GT3 is set to be confirmed as the pinnacle of GT competition across the globe with the end, after the 2023 season, of the GTE formula, which will be replaced in ACO competition in the FIA WEC and ELMS by GT3 again. not defined. Prime.
The GT3 “formula” was established in 2006 with the FIA GT3 European Championship, the first series established for the then new cars.
The series hosted full grids of new cars and thereafter interest, racing opportunities, costs and, most importantly, pace, grew rapidly.
The “benchmark” GT3 car around which the balance of performance was defined in 2006 was the rival Porsche, effectively a then-contemporary 911 GT3 Cup.
The Porsche was joined on the grids by the Dodge Viper, the Ascari KZ1, the Maserati GranSport Light and the Callaway Corvette Z06.R, the four brands that have since left the scene (at least for now) as well as the Initial GT3 offers three other survivors: Lamborghini (with Reiter Engineering builds Gallardo), Ferrari, (F430) and Aston Martin (DBRS9).
The following year the GT4 arrived on the scene, presented as slightly improved sports cars and including, in the first season, the Nissan 350Z, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24, the Ford Mustang FR500C, the BMW Z4 , the Lotus Exige GT4, the Maserati Trofeo and, at the end of the season, the Ginetta G50. Lots of variety, but it took a year or more for GT4 to really settle in.
Since then, things have changed somewhat – The 2006 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup was powered by a 3.6-litre flat-6 producing around 394bhp without any performance balance adjustments.
By comparison, the new 2023 version of the Porsche 911 GT3 R is powered by a new 4.2-liter 6 producing an unmatched 565 hp, more than 40% more powerful than its 2006 predecessor!
Over the past decade and a half, technology, aerodynamics, electronics and, in particular, tire technology, have all come a long way.
Circuitry has also evolved, some of it profoundly, as has the technology involved in surfacing.
So what did it bring us in terms of pace progression –
There’s really only one circuit where you can shoot real dry weather, a first-year comparison of Formulas.
Spa Francorchamps saw its major revamp, with the end of the old ‘bus stop’ before the GT3 took the stage and cars have been racing there ever since.
To do a real comparison as well, we’ll just look at the top ORS competitions for formulas from each of the years. Why? because other series have different tires and different BoP. The lap record in GT3, for example, is not held by a car participating in the GT World Challenge at Spa, but by a car participating in the International GT Open, and the “in extremis” lap time differences are important – several seconds!
Also, for the purposes of this comparison, we will be looking at maximum qualifying performance, in dry conditions, not always the best indication of racing ability, but the best we have for a true reflection of the raw performance available with the circuit. , cars, tires in force. and BoP.
Pole in the first-ever FIA GT3 European Series race at Spa – in 2006 – went to the #10 Racing Logistic Dodge Viper Competition CC of Patrick Bornhauser and Fred Bouvy with a time of 2:27.050.
By 2022, the FIA GT3 European Series was long gone, replaced by the premier GT World Challenge Europe race, the 24 Hours of Spa, since 2011 a race more or less entirely populated by GT3s. Pole sitter Rafaelle Marciello’s SuperPole time was 2:16.375, 10.675 seconds faster than the 2006 pole time around the 7km circuit.
In 2007, the first season of the GT4 European Cup, Maxime Soulet in his #20 Porsche Cayman took pole with a time of 2:38.593.
By 2022 the championship had transformed into the GT4 European Series and the fastest in the qualifying session in the Spa 24 Hours double-header saw the fastest qualifying time in the session for the first of two races, with the time going to Antoine Leclerc in the #36 Code Racing Alpine A110 GT4 – 2:29.052, 9.541 seconds quicker than the 2007 pole.
Perhaps just as important as the time gaps between historical comparisons within the two classes (GT3 and GT4) is the difference between a 2006 GT3 and a 2022 GT4 – just 2.002 seconds apart, a time that would have been good enough for 11th on the 39-car GT3 Grid in 2006.
For completeness we’ll add a few more benchmarks – 2006 saw GT1 and GT2 still very strong and as we’ll see they both have a part to play in showing how far things have come.
GT1 2:14.871 (Spa 24 Aston Martin DBR9)
GT2 2:22.095 (Spa 24 Ferrari 430 GTC)
GT3 2:27.050 (FIA GT3 European Series)
GT4 (2007) 2:38.593 (GT4 European Cup)
GTE Pro: 2:14.301 (Porsche 911 RSR FIA WEC)
GT2 (SRO) 2:20.417 (GT2 European Series – Anders Fjordbach Brabham BT63 GT2 Concept)
GT3 2:16.375 (24 Hours of Spa)
GT4 2:29.052 (European GT4 series)
The GT1 pole time for the 2006 24 Hours of Spa was slower than the WEC’s GTE Pro pole in 2022, and only a second and a half faster than this year’s GT3 pole setter
GTE’s predecessor, the GT2 class pole setter in 2006, was 6 seconds slower than this year’s GT3 pole setter. seven seconds faster than the 2006 GT3 pole time).
A final note to note. While the pace progression for GT3 is indeed very notable, allowing pace comparison only on SRO platforms only tells part of the story.
The BoP and tires, specific or otherwise, used by a variety of championships can have a very profound effect on performance.
What depth? Well, take Rafaelle Marciello’s 2022 24 Hours of Spa Superpole time with an extremely impressive 2:16.375 and compare it to Vincent Abril’s pole position effort in the APM Monaco Ferrari 488 GT3 during qualifying for the ‘International GT Open in 2020, on their Michelin tires and with a very different BoP.
Abril’s time was a mighty 2:13.724! Over 2.5 seconds faster than the Spa 24-pole lap (in a car of the same class), over 13 seconds faster than the fastest GT3 lap in 2006 and one second faster than an Aston Martin DBR9 passed the same year.
That is progress!