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The Rise of GT Racing in Australasia

GT Racing is on the rise in this, Touring Car dominated, part of the world, but why? We ask some drivers as to why people are starting to favour the Grand-Tourers over the Touring Cars.

The New Zealand and Australian motorsport scene has been dominated by V8 touring cars for as long as I can remember however that may change as GT racing is on the rise in this part of the world! 

The Australian GT Championship has been quietly growing in the background of the V8 Supercars series, however over the past year or two the series has started to catch the eye of many more and many have tipped it to eventually take the ‘Top Step’ in Australian motorsport from the V8 Supercars series.

The series is based on the popular GT3 racing format which is used internationally. The cars that compete in a GT series are on the more ‘Exotic’ side of the car yard. The likes of McLaren’s, Aston Martin’s, Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s are no rarity on track at these events.

New Zealand team Trass Family Motorsport competes in both the Australian GT series and North and South Island Endurance series in NZ. Team driver Jono Lester spoke to Track Torque NZ about the rise of GT racing.

“It’s a natural progression from the worldwide GT3 model which is self-sustainable no matter what part of the world you are in. The dying age of sponsorship is less of a determining factor in grid numbers because in many cases, wealthy gentleman drivers/team owners fund the racing programmes directly. These gentleman drivers/team owners bring in Pro level drivers (many of them young up and comers) to bolster their competitiveness and in many cases act as a coach and driving mentor to their team mate.” Said Lester.

He adds that the V8 series are losing interest with the fans and the GT series provide a more interesting mix of cars.

“There are other factors too, downunder in particular. V8s are becoming stale and is beginning to lose its fan base for a variety of reasons, including alienation of these fans from the very top.”

“GT3 provides up to 17 marques of car with all shapes, sizes, engines, drivetrains, sounds and pedigrees, setting the same laptimes whilst maintaining the aspirational and relatability that sparks fan interest.”

The GT racing scene is not only kicking off in Australia, across the ditch New Zealand is witnessing a growth in the category as their V8 touring car series suffers its own issues.

The latest round of the North Island Endurance series just last weekend witnessed a 40 car grid and some GT3 spec machines headlining it. 

The recently crowned North Island Endurance Champion, John McIntyre also had a chat to Track Torque NZ about the series growth.

“The interest has grown because the endurance racing scene continues to grow worldwide and in NZ. The GT cars are obvious cars to race in endurance races. They are fast, reliable and appeal to “gentleman drivers” and professionals. Money is always a factor in the success (or not) of a racing series. When you have a formula that has 2/3 drivers per car then there is the opportunity to share costs and just as importantly share success.” Said McIntyre.

McIntyre, who made a name for himself in V8 Touring Cars, including 3 NZV8 Championships, spoke about his transition to focus on GT racing rather than continuing with his Touring Car efforts.

“The Touring car scene is dominated by those who can get constant mileage in touring cars (V8Supercars etc). If you aren’t in these cars all year it gets harder to stay competitive. I love driving touring cars in sprint and endurance races but the opportunities aren’t there anymore to stay current in those cars. GT cars are easier to get into without having lots of miles of testing. You have more grip and more aids like Traction Control and ABS that assist the learning process. They, like all racecars, are difficult to drive on the limit but they are also faster than a touring car and therefore far more regarding to drive. There are so many opportunities to drive these cars around the world, so I am hoping to get some international opportunities in GT in the coming years.”

Also a factor in the growth of the GT category is the appeal to the young fan base. Children these days grow up with Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s as their hero cars and the opportunity to watch their favourite car thrash it around a racetrack at top speed is more appealing. We asked John McIntyre if this was the case.

“Yes I do think it appeals to younger fans. The current generation of young children have grown up playing Gran Tourismo on PlayStation and watch Gone in 60 seconds etc. All of the hero cars are now Ferrari, Lambo, Aston, Mustang, Camaro, Audi, the list goes on. The GT scene in NZ is new but it will keep growing and build a real following. Next year with Tony Quinn’s assistance fans will see the Australian GT series in NZ twice. Add that to the North and South Island Series and GT racing will become the major force in NZ Circuit Racing in the near future.”

