Sports cars are one of the types of cars admired by a lot of people but afforded by only a few. Many sports car enthusiasts are also fans of sports car racing. Sports car racing is a form of circuit racing using sports cars with two seats and enclosed wheels. The sports cars used can be purpose-built or prototype, or it can be production-derived models or the grand tourers (GT). FIA World Endurance Championship is the most popular championship series for sports car racing with FIA GT1 World Championship as its main series when it comes to GT car racing.
History of Sports Car Racing
Georges Faroux, a joint-creator of the first 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1923, claims that sports car racing was not born until after 1919 or before the First World War.
The cars used in endurance racing and Grand Prix were indistinguishable in the 1920s. They both have fenders and two seats if a mechanic is needed. But in the 1930s, the legendary Alfa Romeo Tipo A Monoposto sports car started the evolution of the true single-seater sports car.
In the later 1930s, French constructors withdrew into primarily domestic competition with large-capacity sports cars such as Talbot and Bugatti’s because they were unable to keep up with the progress of the Mercedes Benz and Auto-Union cars in GP racing.
Roadgoing sports or GT cars started to emerge through the 1920s and 1930s, as distinct from fast tourers and sports cars.
In the 1950’s, open-road endurance races across Europe which often run on dusty roads like Tour de France and Targa Florio still needed fenders and mechanics. Many Italian cars and races defined the genre until it came to be known as Gran Turismo. It is because long distances had to be travelled instead of running around on short circuits. After the Second World War, sports car racing was regarded as almost important as Grand Prix competition. Major car companies started to invest their efforts in their works to supply cars to customers. Some of these companies were Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, and Aston Martin.
In the 1950s and 1960’s, a breed of powerful hybrids appeared and raced on both sides of the Atlantic featuring European chassis and large American engines. The combination of British chassis and American V8 engines made Can-Am series popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The 1960’s and 1970’s were the times sports car racing evolved, rise, and declined.
But when the 1990s came, sports car racing was revived. A number of GT series sprung up at national and European levels. Prototypes and other similar cars started to be raced in Europe as the 1990s progressed.
In 2000, the SpeedVision television network debuted in the US and it brought a renaissance of interest in sports car racing. In 2010, some major reformatting was done to sports car racing in the United States. Today, sports car racing is still very popular not only in the US and Europe but as well as around the world.
Types of Cars in Sports Car Racing
A lot of cars are used in sports car racing but they can be divided into two parts, the sports prototypes and Grand Touring (GT). There are single races that mix the two types of cars together such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Sports Prototype
This type of car is the pinnacle of racing-car design. It is considered as the highest level in sports car racing. They are purpose-built cars with enclosed wheels and open or closed cockpits. Sports prototypes are considered as one-of-a-kind machines and they have no relation to any road-going vehicle.
To make it simple, sports prototypes are two-seat racing cars with bodywork covering their wheels. They are technical advances and are quicker than their single-seat counterparts.
- Grand Touring
The term grand touring came for the Italian Gran Turismo. This is the most common form of sports car racing and it has events all over the world. Originally, Grand Touring cars had to be in series production, however, in 1976, the class was split into production based Group 4 Grand Touring Cars and Group 5 Special Production Cars. These were essentially pure-bred racing cars with production-lookalike bodies.
Remarkable Racing Series
In the present time, FIA World Endurance Championship is the most popular racing series in sports car racing. It is organized by the Automobile Club de I’Quest (ACO) and sanctioned by the FIA. Aside from that, there were also some former racing series which became remarkable such as:
- The World Sports Car Championship: It is the former world championship for sports car racing that dissolved in 1992.
- The FIA GT1 World Championship: This is a short-lived GT series in 2010. It was created to promote the FIA GT Championship to World Championship status.
Today, sports car racing events are being held in different regions such as North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. National and domestic championships, on the other hand, are being held in the UK, Germany, and Australia.
Sports car racing, based on its history, had gone through rising and fall but it still continues to be a source of entertainment for sports car enthusiasts up to the present time. As the automobile industry continues to evolve, it’s likely that there will still be a lot of sports car racing events to look forward to.