Mclaren test GT3, what now for GT1?

Resplendent in Mclaren orange, the new MP4-12C GT3 car has been out testing this week at MIRA and Silverstone. It marks Mclaren’s first proper steps into sports car racing since the majestic F1 was battling with Mercedes and Porsche in the late-nineties. Like its esteemed predecessor, the MP4-12C is light, powerful and is one heck of a car to base a racing machine on. GT3 is a cracking series for relatively amateur level teams, but surely the premier GT1 series it supports should be bending over backwards to get the iconic orange machine on board?

Alongside British development drivers Chris Goodwin and Andrew Kirkaldy, Mclaren have pulled the shrewd move of signing Alvaro Parente to help with their first foray into GT3. The former British F3 champ has been a contender in GP2 and Superleague over the last few years, but he’s also done a lot of miles in Ferrari’s recent GT machines. Let’s hope he gets a race seat with one of the yet-to-be-announced customer teams who are going to run the Mclaren in GT3.

Over in the GT1 series the exodus of teams during the winter is almost being offset by more star drivers joining the party. The Sumo Power Nissan squad has just announced that Le Mans winner and F1 veteran David Brabham will be joining Jamie Campbell-Walter, Ricardo Zonta and Enrique Bernoldi in what is one of the strongest line-ups in this thrilling championship. Meanwhile Markus Winklehock is leaving the DTM to race a Lamborghini for All-Inkl.com in GT1. For the drivers any series that takes supercars to the superb San Luis track in Argentina and Portimao in Portugal has to be a satisfying place to practice your craft.

The SRO-organised GT1 World Championship features great global circuits and spectacular cars, but it’s franchise system seems prohibitive. This forces manufacturers to field at least two teams of two cars, which appears to have led to champions Maserati and race-winners Corvette leaving at the end of GT1’s debut season. The multi-car rules have also led to four-car teams in all-but-name from Sumo Power and Marc VDS which leaves GT1 looking even more precarious for the future.

In a more established global series it may be wise to operate a franchise system to keep numbers consistent, but a fledgling championship would benefit from allowing manufacturers to try it before they commit too heavily. Let’s hope that the rules are relaxed at the end of 2011 when the homologation of the Maserati, Corvette and Aston Martin runs out. Perhaps some rule tweaks will see marques of great repute like Mclaren, Ferrari, Porsche and Audi all able to get involved, instead of these big hitters being confined to GT3.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Mclaren test GT3, what now for GT1?

  1. I couldn’t agree more Phil. I love GT1 and think the championship they’ve set up is a good idea that visits some great circuits. I just don’t understand the logic of such big manufacturers wanting to be in GT2 and GT3. Yes the racing is close and fantastic to behold, but the real prestige for marks like McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche, etc. should be in the top level GT category.

    I do like how their is such a hierarchy now from GT1 down to GT4, but this McLaren looks awfully modified from stock form, I feel GT3 should limit such things more. The amount they’ve changed it makes it look a little silly to me, not as organic and beautiful as the showroom car, much the way the new 458 GT2 machine does not look as good as its street counterpart.

  2. GT1 through to GT3 are all very similar, it doesn’t make much sense to have all these different rulebooks. Only GT4 features significantly different cars, there should be just the two GT categories really. GT3 rules seem about right to me and the racing is great, but GT1 is global and features some top driving talent.

    Like you say, the 458 is such a lovely looking car, it’s a shame there’s nowhere they can run the regular machine without needing to cover it with unsightly wings. Beefing up cars to go racing works on little rental cars, but sports cars already look great and often produce a fair amount of downforce these days, they should be able to run these supercars with a few safety and suspension mods like the Aston N24 rather than needing a new model.

    Wouldn’t a sprint series for GT cars be great? No driver changes, keep the format similar to touring cars. I’ll keep dreaming…

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