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.