Friday, 25 June 2010

Fighting For GT1 After Le Mans Snub

I am fighting the corner for GT1 cars.

During the festivities of the Le Mans 24 Hours the race’s organisers the ACO (Auto Club de l’ouest) announced that the 2010 race would be the final time that GT1 cars would be accepted into the starting field for the historic race.

Quite why they made this decision is up for debate.

The low turnout for the class? Only eight cars made the start of the race – though only the ACO will know how many tendered entries for the selection process back in February.

The fact that they are based on the rules of a championship the ACO doesn’t run?

Or the fact that that series is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an endurance series?

Personally I fear it was one of the latter two, and the GT1 teams’ own knowledge of them lead to the low turnout.

The field was thin and the outcome embarrassing, as a decade old car full beat the shiny, new GT1 World Championship machinery and their attendant big name drivers. But I still don’t think they have made the right decision by killing off the class.

If they want a better showing of GT cars then show the teams that SRO GT1 really does equal ACO GT1 – don’t burn the bridge at the first sign of trouble. Yes, most GT1 teams have chosen the SRO’s World Championship, but that may have a lot to do with the prestige of the title and the better coverage the series gets – not only because it has a TV deal that’s worth anything, but also because (for better or worse) their not fighting with three other classes, with their own storylines, winners and losers, for screen time.

In my opinion part of the reason GT2 is so strong is that in past years different series have been all but interchangeable. A team could run an LMS race, then go to the GT2 class of the old FIA GT series, then go and race GT Cup.

Offer the GT1 teams a decent deal to come Le Mans Series racing and they will – to bastardise Field of Dreams ‘let them come and they will build it’. If they’re regularly going endurance racing then they will build cars that can survive 24 hours, and have teams that can pull off the sort of repairs you expect from Le Mans.

Sure most of the class retired from the race – but that’s only five cars. Eight GT2 cars retired, but no-one is calling for that class to be hauled away from La Sarthe is disrespect.

Even more non-sensical in my opinion is the belief that the GT1 World Championship will shrivel and die because its teams can no longer go to Le Mans.

Utter bilge.

A series, even a sportscar series, doesn’t need that glistening jewel in June to survive. In the same week as the ACO said no more to GT1, BMW revealed plans to homologate a car for the series. If it’s run properly (and the SRO know how to run a series) the GT1 World Championship will survive. For all that Mr. Ratel might not like manufacturers probably like his series because the race cars look like road cars – even massively aspirational marques have something of a ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ ethos. That’s the one of the reasons BMW pulled out F1 after last season.

If you’ve not taken the time to watch a race this year, do so, it’s probably produced consistently the best races of any international series. Anywere .

Though admittedly not Le Mans.