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Opinion

Debate: Should SUPER GT pursue another DTM rules tie-up?

GTA chairman Masaaki Bandoh caused a stir last month when he revealed the possibility of aligning SUPER GT's GT500 rules with those of the DTM in future. After their previous tie-up failed to live up to its early promise, is the Japanese series right to pursue the creation of a 'New Class One'? Here, we give the case both for and against.

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FOR - 'New Class One' could become global platform
Rachit Thukral

SUPER GT and DTM’s Class One tie-up may have proven short-lived, but the lessons learned from that chapter could help shape a new set of regulations that ideally would not only be used by those two series, but a whole host of championships worldwide.

For inspiration, the GTA should look no further than the LMDh class that has proved to be an instant success in both the World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship, leading to a significant increase in top-class manufacturer involvement in both series.

In fact, LMDh could serve as the blueprint for Class One’s successor, with the focus on controlling costs without compromising on performance. In effect, it could be the GT version of LMDh, with a common hybrid system to keep in line with the changes in the automotive industry.

SUPER GT already revealed tentative plans to introduce a spec hybrid to GT500 last year, so it would only be natural for promoter GTA to aim to spread the development costs with another series. Manufacturer supplying cars to customer teams would also be an important pillar.

The demise of the GTE class has created something of a gap in the market above GT3 cars, with more performance and no driver aids, and this is something that a 'New Class One' would cater for nicely. While GT3s are incredibly popular and are capable of delivering exciting action, they are simply not as spectacular as the old GTE machines, even if the pace difference was minimal.

Moreover, GT3 cars are so commonplace now that the DTM is struggling to differentiate it from other championships like GT Masters and GT World Challenge, while an influx of pay drivers has also weakened the overall grid. A move to a more prestigious formula could solve those issues.

However, it is imperative that the 'New Class One' isn’t limited to just DTM and SUPER GT, as not enough manufacturers will be interested otherwise. IMSA is one series that should be brought on board, having already been involved in early discussions for the previous Class One ruleset.

The lines between GTD Pro and GTD are blurred at the moment and introducing faster cars for its all-professional GT class could well solve that issue. Honda has a strong presence in the US through its local HPD subsidiary, and an Acura-branded car could complement the marque’s LMDh effort.

Australia’s Supercars series could be involved in some capacity too, perhaps by way of sharing the chassis and the hybrid system. This could appeal to both Chevrolet and Ford, both of which devote significant resources towards developing cars that they cannot race elsewhere.

 

AGAINST - SUPER GT shouldn't dilute its identity to suit others
Jamie Klein

Memories of the last attempt at a tie-up with DTM are still fresh in the SUPER GT paddock, and should serve as a warning about trying to align future regulations with those of another championship serving a very different market to Japan.

You could argue that SUPER GT didn’t end up any worse off as a result of its move to Class One cars in 2020, even if Honda had to undertake a costly redesign of its hitherto mid-engined NSX-GT contender, with increased standardisation helping to keep a lid on rising costs. It also brought in Bosch, the electronics supplier, as an official series sponsor.

But the entire philosophy behind aligning the two championships’ rules was very much intended to benefit the DTM first and foremost by luring over Japanese marques to prop up a championship that was desperate for reinforcements after Mercedes quit at the end of the 2018 season to leave Audi and BMW as the only two full manufacturer efforts.

A lack of interest in the DTM on the part of Toyota, Honda and Nissan put paid to those hopes, and there’s no reason to think things would be any different this time around. Toyota and Nissan have their big-ticket European programmes in WEC/WRC and Formula E respectively, and rumours of Honda officially returning to Formula 1 in 2026 continue to gather pace.

As for why Audi and BMW didn’t take the plunge by entering cars in SUPER GT, they were put off by the fact the Japanese series essentially remained very different from the DTM despite the shared ruleset. Engine development, aero development and a tyre war present massive barriers to entry for any would-be rival to the existing ‘big three’ in GT500.

Again, it’s far from clear whether a European manufacturer would have the appetite to invest the sums required to be competitive in what is essentially a national series unless SUPER GT was to massively simplify what has been a winning formula for nearly three decades.

A large part of SUPER GT’s appeal lies in the fact it is very different from anything else in top-level motorsport worldwide. That’s not to say that the GT500 class as it is now should be preserved in aspic, and certainly hybrid, hydrogen or other propulsion methods deserve to be considered for the future.

But the series should think carefully before sacrificing any of the elements that are so crucial to its current mystique.

 

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