Group GT3, known technically as Cup Grand Touring Cars and commonly referred to as simply GT3, is a set of regulations maintained by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for grand tourer racing cars designed for use in various auto racing series throughout the world. The GT3 category was initially created in 2005 by the SRO Group as a third rung in the ladder of grand touring motorsport, below the Group GT1 and Group GT2 categories which were utilized in the SRO's FIA GT Championship, and launched its own series in 2006, the FIA GT3 European Championship. Since then, Group GT3 has expanded to become the de facto category for many national grand touring series, although some series modify the ruleset from the FIA standard. By 2013, nearly 20 automobile manufacturers have built or been represented with GT3 machines.
Group GT3 allows for a wide variety of car types to be homologated with almost no limit on engine sizes and configurations or chassis construction or layout. GT3 cars must be based on production road car models in mass production. Performance of all the Group GT3 cars are regulated, either by the GT Bureau of the FIA or by a series' specific ruling body, through a Balance of Performance that adjusts limits on horsepower, weight, engine management, and aerodynamics to prevent a single manufacturer from becoming dominant in the class. The cars in GT3 are designed with emphasis on simplicity and ease of use for amateur or young drivers, in contrast to the faster and more fine-tuned GT1 and GT2 machines.
The concept behind Group GT3 was introduced by Stéphane Ratel, head of the SRO Group and promoter of the FIA GT Championship in 2005. The Group GT1 and Group GT2 cars in the FIA GT Championship required manufacturers to build a car based on regulations, and then develop that car to increase its performance, thus increasing the cost for the manufacturers and the customers wanting to race the cars. GT3 was envisioned as a category that would simplify the process by combining several existing cars from one-make series, such as the Porsche Supercup or Ferrari Challenge, as well as other race cars available from manufacturers that did not fit in GT1 or GT2, such as the Aston Martin DBRS9 or Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, and allow them to all compete on a level playing field through strict control of their performance by the FIA. This would allow drivers a bridge between smaller national series and the professional international FIA GT Championship. Further, the category was conceived to use sprint formats for races, but manufacturers could develop and sell an upgrade kit for their cars to allow GT3 cars to be used in endurance races. A similar category, under the same name, had been in use in the British GT Championship which the SRO Group also organized.
The regulations and homologations for Group GT3 were prepared by the FIA and ready by the start of the 2006 season, with eight manufacturers represented as the first Balance of Performance test prior to the debut of the FIA GT3 European Championship. The British GT Championship, International GT Open, Spanish GT Championship, and Italian GT Championship all created a category specifically for the FIA's new Group GT3 machines. The SRO Group expanded the category in 2007 with the launch of two new regional championships, the Brazilian GT Championship and the German ADAC GT Masters, exclusively running Group GT3 cars. The British GT Championship abandoned Group GT2 cars, promoting GT3 to their premiere category, while the Belcar series reorganized their class structure to introduce GT3 as their lead class. The French FFSA GT Championship also added a new GT3 category.
The Australian GT Championship brought on board the GT3 category in 2008 while the VLN Series and 24 Hours Nürburgring added GT3 categories in 2009. By 2011 Group GT3 was expanding into endurance racing with the formation of the Blancpain Endurance Series as well as winning overall at the Bathurst 12 Hour, Dubai 24 Hour, Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race, and Spa 24 Hours, followed by a 24 Hours Nürburgring victory in 2012. Group GT3 also expanded to the United States with the Rolex Sports Car Series allowing several GT3 cars with specification wings, as well as the Japanese Super GT and Super Taikyu series, while Nissan became the first Japanese manufacturer to sell a GT3 car. GT3 category cars also replaced Group GT1 cars in the FIA GT1 World Championship before rebranding as the FIA GT Series in 2013. After NASCAR merged their Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series with IMSA's American Le Mans Series, the new United SportsCar Championship allowed more types of GT3 cars to join the GTD category.
As of November 2013, 34 cars have been homologated in Group GT3 by the FIA, although four of these homologations have expired. Other vehicles have been allowed to run alongside Group GT3 cars in various series under homologations from national ruling bodies, including the Mosler MT900R GT3, Ginetta G55 GT3, Chevron GR8 GT3 and Emil Frey Jaguar XK-R. Two additional entries in Group GT3 have applied for homologation by the FIA. Bentley debuted a Continental GT3 in September 2012, while in June 2013, SRT announced the development of a Viper GT3-R. Callaway announced plans in July 2013 to homologate a new C7 Corvette for Group GT3, replacing their C6-based Z06.R.
Group GT3 cars can be built either directly by the automotive manufacturer, such as Porsche, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz, or built by racing teams and tuning companies at the behest of the manufacturer, such as Ford GTs built by Matech Concepts, Lamborghinis built by Reiter Engineering, or Aston Martins by Prodrive.
Since 2006, Group GT3 cars have been either exclusive to or in a distinct class in each of the following series:
- 24H Series
- ADAC GT Masters
- Asian Le Mans Series
- Australian GT Championship
- Belgian GT Championship
- Blancpain Endurance Series
- Blancpain Sprint Series
- Brazilian GT Championship
- British GT Championship
- European Le Mans Series
- FFSA GT Championship
- FIA GT1 World Championship
- FIA GT3 European Championship
- GT Asia Series
- GTSprint International Series
- International GT Open
- Italian GT Championship
- Portuguese GT Championship
- Spanish GT Championship
- Super Taikyu Series
- Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring
Additionally, the following series allow certain Group GT3 cars to participate alongside other competitors:
- Dutch Supercar Challenge
- Pirelli World Challenge
- Rolex Sports Car Series
- United SportsCar Championship
- Super GT
- Swedish GT Series
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- Dagys, John. "GT Convergence Gets Green Light". sportscar365.com. John Dagys Media Inc. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- "Bentley's new Conti GT3 racer". Top Gear. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- "The SRT® Viper GT3-R is unveiled at Le Mans.". SRT. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- Lindberg, Austin (26 July 2013). "Corvette C7 FIA GT3 Racer to Be Built by Callaway, Sport a Hellacious Aero Package". Car and Driver. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
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