Next month, Macau will host the first ever FIA GT World Cup, the latest addition to the programme’s all-star show-stoppers which now includes prestigious races for Formula 3, motorcycles, touring car and GT machinery. But what is this new, rapidly emerging category of motorsport competition? GT racing – or Grand Touring racing to give it its full name – is an important part of the rich tapestry of sportscar competition around the world. Forty percent of the 55 cars that started the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race in France this year were highly- developed variants of road-going sportscars – Porsches, Ferraris, Aston Martins and more – that you can see on the streets. These are distinct from the purpose-built racing cars known as prototypes that battle it out at the front of the field at Le Mans. International GT racing is split between two different codes. The cars that race at Le Mans, as well as in the FIA World Endurance Championship of which it is the centre piece, are built to GTE rules.
There is a separate – and much more widespread – realm of GT racing known as GT3. And it is these cars that will be racing in the FIA GT World Cup on the streets of Macau in November. GT3 cars are closer to their road-going cousins and, perhaps most significantly, cheaper both to buy and run than the machinery that competes in GTE. The rule book offers widespread freedoms and the performance of the cars is controlled by a process known as the Balance of Performance.
The idea is to create a level playing field by tweaking parameters such as weight, engine power, aerodynamics and ride height to make sure that a range of machinery can race on equal terms. This means that front-engined cars, such as the Bentley Continental GT3 and the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, can be competitive against mid-engined sportscars such as Ferrari’s 458 Italia GT3 and the new carbon-chassis McLaren 650S GT3. GT3 is inclusive by its very nature and has included in its 10-year history cars as diverse as the Morgan Aero 8 and the Ford Mustang. The GT3 category has spread around the globe since its creation back in 2006. It has become the basis of multiple national championships around Europe, as well as series in Australia, the United States and Brazil.
The next step on the GT3 pyramid is the international championships, such as the Blancpain GT Series in Europe and the GT Asia Series. GT3 cars also compete for overall victory in important races such the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which incorporates the legendary 12- mile Nordschleife circuit, and the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia. There are also classes for GT3 machinery in the Le Mans Series in Europe and Asia and in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship in the US.