Part Three of our look at the history of GT1 racing car by car starts with Lamborghini.
A proposed Le Mans entrant for 1995 that never made it on track, disagreement between the proposed entrant and the factory preventing the car from running. The car now believed to be in South Africa.
Team JLOC (Japan Lamborghini Owners’ Club) fielded the Lamborghini Diablo GT-1. Originally conceived to race in Europe, it only raced in Japan with JLOC from 1997 to 2000.
The Diablo GT-1 was the base for the Diablo JGT-1 introduced by JLOC in 2001, using the same engine and gearbox, but a reworked chassis and suspension, and other parts specially-built for JGTC competition. It raced with little success against the factory-developed Japanese efforts in GT500
Unveiled in 2004 a joint development between Reiter Engineering and Audi Sport the R-GT saw service, and some success in both FIA GT and LMS racing as well as a year of racing in the ALMS with a two-car Krohn-Barbour effort that yielded little success.
A derivative of the R-GT adapted for Le Mans for JLOC, the car completed sufficient laps to be classified but did not complete the final lap of the race and was excluded.
The car crashed in practice the following year and was replaced by a standard R-GT on race morning for the infamous ‘start and park’.
Reiter Engineering designed and built version of the Murcielago for the final GT1 era in the 2010 and 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship, taking race wins but no overall Championship honours.
A race car with a long history, the Jaguar V12 powered car started as a GT1, became a GT2 as the development curve for the top class sky-rocketed, became a GT class car as GT1 left the field of play in 1999 and then back to GT1 from 2003!
The car competed, in factory and customer hands for over a decade, appeared at Le Mans in 1995, was a stalwart in the British GT Championship thereafter taking a class or overall titles in 1999 and 2001 and was a force to be reckoned with in the FIA GT Championship too, taking regular race wins from 2000-2003 and the team’s title in 2000. The final customer Lister Storm last raced in 2006
Lister’s second GT1 offering, a full carbon car, to the second iteration of GT1 regulations in 1997 the car contesting the British GT Championship through to 1999 taking the title in its final year.
The car raced at Daytona in 1997 and 1998 and at Le Mans (2 cars) in 1997. The factory-entered cars were rejected at scrutineering at Le Mans the following year in a homologation dispute.
A single GTL also raced in a pair of IMSA races in 1997 with some class success, but a pair of late-season appearances in the North American rounds of the FIA GT Championship was rather less successful.
After success in the supporting classes for the Esprit, Lotus stepped up to the top class for 1996 with the rapid but all-too-often unreliable Esprit V8 GT1, a two-car entry for the near-full season in BPR with a highlight of second at Silverstone.
A fan-favourite that was less loved by the team!
The Esprit was replaced after a single year by the Elise GT1, which had the odd distinction of welcoming customer teams using entirely different engines!
The initially intended turbo Lotus V8 did not find favour with the Franck Muller team who selected the Chevy V8 instead with three other Elise GT1s during the season retaining the Lotus power plant.
Only one of the three (Chevy powered) cars that attempted to qualify for Le Mans managed to do so – it failed to finish.
The Lotuses proved to be outclassed, the best result of the season was a single fifth place.
Bizarrely one car made a final appearance in contemporary racing, at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2004!
It retired very early in the race.
The basic Marcos shape goes back decades, but in the latter years of the marque the calling card changed from relatively low power and featherweight to HUGE power and as much aero as could be squeezed out of the package!
As time went on power went up, and the body shapes got more and more outrageous.
More often associated with GT2 or equivalent, in certain guises and in certain Series the more extreme cars could be bundled into GT1 (or its equivalent!)
Another British GT Championship staple and another Championship winning car, the latter-day cars came not from the UK but from the Netherlands after Cor Euser obtained the rights to produce the race cars under his Eurotech concern.
The always rapid Dutchman won his last national title in the most outrageously wide Mantara (named La Bomba) of the lot in 2009!
Maserati’s answer to the new GT1 regulations was a car that didn’t conform to the regulations, barred from ACO rain it had astounding success in the FA GT Championship and at the Spa 24 Hour – with two campaigns in the ALMS as an aside!
You can read about its development and racing history HERE
The car that effectively set GT1 on its way, and dominated the first two seasons of BPR, the Gordon Murray designed, Peter Stevens, styled and BW V12 powered McLaren F1 was truly designed as a road car first, racing only coming as a result of customer demand.
It was near unbeatable in 1995, and a rainy Le Mans played into its hands that year too, equalising the GT1s against the technical superior Prototypes, a famous win sealed the legend.
In ’96 too the McLarens were mighty, until Porsche’s ‘race first, road car later’ 911 GT1 crashed the party!
McLaren’s response to the Porsche and Mercedes challenge was the long-tail version of the F1, a car many point to as one of the most beautiful competition cars of the modern era.
With BMW backing and top-class driver line-ups the factory team almost took the FIA GT Championship in 1997, by the end of the year though it was clear that Mercedes and Porsche had more development in hand, and at Mclaren the development cupboard was bare, there were still results to come though, with customer success in the British Championship into 1998 and the car was still winning, albeit not regularly, in Japan as late as 2001 and still competing to 2005!
You can find part 1 of this series Here
Part 2 of this series can be found
With thanks to John Brooks, David Lord, Marcus Potts, Regis Lefebure, David Downes, Peter May, David Lister, Jeremy Jackson and Racingsportscars.com for pics