Thursday, April 12, 2012

Motorsports Makeover - Sportscar Racing

John Marine | 12:52 PM | |
The long-standing premise of racing in Gran Turismo is in sportscar racing. The franchise has come along nicely in adding different varieties of sportscar racing to enhance the range of cars that race in the series. My "Motorsports Makeover" series continues with another post regarding another kind of racing. You all are welcome to share your own ideas on this topic as well as many others of mine. So let's continue my "Motorsports Makeover" series with this post on sportscar racing.





--- Sportscar Racing at a Glance ---

Let me show you a video to showcase the style of racing being discussed in this blog post. Check it out:


^ "Le Mans Series Season Highlights"

Sportscar racing encompasses a broad array of racing. Whereas Formula 1 racing is about sophisticated race cars battling for some 90 minutes of competition on some of the world's most challenging race courses, sportscar racing is about racing battle for hours on end. Most "sprint" races last at or about three hours. Longer races last anywhere from six hours to a full 24 hours. Cars range from production-based cars highly modified for racing to purpose-built racing machines by racing constructors and from actual manufacturers. Racers in sportscar racing range from "young guns" to ex-Formula 1 racers to grizzled sportscar racing veterans. Variety is the spice of life, and nowhere is it more apparent than in sportscar racing.

This post concerns GT and sportscar racing. So a little of everything will be discussed here. Let's take a look at the few series to fit the bill for sportscar racing. Click on the headings to visit the official websites (if offered):


American Le Mans Series.

The American Le Mans Series was created in 1998 by Don Panoz. Its appeal is in being a European-style sportscar racing series with American attitude. Two of the biggest races of each season include the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. The championship is contested across many road racing venues around America as well as some street courses. The series even includes a Canadian stop at Mosport. Today's ALMS consists of GT and prototype cars and even includes Challenge cars. The GTC class features spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, and the LMPC class features spec Courage LC75s.


European Le Mans Series.

Formerly known as the Le Mans Endurance Series, the European Le Mans Series is a championship mostly raced in Europe featuring a handful of big time endurance races. Most of the events last about six hours or 1000 kilometers. Some of the finest racing teams and drivers compete in this intense championship. The 2012 championship all consists of four six-hour races.


Grand American Road Racing Association.

Established in 2000, the GARRA is a vastly competitive sportscar racing series. The primary championship of the GARRA is the Rolex Sportscar Series. Two of the biggest races of the season include the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona and the Six Hours at the Glen at Watkins Glen. The series truly gained its own identity when the Daytona Prototype was unveiled. Daytona Prototypes began racing in 2003 at the 2003 24 Hours of Daytona. In a surreal way, a lone Porsche 911 GT race car won the race outright over the Daytona Prototypes. Over time, the GARRA would get rid of multiple classes to just limit things to Daytona Prototypes and Grand Touring.


FIA GT1 World Championship and FIA GT3 Europe Championship.

There used to be the FIA GT Championship. These days, it is the GT1 World Championship and the GT3 Europe Championship. Both series represent some of the finest in production-based racing. There is no shortage of action that takes place in either the GT1 or the GT3 ranks. The GT3 cars represent some of the better lower-level exotic sports cars. The GT1 class features some of the fastest and most capable GT racing cars with higher-end sports cars. There are driver changes that take place during these races. The racing action can be quite intense. If you've never seen any of these races, you should look up FIA GT1 and/or FIA GT3 on YouTube.


Super GT (Japanese link).

Japan's premier motor racing category is Super GT. It began life as the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC) in 1993. Over time, its popularity has expanded. Super GT is a GT racing championship with a semi-endurance format. There has to be driver changes through the course of a race. Most races usually last at least two hours.


You now have a little perspective on sportscar racing. How do you pull it all together, though? Continue on to the next section!



--- Sportscar Racing History in Gran Turismo ---

Grand Touring cars have always been at the forefront of inclusion in Gran Turismo titles since the very first GT.

Sportscar Racing in GT1.

Among some of the more notable GT cars were the Kunimitsu Honda NSX LM GT2 that won Le Mans in the GT2 class in 1996. There was also the Viper GTS-R that you could either tune up and Race Modify to, or you could win the GTS-R by winning (a certain championship).

