t seemed like a good idea at the time. There
are two strong classes of international GT
racing, so why not combine them to create
one even stronger category? That was the
objective behind what became known as
“convergence.” The plan was simple, but its
execution has proved much more difficult.
Which explains why attempts to bring GTE
and GT3 together in 2016 ultimately failed.
Convergence was conceived by the FIA
and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the
organizer of the Le Mans 24 Hours and
the promoter of the World Endurance
Championship, and announced to the world
at the Fuji WEC event in October 2012.
The plan was to somehow combine the
GTE class, which runs at Le Mans and in
the WEC and TUDOR United SportsCar
Championship (as GTLM), with the
lower-tech and cheaper GT3 division, which
has now spread around the globe and is the
basis of the TUDOR Championship’s GTD
class and a growing component of Pirelli
World Challenge’s headline GT class.
This would have meant creating a single
category with lower costs than the existing
GTE – one that was more in line with GT3
and would enable manufacturers racing in
both categories to produce just one car.
The objective, said ACO sporting manager
Vincent Beaumesnil, was to do this while
“keeping the technical credibility of GTE.”
That’s a reference to the lack of
regulations in GT3, the class created
almost a decade ago by Stephane Ratel
(see page 66). A founding principle of GT3
was the idea of Balance of Performance,
which means cars aren’t built to a set of
regulations as such, but are adjusted on a
model-by-model basis to achieve a certain
performance, with equality then maintained
by frequent tweaking of that performance.
“One of the fastest growing categories in
motorsport...should not be disturbed by
the need to rescue the GTE category.”
Suggesting convergence was motivated
by a need to save GTE was somewhat
dramatic, although the ACO and FIA were
keenly aware that it needed to keep a cap
on costs in the higher category. The GT3
class was flourishing, with manufacturer
representation in double figures. GTE, while
healthy in the WEC and healthier still in the
American Le Mans Series, didn’t have the
quantity of makes, nor the car counts
enjoyed by some GT3-based series.
Ratel argued that GT racing required
different classes, just like other disciplines.
“GT racing deserves, like most other
major categories, different steps of
development,” read his statement. “This
should correspond to the variable levels of
team and manufacturer involvement. There
is as much a need for two categories in GT
racing as there is in prototypes, where
LMP2 cars run alongside LMP1 entries.”
Ratel’s argument was that GTE was an
arena for manufacturers, while GT3 was for
privateers. It shouldn’t be forgotten that GT3
was launched with the FIA GT3 European
Championship run to a pro-am format.
It has, however, moved away from that.
The manufacturers, most notably Audi
and BMW, started to put significant effort
into winning the important 24-hour
enduros at the Nurburgring and Spa that
Combining the GTE and GT3 classes into one GT category
seemed a great idea on paper. The reality proved different...
boss Kristen was
unhappy with the
“take it or leave it”
option presented to
“GTE is double the price
of GT3, and convergence
would have resulted in
something in the middle”
Over the lifespan of GT3, this has allowed
such disparate machinery as the Bentley
Continental GT3 and the Morgan Aero
Super Sport to race against more
conventional GT cars from Ferrari, Porsche,
Lamborghini, Audi and Aston Martin.
What on the face of it seemed a simple
plan began to get complicated as one looked
into the detail. Which was Ratel’s stance all
along. His response to convergence was
essentially, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He
argued that the success of GT3 was proof
that it was working just fine as it was.
A statement from Ratel after the FIA/
ACO announcement in Japan noted that,
WORDS Gary Watkins
MAIN IMAGE Michael Levitt/LAT