to both factory and privateer competitors. With significant potential in the team’s lineup of Baird, Griffin, and team-owner Mok Weng Sun, Clearwater Racing enter the Bathurst 12 Hour as one of the higher fancied privateer entries.

United AutoSports will enter a single Audi R8 LMS in the 2012 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy United Autosports.

Following competitive showings at both Dubai and Abu Dhabi 24 Hour events, Anglo-American team United Autosports will also make their Bathurst debut at the 2012 12 Hour event. Despite having recently purchased a pair of Mclaren MP4-12C chassis, the squad continues its (customer) relationship with Audi, via entering a single R8 LMS for drivers Patterson, Li, and Yu.

Renowned for star-powered appearances elsewhere, United Autosports will likely face difficulty with a lesser professionally (and, in regards to circuit knowledge) experienced lineup.

With the aforementioned entries fielding PRO/AM lineups, albeit in varying forms (as stipulated by event regulations), each outfit’s success relies on their ability to manage the capabilities of their respective designated (team-owner) amateur drivers. For certain outfits, this will no doubt present a significant hurdle. While others will likely approach the scenario with minimal difficulty.

Although represented to a lesser extent than in previous years, production-touring runners will collectively represent seven manufacturers (Holden, Ford, BMW, Mazda, Mini, SEAT, Subaru) across the event’s three touring categories. With BMW and Subaru entries emerging as likely favourites within their respective categories.

Despite a reported boycotting of the event having been coordinated by certain members of the local production-touring contingent (claimed to be the result of conflicting viewpoints concerning the event’s ethos), there remains a core group of confirmed, local touring teams, committed to providing an entertaining race for spectators.

Bathurst 12 Hour, 2012 – Entry list, event information

Audisport Team Joest leads the field during the opening lap of the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

Entry list:

Class A – GT3

  • 23 Lago Racing – Lamborghini LP600 GT3 – Lago/Russell/Park
  • 4 Consolidated Chemicals Lamborghini LP560 GT3 – Huglin/McConville/Kox/Searle
  • 17 Maranello Motorsport – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Simonsen/Farnbacher/Bowe/Edwards
  • 33 Clearwater Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Weng Sun/Baird/Griffin
  • 1 Phoenix Racing – Audi R8 LMS – Mies/O’Young/Jöns
  • 2 Phoenix Racing – Audi R8 LMS – Lowndes/Luff/Eddy
  • 22 United Autosports  – Audi R8 LMS – Patterson/Li/Yu
  • 21 Black Falcon – Mercedes Benz SLS AMG – Wilson/Breslin/Mehta/Breslin
  • 20 Erebus Racing – Mercedes Benz SLS AMG – Slade/Bleekemolen/Hackett/Curtis
  • X Bar One World – Mosler MT900 – Salmon/White/TBA

Class B – GT3 Cup

  • 66 Motorsport Services – Porsche 996 GT3 Cup – Thomlinson/Dippie/Maddren
  • 65 Motorsport Services –  Porsche 997 GT3 Cup – O’Donnell/Niall/McLennon
  • 3 Tinkler Motorsports –  Porsche 997 GT3 Cup – Tinkler/Johnson/Richards

Class C – GT4

  • 10 Simply Sports Cars –  Lotus Exige S – Gowans/Meins/Lillington-Price
  • 25 Freestone Transport –  Corvette Z06 – Freestone/Pullen/TBA
  • 62 Queenslandhouseandland.com – Lotus Exige S – Thompson/Klien/Harley
  • 44 Donut King –  Nissan R35 GTR – Alford/Leemhuis/Beechey

Class D – Production (High Performance)

  • 68 Motorsport Services –  BMW 135i – Glasson/Roderick/Harris
  • 67 Motorsport Services  – BMW 135i – Murphy/Head/De Veth/Scott
  • 53 Boss Plaster – Holden HSV GTS – Newman/Lillie/Atkinson
  • 28 GWS Personnel Motorsport –  BMW 335i – O’Donnell/Hansen/D’Agostin
  • 7 Maximum Motorsport –  Subaru WRX Sti – Herridge/O’Dowd/Kennard
  • X Peter Conroy Motorsport –  Mitsubishi Evo X – Conroy/Brame/Robson

Class E – Production (Performance)

  • 27 GWS Personnel Motorsport –  BMW 130i – Shephard/Booker/TBA
  • 26 GWS Personnel Motorsport –  BMW 130i – Duffy/Gartner/TBA
  • 91 Mark Bell –  Ford Falcon XR8 – Bell/Dodd/Jenkins
  • 16 Nelson Business Consultants – Mazda RX-8 – Nelson/Holden/Matthews/Bradshaw
  • X Racer Industries  – Holden HSV VXR – TBA/TBA/TBA

Class I – Invitational

  • 35 Ric Shaw – Mazda RX-7 – Shaw/TBA/TBA
  • 80 Bruce Lynton BMW – Mini Cooper S JCW – Lynton/TBA/TBA
  • 14 Red Camel Jordans – Seat Leon 2.0 TDI – Breukers/Thijssen/TBA

Class A (GT3): 10   Class B (GT3-C): 3   Class C (GT4): 5   Class D (Prod. – HP): 6   Class E (Prod. – P): 5   Class I (Inv.): 3   Total: 32

Coverage Information:

– Live Video

– Live Audio

– Live Timing

Event Schedule.

