It’s the formula that isn’t a formula, but this class of racing has spread worldwide, drawing in privateers and factories alike
The estimated 1300 or so cars built in just 11 seasons serve as a testament to the success of the GT3 class. Nearly 20 manufacturers have produced machinery for a category that has spread right around the global since its creation in 2006.
It has become the default choice for national or regional GT series: there have been championships for GT3 cars on every continent. The cost-effective formula has democratised GT racing, bringing it within the financial reach of more drivers. At the same time, the adoption of this FIA category by big races around the world – most significantly the Nürburgring 24 Hours – has made it the battleground of factory or factory-assisted teams.
But GT3 isn’t really a formula at all. There’s no rule book in the usual sense. A GT3 car isn’t built to firm regulations – it is built to achieve a certain performance. If it falls above or below that, it is pegged back or helped by Balance of Performance rules.
The category was the brainchild of Stéphane Ratel, who played a central role in reviving international sports car racing in the 1990s as the ‘R’ of the BPR and is now boss of an organisation with global reach. Not only does it run the Blancpain GT Series in Europe and the British GT Championship, but it plays a central role in the Pirelli World Challenge (one of the US outposts of GT3) and has a hand in the organisation of the Bathurst 12 Hours.
The roots of GT3 go back more than 20 years. Ratel had tried mixing Venturis from his one-make ‘Gentlemen Drivers’ Trophy’ of 1992-94 with Porsche Cup cars in a short-lived 1995 series. It didn’t quite work because the French machines were faster than their German rivals, and besides Ratel linked up with Lamborghini for the next season to launch a new series for well-off amateurs.
When Ratel reignited the thought process that would lead to GT3, he had a new weapon – and it was inadvertently provided by a car he’d wanted to ban. The Frenchman didn’t want the Maserati MC12 to be allowed into his FIA GT Championship in 2004, fearing the extreme carbon-chassis machine would dominate and then decimate. FIA president Max Mosley came up with the idea of, quite literally, clipping its wings to ensure that didn’t happen. With the birth of the concept of the BoP, the seas parted to allow the creation of GT3.
It all began with the pro-am FIA GT3 European Championship in 2006. GT3 has come a long way since, as hundreds of Audis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches testify. Gary Watkins