The world's fastest GT production sports cars will compete in Australia this year in the new Century Batteries GTP Nation's Cup motor racing series, officially announced yesterday by organisers PROCAR Australia.
Cars such as the 310 kmh Porsche 911 GT3, the Ferrari F360 Modena, Lamborghini Diablo, BMW Z3, Dodge Viper, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar XKR and Honda NSX will be on the grid when the eight-round series starts in Adelaide on April 8-9.
PROCAR Australia chief executive Ross Palmer said the GTP Nation's Cup was the result of continuing strong growth in the six-year-old Australian GT Production Car Championship.
"The GTP concept of racing many recognisable different brands and models of cars in virtually showroom trim has been tremendously popular," he said.
"The demand to accommodate new cars and new drivers means it is now time to move to the next stage with the Century Batteries GTP Nation's Cup, which will be the ultimate GT car series.
"This move also will stimulate further growth in the Australian GT Production Car Championship, allowing a new group of competitors to move up the field to become the lead act with a chance to win races."
GTP Nation's Cup and Australian GT Production Car Championship cars each will run in separate races at rounds of the Shell Championship Series and at other events throughout Australia, including Bathurst's Mount Panorama.
PROCAR Australia has nominated 21 specific models as eligible to compete in the GTP Nation's Cup.
"We intend Nation's Cup to be Australia's most spectacular racing series - healthy, diverse fields of the kind of exotic sports cars most people can only dream about, let off the leash to race in tightly competitive conditions," Palmer said.
"In order to ensure this competitiveness, certain cars will be allowed improvements while others will be handicapped with extra weight or other changes.
"For instance, the Dodge Viper will be allowed bigger brakes and tyres to our detailed specifications, while the Ferrari F360 Modena will be slowed by the addition of weight."
Palmer said there had been strong interest from potential competitors.
More than 50 substantial enquiries had been received and a grid of more than 20 cars was likely for the first round in Adelaide.
"Already we have seen five Nation's Cup cars on track at Phillip Island over the pastweekend, including the Porsche GT3 and Ferrari F360 Modena Challenge.
"In addition, four new Dodge Viper ACR models are coming from the United States for Rusty French, D¹arcy Russell, Ken Matthews and Geoff Morgan.
"In Australia, other teams are building a supercharged Jaguar XKR, a supercharged Honda NSX and a V8 BMW Z3 developed by the German tuning specialist Hartge.
"The attraction of Nation¹s Cup to these entrants is that it will provide affordable, fast and close racing with a high profile," he said.
"Although many of the cars will have a relatively high showroom price, the costs of racing and maintaining them as production cars over the season should be relatively low."
The Century Batteries GTP Nation's Cup, to be managed by well-known motorsport administrator Steve Bettes, will be showcased in an expanded Trackside television program this year on Network Ten.
GT Production 1995 and 1999 champion Jim Richards was one of the first to commit a Porsche 911 GT3 to the Nation's Cup.
"The Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship has been fantastic and now the Nation's Cup with more powerful exotic cars should really thrive, provided we get the expected entry and provided parity between the cars can be maintained," Richards said.
"I've chosen the Porsche GT3 because I think it will be very competitive. It won¹t be the most powerful car and others will faster at certain tracks, but I think the reliability and all-round performance of the Porsche should have us in the right place at the end of the season.²