– Live News Sources (Twitter)

– Drivers (Twitter)

– Teams (Twitter)

– Circuit Map

Black Falcon to lead Mercedes charge at Bathurst 12 Hour.

One of multiple Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG entries during round nine of the 2011 VLN Endurance Championship. - Image courtesy Black Falcon.

One of multiple Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG entries during round nine of the 2011 VLN Endurance Championship. - Image courtesy Black Falcon.

Preliminary details concerning another planned high-profile effort targeting Australia’s Bathurst 12 hour, involving esteemed German endurance outfit, Team Black Falcon have begun to emerge via multiple sources affiliated with the event.

The Kelberg-based team, now a renowned Mercedes factory affiliate and customer sport operation has (as signified by the presence of two entries on the event’s provisional entry list) recently confirmed plans which will see  the squad field two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 entries in the 2012 edition of the 12 hour race.

Widely known for their exploits within Germany’s domestic GT and endurance series, the squad is no stranger to endurance; with a competition portfolio spanning both VLN and ADAC GT championships, in addition to efforts at Spa, Nürburgring and Dubai 24 hour events under the AMG banner.

Black Falcon’s participation at the 2012 running of the 12 hour race represents the securing of another high-profile, manufacturer-supported effort by event organisers. With Audi having already confirmed their intention to return via factory-affiliate team, Phoenix Racing. An announcement which was later followed by subsequent confirmations from privateer squads Maranello Motorsport, and United AutoSports.

Details of the team’s driver lineups for the event have not yet been revealed in full. It has however been confirmed that Dutch driver (and Black Falcon, VLN regular), Jeroen Bleekemolen (of past Le Mans, LMS, Porsche SuperCup, A1GP fame) will join the outfit for the 12 hour race. Renowned driving coach/instructor, Rob Wilson has also been confirmed within the team’s second entry.

Local Mercedes customer sport operation, Erebus Racing have, despite signaling a desire to enter the 2012 running of the event, not yet confirmed details of their rumoured participation. It remains unclear as to whether Black Falcon’s participation will operate independently or, in collaboration with Erebus Racing’s as yet unconfirmed efforts.

Further information concerning Black Falcon’s planned Bathurst 12 hour campaign is yet to be revealed.

Highlights of the team’s efforts at the 2011 Spa 24 hour race can be seen below:

United AutoSports confirms Audi-powered Bathurst 12 Hour Assault

No stranger to endurance; United AutoSports entered three R8 LMS GT3s in the 2011 Spa 24 hour event. - Image courtesy United AutoSports.

No stranger to endurance; United AutoSports entered three R8 LMS GT3s in the 2011 Spa 24 hour event. - Image courtesy United AutoSports.

Anglo-American sportscar squad, United AutoSports today announced details concerning their 2012 season programme. Within which, the team released details of plans to enter Australia’s Bathurst 12 hour event, in addition to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi 24 hour events.

News of the team’s continued utilisation of Audi’s R8 LMS GT3 chassis may come as a surprise to some. Given the squad’s well-documented dealings with McLaren, and previously announced plans to enter the marque’s recently released MP4-12C GT3 chassis in the 2012 Blancpain Endurance series. Despite this, the team has confirmed a single R8 LMS entry for the aforementioned events.

Details of expected driver lineups for each event are yet to be announced. Based on past appearances, and the team’s operating ethos, a lineup of high-profile runners is considered a reasonable expectation.

United AutoSports’ current competition portfolio spans British GT, FIA GT3, and Blancpain Endurance series, in addition to select endurance events across the world. The outfit most recently competed in the American Le Mans Series’ 14th annual Petit Le Mans event, securing an  LMP2 class podium on its series, and LMP competition debut, with an OAK Pescarolo-Judd package.

The British-based outfit’s announcement of participation in the 2012 running of the Bathurst 12 hour arrives following the confirmation of multiple high calibre entries, ranging from Audi factory affiliate, Phoenix racing, to local privateer competitors, Maranello Motorsport. Additional manufacturers are reportedly evaluating participation at present.

The following statements were provided (in relation to the announcement) during an interview with Speed.com reporter, John Dagys:

UAS CEO and team owner, Zak Brown:

“We couldn’t find a better way of moving into our third year as a racing team than by competing in such classics as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bathurst; three exciting endurance events which are considered a ‘must do’ for any aspiring racer. It’s also a fitting way to continue our relationship with Audi into 2012.”

UAS Managing Director/co-owner, Richard Dean: 

“United Autosports is a 52-week a year business and the goal is to have the top GT racing team in the world. In only two years United Autosports has built a reputation in which top drivers want to race with us, and now we’re offering them the opportunity to compete with our highly-motivated team, which is competing worldwide.

We want to have a dominant presence at every circuit we go to and these three exciting classic events are next on our calendar.”