We saw last week that
Honda will jump on the GT3 racing bandwagon in 2017 with the new NSX. It’s really not hard to see why.
The GT3 category was introduced in 2005 as a – significantly – cheaper alternative to GT1 and GT2 machinery. The rules simply stated that GT3 cars had to be based on a mass-produced road car freely available somewhere in the world. That led to a diverse range of cars with different engine sizes and layouts being built for the class.
A Balance of Performance system equalised the performance across the cars, limiting the possibility of one car dominating and preventing a massively expensive development war.
It proved an instant success. While escalating costs killed GT1 and led to GT2/GTE just running in the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA Sports Car Championship, GT3 flourished. 10 years later, its become the headline class for pretty much every national and regional GT series in the world.
An endless supply of monied gentleman drivers has fuelled that growth. With advanced traction control and ABS systems, any competent (i.e. gentleman) driver can be reasonably quick in a GT3 car but, as ever, only the best can extract the maximum. That has led to huge demand for professional racers; many now choose GT3 as either the best place to make their living, or as a stepping stone onto bigger things.
All this means there’s a lot of money to be made from building GT3 cars. And many manufacturers have. In fact, 47 different cars from 25 manufacturers have been homologated for the class. As such, we think GT3 is the single most successful production car-based racing category there has ever been.
We have pulled together a gallery of every GT3 race car. We may have missed a few one-offs, but we think its the most comprehensive list of GT3 cars ever put together. It really demonstrates the diversity in the class; turns out they all look fantastic, too.
2006 Ascari KZ1R GT3 – Controversial at the time as the rules didn’t really allow a carbon-chassis car. Wins were slowing in coming, but constant development yielded British GT title in ’09
2006 Aston Martin DBRS9 – Built by Prodrive specifically to GT3 regs. Popular with teams and drivers, and looked and sounded fantastic. But only enjoyed any real success in British GT, taking ’06 Drivers’s and ’07 Teams’ titles
2006 Chevrolet Corvette C6 Z06.R GT3 – Callaway’s ‘Vette not widely raced, but took ’07 European title. Continued to race with success in Germany
2006 Dodge Viper Competition Coupe – GT3 rules were sort of modeled on this particular Viper. Huge and crude, but crushing power and lots of development turned into a very effective car. Took 2 British GT titles on the trot and won much more besides
2006 Ferrari F430 GT3 – Developed by Monaco-based JMB Racing and powered by 550bhp 4.3 V8. Hugely successful and one of the longest-lived of the early GT3 cars. Indeed, some are still in use
2006 Lamborghini Gallardo LP520 GT3 – Lamborghini had never had an official racing programme, but German squad Reiter Engineering had been racing them for years. This was its first Gallardo, converted to RWD and producing 520bhp
2006 Lotus Exige Sport – With around 300bhp, this has the distinction of being the least powerful GT3 car ever built. But thanks to its pin-point handling, it was more than capable of winning against the big-bhp opposition. Just 3 were built by Lotus Sport
2006 Maserati GranSport Light – Essentially a modified version of the one-make Trofeo ca, with a wider track, new exhaust and more serious aero. Not very quick or reliable, but boy did its Ferrari-built V8 sound good
2006 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Porsche’s 997-gen Carrera Cup race car fitted exactly with the GT3 regs. Dozens were already in circulation and most teams running in Carrera Cup series around the world dovetailed in a GT3 campaign. Lacked the speed to win very often, though
2006 Venturi Heritage GT3 – The oddball French sports car maker developed this rather pretty Audi-powered machine, based on the Atlantique road car. Though it posted some impressive times in testing it never raced, seemingly due to homologation issues
2007 Ford GT GT3 – Swiss team Matech developed the GT3-spec GT, using a detuned, c.500bhp version of the road car’s supercharged 5.4 V8. And very effective it was too, winning the ’08 European Championship. Proved rugged as well and some are still being raced
