International sports car racing is exceptionally perplexing, with half a dozen classes that all look the same and have nearly identical names. This is a brief guide to unravelling the entire tangled mess.
GT racing began with GT1 many years ago. It was a high-performance race car derived from a street-legal sports car. Corvettes were racing European marques, and it made perfect sense.
In the manner of a super Hydra, someone severed GT1's head, sprouting half a dozen new classes as a result. We're here to clear up any confusion.
The GT1 Class
As the name suggests, GT1 was the original class. It's still around, but it's become much more expensive to run, and it's no longer an actual mass-market class. These cars are similar to the Grand Touring category in the United States, where GT cars like Porsche 911s and Ferrari F430s compete against one another.
GT1s are significantly faster than GT2s, and if you ever see a GT1 race, check out the pit lane. The spindly-looking cars are fully capable of 200 mph.
The GT2 Class
The GT2 category can trace its roots to the American IMSA GTP category. IMSA GTP cars used big V8s and had wings and spoilers that even made the '80s-era Porsche 962s look tame by comparison. These cars were not the fastest around the track, but they were capable of high straight-line speeds.
These GT2 cars are in this category because their engines are slightly detuned, and their spoilers and wings are less extreme. The GT2 class is close to the GT1 class and primarily comprises aero-spec 911s and other Porsche-built cars.
The GT3 Class
GT3 cars are the newest addition to the GT classes and are nothing like the GT2s that preceded them. Earlier GT3 rules were very loose, and the cars resembled cup cars with aero kits. Dedicated rules makers now differentiate these cars.
Porsche 997 GT3 Cup and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 are the two most widely fielded cars. The Porsche is the fastest of the two, but the Aston Martin's parade is easier to work on.
The GT3 class is the fastest of the GT classes. They are equipped with a sequential gearbox and a strong engine. The vehicles are very similar to their road-going cousins, making them easy to use in racing situations. GT3s can complete a lap around a European track that is ten seconds slower than a GT1 car.
The GT4 Class
The GT4 category is a bit of a confusing mess. GT3 cars were originally developed with no rules governing them, and the strict guidelines GT4 cars are built to are still being developed. Many GT4 vehicles are made to look like GT3s, but they often have larger engines and more power.
There are also GT4 versions of several cars in the GT1 and GT2 categories. While they do not conform to the tight rules the GT4 class created, it's a distinction without a difference. A GT4 car is always faster than a GT3 car.
While the cars are difficult to tell apart on the track, the classes have remarkable diversity. The FIA has done a commendable job creating lessons that help various manufacturers make money and win races.
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