Ten years ago if you asked any motorsport fan which were the premier racing series in the world, the answers would of course include Formula One, NASCAR, maybe the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) or perhaps even V8 Supercars. If you asked the same question today however the answers will no doubt include GT3 racing.
In a period that has seen racing series all over the world face unprecedented difficult times, the GT3 racing category has grown to meteoric heights, and not just in the holy lands of the European racing scene.
Grid sizes of 40 plus cars can be seen on race circuits all across the globe, bucking the trend and attracting not only solid crowds, but strong television packages, world class drivers and list of manufactures a Formula One grid could only dream of.
So why the growth? The answer is simple… ENTERTAINMENT! In a motor racing landscape currently devoid of any great variety, a GT3 grid delivers to its fans a mouth-watering menu of motor racing deliciousness by serving up Lamborghini against Ferrari, with a side order of Nissan GTR, a solid helping of McLaren, a delicate smattering of Porsche’s all followed up with the always tempting Mercedes Benz SLS or Bentley for desert. And to top it all off, the piece de resistance – GREAT RACING!
GT3 organisers have designed a system of parity that makes sure no one manufacturer becomes a dominant player. Cars undergo rigorous testing with the FIA applying air restrictors to equalise engine power and aerodynamic restrictions making sure that cars are also as equal as possible from an aero point of view. The FIA have also implemented a driver seeding system which stops teams from having three highly professional drivers join forces in the one car. By doing this the series becomes a destination for “gentleman” drivers to don their helmets and test their skills against some of the best drivers in the world.
Because of the quality of GT3 racing and its popularity with fans, manufacturers are flocking to the category. Not for one minute do they think that many of these fans will buy the road going versions of these magnificent machines mind you, but what they do know is that GT3 racing is a global billboard from which they can build brand equity, showcase technology, get close and personal with their fans and supporters and all at a fraction of what is costs to even dabble in the world of Formula One.
Through their nominated teams, manufacturers such as Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Audi all have an interest in the series, whereas McLaren, Aston Martin, and Nissan all have full factory works teams and some even have satellite teams around the world.
The races themselves, whether it’s the UK GT3 Championship, The Blancpain Series in Europe or the Australian GT3 Championship, are the perfect mix of all or nothing sprint races combined with a strategy chess game of long distance, two or three driver races.
Australia has become the latest country to fall in love with GT3 racing. The growth in popularity of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour is testament to how popular this style of racing has become. With crowds of less than 5,000 only a few years ago, the 2015 edition of the once around the clock classic saw ticket sales soar and camp sites sell out across the Mountain.
At the recent Phillip Island 101 race, a one day crowd attendance record was broken with over 7,000 people attending the event at a track located over two hours away from a metro centre, impressive figures indeed.
As categories around the world continue to fight the ever increasing cost of going racing, often at the expense of the “entertainment”, the GT3 category may just haul itself to the front of the global racing scene and take pole position amongst racing fans all across the globe.