2007 Ford Mustang FR500 GT3 – The factory-built FR500 wasn’t designed for any particular series, but Matech was the first of several European teams to develop a GT3-spec version. It was a bit lairy and not very quick, but it looked and sounded spectacular
2007 Jaguar XKR GT3 – British team Apex Motorsport spent most of ’07 developing the XKR for the ’08 season, but the project was dealt a tragic blow when team boss Richard Lloyd and lead driver David Leslie were killed in a plane crash while returning from testing in France. A half-hearted ’08 season brought little success
2007 Morgan Aero 8 GT3 – French outfit AutoGT Racing made a left-field choice for its GT3 car. Unfortunately, looking like an olive green Batmobile and sounding like the apocalypse didn’t make it fast. Or reliable
2007 Mosler MT900R GT3 – An odd one, this. It had already been successful in GT1 and GT2 racing, then Rollcentre Racing tried to adapt it to GT3 rules with a 7.0 Chevrolet V8. A lack of production cars meant it was refused FIA homologation, but some national championships – including the British – allowed it in. Short-lived, but a regular winner
2008 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S – Upgrade package brought bigger, more powerful 3.8 engine, but it was still frequently out-gunned by the specialised GT3 machinery
2009 Audi R8 LMS – The R8 was, in effect, the first factory-built GT3 car, but Audi itself never raced it. Powered by sonorous 5.2 V10 with RWD. Dozens built which have racked up many championships and countless wins
2009 BMW Alpina B6 GT3 – Sport Garage’s big Beemer probably shouldn’t have worked, but did. It was huge and had an unusual supercharged 4.4 V8 engine, but it was reliable and handled well. A decent tally of wins was the reward
2009 Ford Mustang FR500 GT3 – Following on from Matech’s version, Belgian team VDS Racing developed this, more extreme version of the FR500. You couldn’t miss the livery, but it still wasn’t especially fast
2009 Morgan Aero Supersports GT3 – AutoGT built a new car for the ’09 season and made a stunning debut, winning both races at the opening round of the season. But the rest of the year was blighted by reliability issues and the car only achieved one more podium finish. The cars now live in Morgan’s museum
2010 BMW Z4 GT3 – This stretched GT3 rules to the limit. Its 4.4 V8 wasn’t actually available in the road car and it’s comically pumped-up ‘arches made it look like a caricature. But it proved once again that BMW really knows how to build a race car. Indeed it’s one of the most successful GT3 cars ever. It even won last year’s Spa 24 Hours, despite being 5 years old (ancient, by race car standards)
2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3 – 4 years after the first version, Reiter released a comprehensively upgraded Gallardo with more power and better aero
2010 Porsche 911 GT3 R – Porsche finally got around to building a dedicated GT3 car for 2010. Many, many wins and championships on its record, though less so over the last couple of years as its age has started to show
2011 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Developed by long-standing Ferrari contractor Michelotto, the 458 is allegedly the most successful GT3 racer of all time, with 10 titles in the blue ribband Blancpain Endurance Series alone. But that success has gone under the radar somewhat, partly because Ferrari has no official involvement, but mostly because the 458 just gets on with the job of being very fast without making a fuss
2011 Ginetta G55 GT3 – The Leeds-built G55 is the only pure-bred racing car currently competing in GT3. As such, it’s not eligible for FIA (Blancpain) series but does take part in national championships, where it has proved a regular front-runner
2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP600+ GT3 – Another year, another update for the Gallardo. As the name suggests, this one produced over 600bhp, but that figure was dwarfed by the gigantic rear wing
2011 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 – The Woking firm’s first non-F1 race car in 40 years (it had little direct involvement with the Le Mans-winning F1 GTR) was much like the road car: very fast and a bit fragile, but a solid base to work from
2011 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 – Probably the 2nd most successful GT3 car, after the Ferrari 458, and easily the best front-engined car. Thunderous 6.2 V8 makes it by far loudest, too. Excels in endurance racing, winning Dubai 24h, Bathurst 12h, Nurburgring 24h and Spa 24h in 2013 alone