The range of cars, type of cars, number of cars and young fan appeal is what seems to have helped contribute to the rise of GT racing in Australasia.

 

Read Below for the full chat with Jono Lester and John McIntyre.

John McIntyre

TTNZ: Why do you think interest in GT racing has grown in this part of the world (NZ/Aus) over the past few years? 

JM: The interest has grown because the endurance racing scene continues to grow worldwide and in NZ. The GT cars are obvious cars to race in endurance races. They are fast, reliable and appeal to “gentleman drivers” and professionals. Money is always a factor in the success (or not) of a racing series. When you have a formula that has 2/3 drivers per car then there is the opportunity to share costs and just as importantly share success.

TTNZ: What sparked your interest in GT Racing?

JM: I have always been interested in GT racing. It always comes down to opportunities though and my first chance to drive a car like this was the Fastway Racing Porsche. Although it was a Cup Car Spec (not GT) it drove very differently to the touring cars I have driven for the majority of my career.

TTNZ: Why did you switch from Touring Cars to GT?

JM: The Touring car scene is dominated by those who can get constant mileage in touring cars (V8Supercars etc). If you aren’t in these cars all year it gets harder to stay competitive. I love driving touring cars in sprint and endurance races but the opportunities aren’t there anymore to stay current in those cars. GT cars are easier to get into without having lots of miles of testing. You have more grip and more aids like Traction Control and ABS that assist the learning process. They, like all racecars, are difficult to drive on the limit but they are also faster than a touring car and therefore far more regarding to drive. There are so many opportunities to drive these cars around the world, so I am hoping to get some international opportunities in GT in the coming years.

TTNZ: Do you think it appeals more to younger spectators than other forms of Motorsport? And Why?

JM: Yes I do think it appeals to younger fans. The current generation of young children have grown up playing Gran Tourismo on PlayStation and watch Gone in 60 seconds etc. All of the hero cars are now Ferrari, Lambo, Aston, Mustang, Camaro, Audi, the list goes on. The GT scene in NZ is new but it will keep growing and build a real following. Next year with Tony Quinn’s assistance fans will see the Australian GT series in NZ twice. Add that to the North and South Island Series and GT racing will become the major force in NZ Circuit Racing in the near future.

Jono Lester

TTNZ: Why do you think we have seen a rise in interest in GT racing in this part of the world (NZ/Aus) over the past few years?

JL: It’s a natural progression from the worldwide GT3 model which is self-sustainable no matter what part of the world you are in. The dying age of sponsorship is less of a determining factor in grid numbers because in many cases, wealthy gentleman drivers/team owners fund the racing programmes directly. These gentleman drivers/team owners bring in Pro level drivers (many of them young up and comers) to bolster their competitiveness and in many cases act as a coach and driving mentor to their team mate. 

Of course, not all GT3 is Pro-Am. The factory backing from Audi, Porsche, Ferrari and most other marques in GT3 showcase the best of the best in ‘Pro’ class competition, but the diversity of GT3 with Pro, Pro-Am and Am-Am classes means there is something for everyone.

There are other factors too, downunder in particular. V8s are becoming stale and is beginning to lose its fan base for a variety of reasons, including alienation of these fans from the very top.

GT3 provides up to 17 marques of car with all shapes, sizes, engines, drivetrains, sounds and pedigrees, setting the same laptimes whilst maintaining the aspirational and relatability that sparks fan interest.

TTNZ: What sparked your interest in GT racing?

JL: GT racing is all I have ever done as a driver, since 2006. My family and I chose this pathway because it was the most pragmatic approach to making a career in motorsport (which has turned out to be the right decision) and because of the stability of a formula with ongoing factory involvement, and investment, securing its long term future.

Plus, the cars are gorgeous and I don’t see who wouldn’t get a kick out of hustling a Ferrari, Aston Martin, or a McLaren around the race track!

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Jordie Peters

Jordie Peters

Passionate Motorsport Fan | Photography Interest | Passionate about Technology and Computers.

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