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Cover image by David Merrett on Flickr

Are you new to Sports Cars Racing? Curious about the differences between LM GTE & GT3? Curious about the difference between LM GTE? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Ahead of the resumption of motorsport worldwide, we’ve decided to produce articles introducing Sports Car Racing to our readers. Part 1 is an introduction, linking to our previous series on the History of Sports Car Racing.

Sports car racing is a form of motorsport utilising sports cars that have two seats and enclosed wheels. These cars may be purpose-built Prototypes or race variants of road-going models (GT Classes). Sports car racing is further divided into Sprint Races (Under 2 hours), and Endurance Races (2.5 to 24+ hours). Sprint races emphasize pure speed, while Endurance Races place emphasis on teams formulating a strategy balancing between speed, and reliability. Endurance races see teams of between 2-4 drivers sharing a single car and require the use of multiple pit strategies.

Well known sports car endurance races include the 24 Hours of Spa, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Daytona (known as the Rolex 24 at Daytona for Sponsorship reasons), and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Of the 4 races, Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans combine to form the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing, a feat that has been achieved by only 12 drivers thus far.

No driver has achieved this triple crown in a single year; Ken Miles would have been the only driver to achieve this feat, if not for team orders and a technicality in the regulations at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. Owing to his death in a testing accident later that year, Miles never achieved the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing.

History of Sports Car Racing

For a detailed history of Sports Car Racing, click on the following articles:
The History of Sports Car Racing Part 1: Sports Car Racing in the 20th Century
The History of Sports Car Racing Part 2: Sports Car Racing in the 21st Century

Historical Milestones in Sports Car Racing

1923: The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) runs the inaugrual 24 Hours of Le Mans
1950: The inaugural 12 Hours of Sebring is run
1953: Establishment of the FIA World Sports Car Championship (WSC)
1962: The FIA WSC pivots toward GTs, class titles are introduced, the inaugural 24 Hours of Daytona is run as the Daytona 3 Hour Continental
1966: The FIA WSC places equal emphasis on Prototypes & GTs, following a restructuring
1969: Bill France Sr & John Bishop establish the International Motorsports Association (IMSA)
1971: The Steve McQueen film Le Mans is released, while the year also sees the inaugural running of the IMSA GT Championship
1981: The IMSA GTP Class is introduced to the IMSA GT Championship, while the World Sports Car Championship is renamed as the World Endurance Championship.
1982: Group C & Group B are introduced into the World Endurance Championship
1986: Group B is axed from the World Endurance Championship lineup, leading to the championship being renamed as the World Sports Prototype Championship (WSPC)
1991: WSPC renamed as the Sportscar World Championship (SWC). Group C sees the introduction of new engine regulations.
1992: ACO introduces the first Le Mans Prototypes (LMP) in the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans, as Category 4 (C4), the SWC collapses at the end of the 1992 season
1993: C4 becomes the Le Mans Prototype class (LMP)
1994: IMSA GT Championship drops GTP for the new LMP1 derived World Sports Car (WSC) class. LMP becomes split into 2 classes, LMP1/WSC & LMP2. LMP1 features cars with large displacement custom-built engines that were usually turbocharged, while LMP2 features cars with smaller displacement production-based engines).
1997: The FIA GT Championship replaces the BPR GT series
1999: The LMGTP category is introduced at Le Mans, accommodating the “Homologation Special” GT1 cars of the past seasons. Don Panoz also establishes the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). GT1 ceases to exist in the FIA GT Championship, owing to a lack of entries
2000: IMSA GT Championship breakaway series SCCA USRRC morphs into the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series (RSCS)
2001: IMSA establishes the IMSA European Le Mans Series (ELMS), which folds at the end of the year due to low interest
2003: Generation 1 Daytona Prototypes (DP) are raced for the first time in the Grand-Am RSCS. ACO runs the 2003 1000km of Le Mans under the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES) banner as a precursor to the 2004 LMES
2005: The former GT2 category of the FIA GT Championship becomes the “new” GT1 class, with the N-GT category becoming the “new” GT2 class.
2006: The LMES is renamed to the Le Mans Series (LMS). Audi makes history at Le Mans with the Audi R10 LMP1 being the first diesel-powered winner. FIA introduces Group GT3, sitting below GT1 & GT2.
2008: RSCS debuts Generation 2 DP regulations
2010: FIA GT Championship is split into 2 Championships; the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT2 European Championship. The GT2 Championship never materialises, becoming the FIA GT2 European Cup with a single round, the 2010 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. ACO announces it will cut GT1 from its sanctioned series, replacing it with a single GT2-based category split into 2 sub-classes, GTE-Pro & GTE-Am.
2011: New LMP1 regulations allow “Hybrid” LMP1 cars to be four-wheel-drive, with new LMP2 cost-capped regulations introduced.
2012: The FIA & ACO jointly reintroduce the FIA World Endurance Championship, replacing the ILMC. The FIA GT1 category is phased out of international GT Competition, with the GT1 World Championship using GT3 cars instead. Audi makes history once more, with the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro being the first Hybrid to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. RSCS sees debut of 3rd Generation DP regulations. IMSA & Grand-Am announce merger, with Grand-Am acquiring IMSA, with ALMS and RSCS to merge in 2014.
2014: ALMS & RSCS merger sees debut of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (TUSC)
2016: TUDOR United SportsCar Championship renamed as WeatherTech Sports Car Championship (WTSC). Tube-framed Gen 3 Daytona Prototypes run their final season.
2017: WTSC introduces the new Daytona Prototype International (DPi) formula, replacing the former Gen 3 DPs. WTSC & ACO series introduce the new for 2017 LMP2 regulations, with a Gibson spec engine.
2018: WEC begins 2018-19 “Superseason” ahead of Winter Calendar switch
2019: WEC switches to a Winter Calendar for the 2019-20 season, in what would be the sole season the championship would run in such a format.

Sports Car Racing Today

Today, the highest sanctioning bodies of Sportscar Racing are the following: The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the Automobile Club I’Ouest (ACO), the International Motorsports Association (IMSA), and the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO). These 4 organisations organise the following cups, series and championships for contemporary race cars below:
Categories and Collaborations listed in Brackets

  1. FIA:
    1. FIA GT World Cup (in collaboration with the SRO) (GT3)
    2. FIA World Endurance Championship (in collaboration with the ACO) (LMP1/LMP2/GTE)
    3. FIA Motorsport Games (in collaboration with the SRO) (GT3 for GT category event)
  2. ACO:
    1. FIA World Endurance Championship (in collaboration with the FIA) (LMP1/LMP2/GTE)
    2. European Le Mans Series (LMP2/LMP3/GTE)
    3. Asian Le Mans Series (LMP2/LMP3/GT(GT3))
    4. Michelin Le Mans Cup (LMP3/GT3)
  3. IMSA:
    1. WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (DPi/LMP2/GTLM (GTE)/GTD (GT3))
    2. Michelin Pilot Challenge (GT4/TCR)
    3. IMSA Prototype Challenge (LMP3)
    4. IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge USA (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
    5. IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Canada (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
  4. SRO:
    1. Intercontinental GT Challenge (GT3)
    2. FIA GT World Cup (in collaboration with the SRO) (GT3)
    3. FIA Motorsport Games (in collaboration with the SRO) (GT3 for GT category event)
    4. GT World Challenge Series
      1. GT WC Europe (GT3)
      2. GT WC Asia (GT3/GT4)
      3. GT WC America (GT3/GT4/TCR/TC)
    5. British GT Championship
    6. SRO GT Sports Club
    7. National GT4 Championships

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