Sportscar Racing in GT2.

The proverbial ante was upped with some faster racing machines. Proving the point was the very fast Toyota GT-One as well as the Nissan R390 GT1. Many other high-powered GT race cars made up the roster of cars in GT2. Some of them were Race-Modified versions of cars, such as the Lister Storm Race Car and the Jaguar XJ220 Race Car. There was one car that was in GT2 but can't be won in any such way- the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR.

Sportscar Racing in GT3.

Many of the same sportscar racing machines from Gran Turismo 2 found their way into GT3. Now, the Mazda 787B joined the roster of sportscar racing machines. This four-rotor beast won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991 and remains the only rotary-powered car to win at Le Mans as well as the only Japanese manufacturer to win Le Mans. You could also race the powerful Panoz Esperante GT1 around the courses of Gran Turismo 3. You can even race the Dodge Viper GTS-R from the powerful Oreca Racing team. Perhaps one of the most unique GT racing beasts is the Gillet Vertigo. There were a good number of racing machines to choose from in the realm of sportscar racing in GT3.

Sportscar Racing in GT4.

By Gran Turismo 4, sportscar racing was set to take on a new level of action. For the first time in series history, LMP (Le Mans Prototypes) made their debut in Gran Turismo. Among the many different represented companies is Pescarolo Sport and their two prototypes. These open-top racing prototypes deliver immense speed and were built to withstand hours of torture on various race tracks. After so many "LM Race Cars" in the series, Le Mans finally arrived in Gran Turismo 4 with Circuit de la Sarthe. Many more classic sportscar racing machines were also featured, including a handful of Group C prototypes and a few Can-Am race cars. There were also some low-level GT cars (like the BMW M3 GTR) and some still fast GT racing machines. One could even race 24 straight hours at Circuit de la Sarthe or the Nürburgring Nordschleife, making for some of the longest endurance racing in Gran Turismo history. One complaint, however, regarded the lack of any time cycles. Some really critical types thought of these races as 24 hours of sunlight.

Sportscar Racing in GT5.

The single most important quantum leap in sportscar racing was made in Gran Turismo 5. Certain tracks now had time cycles. One can actually notice the sun go down as the moon and stars fill the sky. The entire package was done beautifully. In addition to time cycles, there were also some dynamic weather for certain tracks. So the possibility of racing at night in rainy conditions was possible. A lot of GT4's cars were carried over, so nobody was really missing anything. On the other hand, you do get new machines such as the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and the Audi R10 TDI. You also get to race with a few GT and prototype vehicles found in Gran Turismo PSP, such as the Audi R8 LMS and the Oreca Audi R8 among others.


One can only imagine what Gran Turismo 6 will bring to the table in the respect of sportscar racing. I just hope this style of racing can be enhanced further from what GT5 offered.



--- Enhancing Sportscar Racing in Gran Turismo ---

I think a great way to enhance sportscar racing is to incorporate class racing. Class racing is simply about multiple levels of racing competing at once, but each are racing within their own class as opposed to going for the outright win. It doesn't have to be individual levels of GTs and prototypes. A 12-car field can consist of six prototypes and six GT cars. I think about Gran Turismo 4's GT World Championship, where you basically needed a prototype to be competitive, because having any GT-class car guaranteed you defeat against the much faster prototypes. All you would need to do is beat the drivers in your class to win. If you want to make it like GT All-Stars in regards to prototypes, you could set up class racing regarding modern prototypes and classic prototypes (like Can-Am and Group C). You could also set up an all GT race car series.

Another thing to be aware of in class racing is that you have to learn discipline while racing. Don't try to impede the progress of faster cars. An average GT car will easily be overtaken by a prototype. So rather than try to block the faster car, just let him/her pass. Real racing has some blue flags that are waved. Blue flags usually indicate that a faster car is approaching and that you need to let that driver pass you.

Class racing is really the only thing I could recommend... unless you can think of more ways to make sportscar racing more fun in Gran Turismo. Only other thing I may suggest would be more timed races rather than races dictated by laps. Most sportscar racing series usually go by time rather than laps.



