Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New World Stage for Sports Car Racing Debuts

This week in Abu Dhabi, sports car racing will officially undergo another metamorphosis on the global motorsports community as the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) relaunches the GT Championship as the GT1 World Championship.

Committed in becoming a true world tour, the FIA GT1 World Championship will start in 2010 with 10 races on 4 different continents. Consisting of historic venues such as Silverstone and the Spa-Francochamps race circuits, the tour is also visiting tracks including the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi which had just played host to their first Formula 1 race in October of 2009. With two stops in South America through Brazil and Portugal, plans to expand into North American market appears to be likely even as soon as the 2011 season.

The 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship will continue a practice where only a single class competes in one race. In 2009, the FIA GT Championship changed from the multiple category structure used on most sports car endurance and sprint races. Providing a qualifying and race atmosphere similar to Formula 1, the GT1 World Championship race weekends will incorporate a 60 minute qualifying race on Saturday and a 60 minute feature or championship race on Sunday.

Devoted to production-based sports cars and supercars, auto manufacturer involvement is limited to fewer than 6 makes. Each manufacturer is also limited to supplying vehicles for two, two-car teams in order to insure equal exposure and prevent one car maker from consuming the 24 car grid. Competing in the inaugural 2010 schedule will be vehicles such as the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Aston Martin DB9, Ford GT, Nissan GT-R, Lamborghini Murcielago R-SV and the Maserati MC12.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy

With top sports cars racing on some of the planet's finest circuits formulating the FIA GT1 World Championship, the only ingredient needed is some reputable world class drivers. As the season approached, this final component to the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship came to fruition with international drivers with backgrounds as high as Formula 1. Among names include long-time F1 competitor Mika Salo who will be driving a Chevrolet Corvette C6R for Mad-Croc Racing. Other past Formula 1 drivers Ricardo Zonta and Enrique Bernoldi are also connected to teams. Besides grand prix names, the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship will feature prominent road race drivers like Karl Wendlinger who will be piloting a Swiss Racing Team Nissan GT-R.

While sports car racing has been enjoyed on massive scales since the end of World War Two, the sanctioning of such motorsport races has fallen under multitude of organizations over the 60 year time span. The inclusiveness of the sport to club racers excluded, sports car racing's juggling act has left the professional entity looking wayward. While titles in major national and international series remains valued, those records have become confusing to compare as series structures come and go. The FIA GT1 World Championship is one of two major attempts to consolidate major sports car racing into an internationally-recognized sanctioning body. Late last year, the ACO (the organization that regulates the Le Mans Series and the 24-hour of Le Mans race) announced the formation of the Le Mans International Cup initially for LMP1 teams competing in selected international events through 2010. Since expanded to GT classes and the smaller-engine LMP2 cars, strong indications hint that the Le Mans International Cup could be a forerunner to single global Le Mans Series.

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