2011 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 – A huge car by GT3 standards, immensely fast on straights and decent in corners, even though its lost the road car’s 4WD. A regular front-runner despite the inexperience of most of its drivers, who came up through the GT Academy programme
2012 Audi R8 LMS ultra – Updated R8 picked up where the old car left off, winning on its debut in an FIA race, and on its first attempt at the Nurburgring 24 Hours
2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – The small car/massive engine combo has worked wonders in the Prodrive-built Aston. It currently has 2 British championships and many wins on its record; there’s plenty of life left in it yet
2012 Chevrolet Camaro GT3 – Built by Lamborghini experts Reiter and largely raced in Germany with limited success. Adds variety to the grid, though
2013 Bentley Continental GT3 – Comically huge and built by a rally team (M-Sport), but it instantly proved a front-runner, winning on its debut. Weighs over a tonne less than the road car
2013 Dodge Viper GT3-R – America was late to the GT3 party; this was the first US car built specifically for it. Mostly raced Stateside, though a few have made their way to Europe. 8.4 V10 engine makes about 600bhp and it handles like a much smaller car
2013 Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 – Yet another update for the venerable Gallardo which kept it competitive for another couple of years
2014 Jaguar XKR G3 – Swiss outfit Emil Frei Racing has historic links with Jaguar which it revived in 2010, developing its own XKR for the BES, debuting the ultimate G3 iteration in ’14. A valiant effort, but good results have been hard to come by
2015 Audi R8 LMS GT3 – You’d think the 2nd-gen R8 would need a bit of time to get up to speed, but not a bit of it. Won the BES at the first time of asking and looks like the car to beat again this year
2015 Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3 – Continued Cadillac’s unstoppable run in American GT racing in its debut year (4 titles on the bounce). The only current GT3 machine not available to customer teams, hence we don’t – and probably won’t – see it in Europe
2015 Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX – The final, ultimate evolution of the Gallardo
2015 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – Lambo’s first ever factory-built race car. Like the road car, shares much with the R8 and it’s just as fast. Perhaps too fast – allegations of sand-bagging the BoP tests flew at the Daytona 24 Hours this year
2015 Lexus RC F GT3 – Manga-styled Lexus debuted in Japan-based Super GT series last year. Emil Frei Racing appears to have acquired one to race in Europe this season
2015 McLaren 650S GT3 – Despite some teething problems, a front-runner from its debut race. Bound to challenge for titles this term
2015 Renaultsport RS.01 GT3 – Based on the one-make racer, detuned a bit but with better aero. Stretches the rules somewhat so it can only race in non-FIA series. Won the 2016 Mugello 12 Hours
2016 BMW M6 GT3 – Successor to the Z4 is vast and fast, scoring a close 2nd place finish at the Sebring 12 Hours. Not raced in Europe yet, but should be right at the front
2016 Chevrolet Corvette C7 GT3-R – Callaway’s latest Corvette hasn’t raced yet, but should pick up where the old car left off. Looks evil here in bare carbon
2016 Ferrari 488 GT3 – Stunning-looking machine has already won the Sebring 12 Hours, essentially its race debut. But will it continue the 458’s run of success?
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT3 – The SLS is no more, but the new GT3 still uses the old 6.2 V8 to keep costs down and avoid reliability trouble. No complaints here, as it sounds awesome. Only raced in Australia so far and has already won twice
2016 Porsche 911 GT3 R – New 991-gen car will debut later this year. If anyone can build a car that wins straight out of the box, it’s Porsche
2017 Acura/Honda NSX GT3 – Unveiled at the recent New York Auto Show and set to make its race debut in the States next year before reaching customer teams in ’18. Shawn of road car’s hybrid 4WD system, but twin-turbo 3.5 V6 should be plenty
By Graham King
Images via Favcars; Newspress; Wikimedia; Optimum Motorsport; Riley Motorsports; BMW Blog