GT, or not GT: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer......
It wasn’t so long ago that prototype racing was reported to be on its last legs,
about to be kicked out in favour of massive manufacturer interest in the GT1 class,
interest that has spawned the Corvette C6-R, the Aston Martin DBR9, the Maserati
MC12 and the Ferrari 550 and 575. Audi was dominating prototypes and no one
else wanted to come out to play. Who would ever raise the budget to race them?
That has all changed in the space of seven months since Porsche announced an
LMP2 programme, and at Road Atlanta, Maserati hinted that it would follow suit.
The Trident marque was badly caught out by the rule changes in GT1 and the
MC12 can never race at Le Mans. The ACO still refuse to scrutineer the car in the
ALMS. Negotiations are continuing between the IMSA organisation, which invited
the MC12 to race in the States, the ACO and Maserati to get the car to score points
next year. If those talks fail, Maserati will not race in the ALMS at all next year,
Guiseppe Risi confirming that he would instead switch classes to the GT2 with
the new Ferrari 430. Risi has two MC12s, one which races, the other a brand
spanking new model sitting in his shop.
The Italian Job
Maserati has a plan to support Stephane Ratel’s proposed GT3 project and also
considered a GT2 effort. That was knocked on the head at a recent meeting at
which it was decided that Maserati could not race against Ferrari’s new 430. What
is happening with the 575 Maranello, in that case? We understand there will be
little or no development on the car in 2006. Will the new 600 Imola, replacement to
the 575 on the streets, race in GT1?
Maserati’s plan was always to race at Le Mans. Unless the ACO opens the door
to GT3 cars, Maserati cannot do it with a GT2, or its GT1. That leaves only a
prototype option, and they won’t race against a diesel with the rules as they
currently stand. Porsche have already looked at doing that and discounted it as a
waste of time, money and effort. Diesel will dominate LMP1 in the future with
Peugeot and Audi, which has been receiving a tanker full of racing diesel to its
test facility every month for the past six months. Petrol-powered customer cars in
LMP2 will form the support system.
What of the future of the ALMS, then? There is currently no diesel market in the
US passenger car scene, but with prices sky-rocketing thanks to the effects of the
war in Iraq and the devastation left by two hurricanes which have badly hit oil
production, the gas guzzlers are not as popular as they once were. We hear that
Audi is planning to introduce its diesel engines into the US market, and what
better way to market the performance diesel than to show off its Le Mans
contender in the ALMS? Will that encourage Peugeot to do the same? That is a
real punt in the dark but the ALMS will need either that, or for Audi to supply
customer teams. If neither happens, and Audi races in the US alone in LMP1, the
race for overall wins will be as dull as the Petit Le Mans at the weekend – a one-
horse race and you would need to look at LMP2 for the excitement.
Now, what of that excitement? Porsche versus Maserati on the American circuits,
in customer hands in 2007 in Europe, and will they go head-to-head at Le Mans?
And the class has attracted interest from Honda, Mazda already produces its
rotary engine for the class which, in the words of Scott Atherton “have made our
ears bleed all year”, Radical is coming and will join Lola, Courage, Pilbeam and
GT3 that’s the one for me...............
What will happen with GT1? Corvette has its C6-R which has put on a stunning
performance against the Aston Martin DBR9, a car that has won now on both
sides of the Atlantic in both customer and factory guise. If Ferrari is indeed
stopping the GT1 programme, and the Aston Martin is the successor to Prodrive’s
550 Maranello, where will the opposition come? Ratel has said that the GT1
World Championship will live or die on the decision of General Motors to produce
customer C6-Rs. Two are for sale, and Toine Hezemans is in the running to buy
them at the end of the year, but can GM build, sell and support six? We can, says
project manager Doug Fehan, but it requires cash up front, and politically GM is
not in that position right now.
The new superclass is the GT3, which will be the closest to showroom spec
cars and has already attracted interest from Aston Martin (DBRS9), Lamborghini
(Gallardo), Lotus (Exige), TVR (Sagaris) and Maserati (Trofeo). The class is
aimed at wealthy amateur drivers who wish to race solely in Europe.
If Maserati do go ahead and make this announcement, and we have been told
that “the channel is open”, the predictions of a year ago will be worth diddly squat
and the future of prototype racing will be safer than at any time anyone can