--- A Passionate Plea ---

Gran Turismo 5 featured the rights to use series like NASCAR and the World Rally Championship. The FIA GT World Championship and DTM were penned as part of GT5, though neither were truly featured. The lineup of cars in Gran Turismo games is great for what they are. Sometimes, though, I can wish for a lot more. Nothing seems truly complete with featuring cars from a certain series or a certain kind of racing. You can make the case for a good bunch of NASCAR Cup stock cars featuring many of the series' drivers. However, I think offering more different manufacturers and teams would help enhance the car count and add more kinds of racing to the series. Nowhere is this more noted than with sportscar racing. I think PD missing out on the car front with some of the latest sportscar racing machines and prototypes. Case in point- the Lola B09/60, the Epsilon Euskadi, the HPD ARX-03B, and the latest Audis... including the Audi R18 TDI.

So I am making somewhat of a plea to see more sportscar racing machines from various sportscar racing leagues to enhance the appeal of sportscar racing in Gran Turismo...


ALMS in Gran Turismo?

The game series doesn't need to have every last venue and car that the ALMS and/or LMS races on or races with. I would most be happy to see a handful of the real-world racing venues to make a proper set of cars to compete in this level of racing. The hottest of-the-moment cars from this form of racing doesn't need to occupy the majority of the cars for GT6. However, I would like to see a presence by either/both the American Le Mans Series and the Le Mans Series. Having cars from FIA GT1 and FIA GT3 would sweeten the pot.

The reason why I am making such a plea is because I have been mostly impressed with what the Forza Motorsport series has provided with various ALMS cars and tracks. I just want to see a more complete sportscar racing package for Gran Turismo 6 so it can be a better package in the long run.

If you especially want to knock down the big races, Gran Turismo can benefit from having Sebring and Road Atlanta. Imagine having the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans as some of the different endurance races you can run. It would be a GREAT addition for GT.


Rolex Sportscar Series in Gran Turismo?

If you can't get American Le Mans Series support, then the Grand-Am's Rolex Sportscar Series would be a nice consideration. There are number of people who love or loathe Daytona Prototypes. Certainly the new Corvette Daytona Prototype would be nice to look into if DPs are considered as part of Gran Turismo's vast array of cars.

Many people were probably disappointed that Daytona's road course isn't offered in a 24-hour cycle, especially those who are fans of the 24 Hours of Daytona. I wouldn't mind a Gran Turismo version of the 24 Hours of Daytona. You can especially have this as an endurance back before Daytona Prototypes came along. Think back to the days when companies like Porsche, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and others were riding the high banks of Daytona battling to win this prestigious endurance.

The only real concern is if PD would be intrigued enough to feature Daytona Prototypes. If you want a deeper discussion about Daytona Prototypes in Gran Turismo, please visit this blog post: "Daytona Prototypes in Gran Turismo?" - John's Gran Turismo Space.


European Le Mans Series in Gran Turismo?

I would most hope for some cars from the Le Mans Series if you can't lock up ALMS or GARRA sportscar racing. I just want a more coherent sportscar racing series package for the Gran Turismo. I want to see a good number of prototype and GT racing machines to make a well-balanced lineup of cars for Gran Turismo.

You'll need some good European courses to have yourself some endurance racing. Tourist Trophy had Valencia (Ricardo Tormo Circuit). I say that while none of these tracks are part of the 2012 ELMS championship, try to get tracks like the following: Silverstone, Bugatti Circuit, and Istanbul Park. GT5 already has tracks like the Nürburgring Grand Prix course, Monza, Spa-Francorchamps (as downloadable content). Including Paul Ricard would be a nice addition to GT's lineup of tracks.


I just want to see a little better selection and variety in regards to sportscar racing in Gran Turismo.





But for the most part, I want to see a lot more to make sportscar racing more fun and authentic. I am deeply sorry that I haven't been working on my "Motorsports Makeover" series much. I'll do what I can to improve things on this end. Thank you for reading my posts! More material to come for JGTS in the near future!

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