This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the first GT3 series, the FIA GT3 European Championship, a landmark that is being commemorated at Brands Hatch this weekend.
At the end of 2005, SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel introduced the FIA GT3 European Championship.
The championship was created to give manufacturers an opportunity to increase their involvement in motorsports, as well as helping amateur drivers across Europe.
It tried to combine multiple one-make series into one larger event with a race within a race.
The GT3 rule set included an extensive Balance of Performance system to make cars more equal, while it also contained the first form of driver categorization, which became the now-familiar Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze in 2007.
On May 6-7, 2006, Silverstone hosted the inaugural races of what turned out to be the foundation of the current Blancpain GT Series.
The formula proved to be an overnight success with a grand total of 51 cars signing up for the first season, 42 of those participated in the first meeting at Silverstone.
At that inaugural meeting no fewer than eight manufacturers were represented: Ascari, Aston Martin, Corvette, Dodge, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Porsche.
The first qualifying session, topped by former FIA GT Champion Klaus Ludwig, saw six different cars in the first six places, all within the same second.
The late Allan Simonsen overtook several cars in a lap to claim to first ever GT3 win in the JMB Racing Ferrari he shared with Hector Lester, beating the Tech 9 Porsche driven by Dimitri Deverikos and another young talent taken too soon, Sean Edwards.
In 2011, Stephane Ratel applied the same principles – albeit with an SRO developed Balance of Performance – to create the Blancpain Endurance Series.
SRO’s ruleset received world-wide acclaim, as the BoP system is currently being applied in championships in Australia, Japan and the U.S., while the FIA Driver Categorization is adopted by series around the world.
With the creation of the Intercontinental GT Challenge this year, the first global series in the 10-year history of the discipline, GT3 racing has come a long way.
“With over 50 cars entered for the first season it was clear that GT3 was a successful formula right out of the box,” said Ratel.
“On this 10-year anniversary of GT3 I would like to thank the founding members, the men who were the key contributors who gave life to the first generation of GT3 cars.
“Hans Reiter for the Lamborghini, the late Loris Kessel and Jean-Michel Bouresche for the Ferrari, Toine Hezemans and Ernst Wöhr for the Corvette, Jack Leconte who helped me to bring the Dodge from America, Klaas Zwart for the Ascari, Frédéric Dor for the Aston Martin, Jean-Pierre Jabouille for the Morgan, Andy Bovensiepen for the Alpina and the late Martin Bartek for the Ford.
“These are the men who created GT3, even if the category only became a global success when manufacturers such as Audi embraced the GT3 formula.
“On this day my thoughts are also with the families of Allan Simonsen and Sean Edwards, first and second in the very first GT3 race.”
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first GT3 race, a plaque will be unveiled on the grid of today’s Main Race at Brands Hatch.