Imagine if you will a saturday afternoon in France. Teams prepare for the legendary endurance classic that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Prototype grid has formed and we have a GT starting grid comprised of Corvette, Ford, Aston Martin, Ferrari, BMW, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche, Mercedes, Acura, Lexus and more. Sounds fairly spectacular right? Now Imagine those same cars doing battle at Spa, Bathurst, Daytona, Sebring and the Nurburgring. All of them fighting for overall GT honors on the World's greatest race tracks. It is a prospect that will get any racing fan extremely excited. Unfortunately the world we live in those cars are split into two classes, GTE and GT3.
There is little that differentiates a GTE car from a GT3. If they wanted all parties involved could make one global spec GT class that would allow all cars to participate in all the classic races. Many teams make cars for both classes. Ferrari's 488 was built and designed to race in both with minor changes needed to compete. Corvette, Aston Martin, BMW, and Porsche join Ferrari in making cars for both series. Granted in the case of Porsche and BMW the models are drastically different, the point is it would be a significant decrease in development cost to only produce one car eligible for all major GT series.
The major blocking points, as always, revolve around Balance of Performance and cost. The two classes utilize different air restrictors to balance the field and believe it or not this is what torpedoed this idea several years ago. During that proposed GT "Convergence" an idea was set forth that a manufacturer would develop one car with two variants. A cheaper base model to satiate the teams who like GT3's reduced budget and an Evo version for the more competitive big budget GTE teams. Unfortunately the talks ended and the idea was killed.
For years, GT3 costs have been on the rise and subsequently the cheaper GT4 formula has risen in popularity as an alternative to the higher expenses. Given this, the idea of a GT "Convergence" has started to make a comeback. The problem still lies with highly competitive individuals unable to agree on a common set of rules.
The cars are very similar in performance however there are some key differences. GTE allows for some modification to the base car's dimensions. Porsche has been allowed to move their flat-6 from behind the rear wheels to in front of them. This is done even though there is no "mid-engine" 911 road legal variant. Similar concessions have been made for Corvette who has pushed their V8 back in the engine bay to allow for better weight distribution. On the flip side GT3 cars more closely resemble their road going counterparts. Things like all wheel drive have been outlawed but the engine placement and wheel bases remain much closer.
GTE allows exceptions to vehicle dimensions to allow a more competitive landscape. GT3 does this via Balance of Performance (BoP). In addition they do not allow driver aids like traction control or ABS in GTE. There is a lot more to it but at its core GT3 Balances their cars based on Power to Weight ratios and aerodynamic efficiency. They also allow TC and ABS in GT3. In addition they force all cars that wish to compete in GT3 spec series to attend a test where the car is driven by an independent third party and advises on BoP.
"Am" classes make up a significant portion of GT3 racing and GTE-AM is a class specifically designed to give non-professional racers a chance to compete on a world stage. These non-professionals bring a large amount of financing that would make it impossible for some teams to exist. Keeping these outfits in mind is key for any sort of GT Convergence and with that comes cost control. For example it is unlikely that a small outfit can compete with the likes of Ford or Aston Martin on budget alone. The "Am" classes need to remain and provisions put in place that allow them to compete because at the end of the day any one GT class will not succeed if these privateer teams and drivers are not taken care of.
The different philosophies, rules, costs, etc are the main road block to one true GT class. Motorsport is home to some rather spectacular egos and overcoming that for the greater good is harder then it rightfully should, but not impossible. There are a lot of smart people in racing and I refuse to think they can't come together for the mutual benefit of everyone. GTE is set for a rules refresh within the next few seasons and the nature of GT3 allows flexibility there is no reason why we cant come to some sort of solution that benefits racers and fans alike.
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