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.

VLN: Lowndes/Luff rejoin Audi Race Experience for Nürburgring debut.

Lowndes & Luff celebrate their podium finish with fellow team mates following the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Bathurst12H.

Lowndes & Luff celebrate their podium finish with fellow team mates following the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Bathurst12H.

Following a highly successful showing at this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour event, V8SC regulars Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff are now set to etch another milestone to their already impressive list of achievements.

Having achieved a second-placed finish on their maiden appearance with Audi’s R8 GT3 chassis, the duo appear to have stamped quite an impression in the sportscar racing fraternity.

After successfully integrating with the AudiSport operation on their debut, both drivers have been selected for an additional appearance with the marque.

Despite originally being selected for the Bathurst 12 hour event on a standalone basis, the Australian pairing have now secured a further competitive outing with the AudiSport (Race Experience Team Joest) squad.

On this occasion the Australian duo will make their paired Nürburgring debut, competing in the SP9 (GT3) category within Germany’s highly-competitive VLN endurance series.

Despite Lowndes having never driven the Nürburgring, the event marks Luff’s third appearance at the legendary circuit. With Luff’s most recent, competitive outing having been with (the now down-scaled) Australian-based Juniper Racing, during the 2008 edition of the Nürburgring 24 hour event.

Lowndes and Luff will take command of the R8 LMS GT3 chassis once more, rejoining the Odenwald-based outfit for a four hour event at round four of the VLN (Langstreckenmeisterschaft) series this May (27/28).

Fatal incident occurs during VLN event.

Yesterday, the #83 GT4 Aston Martin Vantage was involved in a fatal incident at the Bergwerk section of the Nürburgring circuit. The driver of the car, 43 year old Leo Löwenstein was unable to escape the fiery wreckage, later dying as a result of smoke inhalation. The incident will no doubt be the subject of many enquiries during the weeks to come.

This occurrence serves as a chilling reminder to all involved that motorsport remains an extremely dangerous, and potentially fatal sport.  Our thoughts are with Leo’s family and friends during this difficult time.

VLN/ADAC/Euro-GT Open news.

In a recent announcement, Peugeot motorsport has revealed plans to bring the RCZ HDi platform to the 2010 Nürburgring 24 hour classic, this May, as part of the manufacturers 200 year birthday celebrations. Fitted with a 2.0L HDi-FAP engine, the RCZ is capable of producing an impressive 147kW/200hp of power.

Peugeot RCZ Rear

Peugeot RCZ HDi.

The French marque will be represented by two RCZ HDi’s, supported by separate teams whose identities are not yet known.

After recently unveiling the GT3 variant of their SLS AMG coupe, German Automaker Mercedes unveiled additional plans today which will see the car participating in the final three rounds of the 2010 VLN series, providing Mercedes the ability to prove itself against long time rivals Audi/BMW, as well as Porsche and Ferrari.

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3 Coupe

Image courtesy of Insideline

While Norbert Haug (Head of Mercedes Motorsport)  has made his opinions on the Nürburgring 24H event clear in the past, having referred to the event as ‘a fair’, a return to the green hell would now seem much more likely for the iconic marque.

In other news,  five-time Nürburgring 24 hour champion, Marcel Tiemann has announced his 2010 plans. The German driver will continue to drive for the Manthey team in both the VLN and Nürburgring 24 hour events, alongside team mates Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, and Romain Dumas.

Marcel Fassler

Image courtesy of Autobild.

In addition to this, Tiemann will also compete in the International GT Open championship with Team Phoenix Racing, partnering Jim Matthews in the Audi R8-LMS.

Porsche GT3-R Hybrid ALMS bound?

GT3_Hybrid

Image courtesy Autoblog.com

Two days ago, Porsche’s GT3-R Hybrid turned it’s first competitive laps at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, during the season-opening round of the VLN championship.

The Manthey-supported GT3-R Hybrid, driven by Porsche works regulars, Bergmeister, Lietz, and Ragginger, managed an impressive sixth place on it’s race debut. With the sister car of Lieb/Tiemann/Bernhard taking victory ahead of factory-supported entries from Audi (Abt-Sport), and BMW (Schnitzer).

Porsche motorsport spokesmen, Steve Janisse and Andy Schupak claim that Porsche is currently in discussions with ALMS organisers to bring the GT3-R Hybrid to North America.

Porsche aims to have the car competing by late 2010, with the goal of participating in the Petit Le Mans classic.

Note that with ILMC (Intercontinental Le Mans Cup) rounds operated under fully ACO-compliant regulations (i.e. Petit Le Mans), any plans for participation would first require an ACO stamp of approval and, due to the base-chassis being a GT3-homologated design (e.g. outside of traditional class structure), special dispensation.

Porsche announces all-star Nürburgring 24H lineup.

 

 

GT3-R Hybrid

Porsche's GT3R Hybrid. - Image Courtesy PorscheAG.

 

Early last week, Sportscargeek covered Manthey racing’s announcement to support eight cars for the Nürburgring 24 hour, one of those cars being the recently unveiled GT3-R Hybrid. Yesterday, Porsche Motorsports announced the all-star lineup that will handle driving duties during the legendary 24 hour race.

The crew consists of Porsche factory heavyweights Jörg Bergmeister, Richard Lietz, Martin Ragginger, and Porsche-Junior team driver, Marco Holzer.

The quartet has no shortage of experience, Bergmeister having achieved back to back ALMS championships with the Flying Lizard team, Lietz taking victory in the 2009 LMS championship (with partner Marc Lieb, also part of the Manthey squad), Ragginger managing two podiums during the 2009 FIA-GT season, and Holzer recently achieving victory in the Dubai 24 hours, all drivers are well versed in the art of endurance.

Manthey Racing outlines 2010 plans.

Manthey Racing has recently outlined their plans for the VLN series, and Nürburgring 24H assault.

Manthey_24h_Nürburgring_2009

Image courtesy of Speedheads.de.

Olaf Manthey has confirmed the team will run eight cars throughout the 2010 season. Reigning champions Marcel Tiemann, Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas will pilot Weissach’s latest GT3-spec variant, the GT3-R.

Two GT3-R chassis supported by ‘Haribo’ will consist of the following driver lineups:

– Georg Weiss, Michael Jacobs, Peter-Paul Pietsch, and Oliver Kainz.

– Richard Westbrook,  Alexandros Margaritis, Christian Menzel, and Lance David Arnold.

‘Moskovskaya’ will support a fourth GT3-R for the team (not to appear until the third round of the series), to be driven by Armin Hahne, Jochen Krumbach and Marc Gindorf.

Two Cup cars will also be utilised by the team. The first car will be shared by Gary Williams, Daniel Cook, Tim Perry and Julian Raven, while Martin Ragginger, Rainer and Marc Holte Porsche will share the second.

In addition to the above, Manthey will also provide logistical/technical support to the Porsche factory, with plans to run the recently unveiled GT3-R Hybrid, as well as a GT3-RS to be driven by two time World rally champion, Walter Röhrl.