Are you new to Sports Cars Racing? Curious about the differences between the AsLMS & ELMS? 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 9 is an in-depth introduction to the SRO’s Intercontinental GT Challenge, discussing it’s origins, history and the categories.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge, also known as the IGTC in short, is an Endurance Sports Car Racing Series organised by the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO). It is a series consisting of International Sports Car Racing events for Grand Touring Cars in the Group GT3 category. Unlike the SRO’s GT World Challenge series, it is aimed at manufacturers.
The series had its inaugural season in 2016, consisting of 3 rounds: The Bathurst 12 Hours, The 24 Hours of Spa, and the 12 Hours of Sepang. The series has used GT3 cars almost exclusively throughout its history, barring the 2017 season, when a GT4 Manufacturers Championship was introduced. However, this was not awarded in subsequent years.
On 19 September 2015, the SRO Motorsports Group announced it would launch an intercontinental GT challenge for 2016. At the initial announcement, certain details were revealed, including the calendar. It would include the 12 Hours of Bathurst and Sepang, the 24 Hours of Spa, and a new three-hour event to be held with the Pirelli World Challenge round at the Circuit of the Americas. The IGTC would also differ from the Blancpain GT Series, as it was specifically aimed at GT manufacturers.
In a bid to encourage cost-control, the SRO encouraged manufacturers to form partnerships with local teams to field entries in the championship, as opposed to sending a single team to participate in all rounds of the championships. The aim was to cut down the logistical costs of teams incurred through air & sea freight for the cars.
On 25th November 2015, the calendar for the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge was released. It would feature 4 rounds, with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour serving as the season opener, followed by the 6 Hours of the Americas, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, with the 12 Hours of Sepang serving as the season-ending round.
While the 2016 season was originally set to feature 4 rounds, on the 29th of January 2016, it was announced that the season would be reduced to 3 rounds. This was due to the 6 Hours of the Americas being removed from the calendar, following a lack of entrants. The lack of entrants had been the result of the pre-season Blancpain GT Series test at Paul Ricard being scheduled just four days after the COTA event, making it impossible for teams to use the same cars in both events. The SRO subsequently announced that the North American round of the 2017 IGTC would be held in October 2017.
The season saw a total of 4 manufacturers; Audi, Bentley, McLaren and Mercedes. Audi won the inaugural Manufacturers’ title, with Laurens Vanthoor becoming the inaugural Drivers’ Champion.
The 2017 season was originally set to feature 4 rounds, with the 3 rounds of the 2016 season being carried over, while a new round, the California 8 Hours, would be introduced to the series. However, on the 3rd of November 2017, the 12 Hours of Sepang was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation was due to a lack of entries, with the entry list failing to meet the event target of 20 cars.
The 2017 season was the only season in which a GT4 Manufacturers’ Championship was awarded. A total of 12 manufacturers participated in the GT3 category. Audi successfully defended its manufacturers’ title, while Markus Winkelhock won the Drivers’ Championship.
The 2018 season featured 4 rounds, with the Suzuka 10 Hours replacing the 12 Hours of Sepang. The 2018 season was the first season where the calendar saw no race cancellations. 2018 saw a rule change, with each manufacturer being permitted to only nominate up to four cars in each event; this rule had originated from the 2016 season. In 2017, all cars and drivers scored points towards the championship. A Bronze Drivers’ Championship was also introduced. While the GT4 manufacturer’s title was discontinued, GT4 cars were still allowed to be entered in the certain events.
A total of 5 manufacturers participated in the championship, with Tristan Vautier taking the Drivers’ Championship. Kenny Habul won the inaugural Bronze Drivers’ Championship. Audi secured it’s 3rd consecutive Manufacturers’ Title, making it a hat-trick of manufacturers’ titles.
The 2019 season featured 5 rounds, with the addition of the 9 Hours of Kyalami. The draft calendar was announced during a press conference at the 2018 24 Hours of Spa on 27 July. The 8 Hours of California was moved to the second round of the season from its previous season-ending slot. On the 3rd of December 2018, it was announced the Kyalami race would be moved from the 3rd to 23rd of November to avoid a clash with the Rugby World Cup. The day for the California 8 Hours was moved from Sunday to Saturday on the 18th of January 2019, to increase television viewership.
A total of 8 manufacturers participated in the championship, with Dennis Olsen taking the Drivers’ Championship. Kenny Habul successfully defended his Bronze Drivers’ Championship title. Porsche won the Manufacturers’ Championship, ending Audi’s unbeaten run in the IGTC GT3 Manufacturers’ Championship.
The 2020 season was scheduled to feature 5 rounds, with the California 8 Hours dropped for the Indianapolis 8 Hours. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suzuka 10 Hours was cancelled on the 25th of May 2020. The 24 Hours of Spa will be run as a 25 Hour race owing to the end of Daylight Saving Time, after the race was rescheduled from 25th July to the 24th of October.
GT3 is the most popular GT class globally, used by major and national GT Championships globally, such as the Intercontinental GT Challenge, GT World Challenge Europe/Asia/North America, British GT Championship, and the ADAC GT Masters. GT3 was Introduced in 2005 by the FIA and the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO) as the third rung on the GT racing ladder, below the GT1 and GT2 categories which were used in the FIA GT Championship. Originally designed as a Pro-Am class, although it is used today as both a Pro-Pro and Pro-Am class.
GT3 technical regulations are relatively open compared to other classes, and are designed for manufacturers to easily adapt their cars for racing, pegged back with Balance of Performance. As such, GT3 grids can boast diverse fields, with Bentley Continental GTs competing against Honda NSXs, with car performance equalised through Balance of Performance measures, which can include mandatory wing angles and additional ballast. Compared to GTE, less bespoke racing components are allowed, while ABS is also allowed, and GT3 cars are less aerodynamically complex. Like GTE, Four Wheel drive is prohibited.
GT4 is currently the lowest rung on the GT racing ladder, and it was introduced in 2007 in the GT4 European Cup. It is the second most common GT Class globally, used in national and regional GT Championships. In the IGTC, the GT4 class is only eligible for entry in select races.
It is an amateur class for those starting out in GT racing, having the lowest power output, and the highest number of driver aids. It features substantially cut-down aerodynamics compared to GT3. The homologation is held by the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium.
Championship points are only awarded to the first 10 finishers in each race. Entries are required to complete 75% of the winning car’s race distance to be classified and earn points. The exception to this rule is Bathurst, where a car simply has to cross the finish line to be classified. Drivers are required to participate for a minimum of 25 minutes in order to earn championship points in any race. A manufacturer only receives points for its two highest placed cars in each round.
Pole: No points awarded
Points (P1-10 only): 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1
2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge Calendar
|1||Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour||Mount Panorama Circuit||Bathurst, Australia||2 February|
|2||Indianapolis 8 Hours||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||Indianapolis, United States|
|3||Total 24 Hours of Spa||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||Stavelot, Belgium||24–25 October|
|4||Kyalami 9 Hours||Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit||Midrand, South Africa||22 November|
GT3 Manufacturers’ Championship
Pro-Am Drivers’ Championship
How to Watch
The Intercontinental GT Challenge series may be streamed live online for free on the official SRO GTWorld YouTube Channel. Past races are also available to be viewed.