Procar GTs In Germany In 2005
The Procar name has graced many projects over time, from single-make racing for the BMW M1 in the '70s, via Bernie Ecclestone's proposal for a saloon-shaped "supercar" championship with F1 technology, to the Belgian touringcar series. The latest proposal to carry this name comes from Germany, and it stands for a new GT championship.

Our German colleague Markus Berns took the opportunity to talk with Mr. Thomas Voss, manager of the Top10 event package, at the Oschersleben FIA-GT round. Mr. Voss explained that while the general idea had been floating around for some time, the recent crisis of Top10’s main series, the German Production Car Championship, encouraged the management to take action. Feedback not only from potential teams but also from the German motorsport authority was positive, so planning can now go ahead for 2005.

The response from the German motorsport authority DSMB, as well as the ITR group that is the force behind the DTM, and therefore the prime force in the German racing scene, was encouraging; and a number of teams from various German, Belgian and Dutch championships have expressed their interest in the new format. According to Mr. Voss, 20 season-long entrants for the first year would be regarded a success. He also wants the series to have a strong presence on TV, with the idea of providing a weekly 55 minute “magazine” type show in addition to the Top10 live broadcasts. A TV deal for the new series is being worked on, but nothing has been signed yet. It is also planned to create a special highlight of the season, e.g. in support of the FIA GT series, or at the German Truck Grand Prix (which attracts a capacity crowd at the Nürburgring every year).

Since Markus Berns’ conversation at Oschersleben, a few important pieces of the Procar series ‘puzzle’ have fallen into place. Most recently, an agreement was reached between the organisers of the German Endurance Championship, the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and the Procar series on the subject of harmonised technical regulations for 2005. This should make it possible for teams that campaign cars in the "24 Hour Special" and "E1" classes to choose freely between the three series, without modifying their cars. The high weight for these cars will remain unchanged, and the engine size limit of 6.2l will be in effect for the 24 Hours as well. On top of this, the Procar series will also be open for cars of ACO- and FIA-GT specification; with an extra division for “guests”, it adds up to no less that six classes which, sufficient starters provided, will each have their own classification. With a little luck, the result sheets for each race will have several pages. Seven such races are scheduled for 2005, within the Top10 events, with the exception of the Nordschleife, which is not homologated for GT2 (soon: GT1) cars. Methods of balancing these cars' performance by means of ballast or other easily reversible measures are under consideration. Race length will be 75 minutes, starting on Sundays at 1 p.m. The maximum time behind the wheel has been limited to 45 minutes per driver; so driver changes will be mandatory. Also mandatory for all drivers will be the HANS safety system.

It is surprising for a country that contributes as much to the sporty car market as Germany to have gone without a dedicated series for Grand Tourisme type cars for so long. A number of series exist today for such cars; but there is no GT series at the level of a major national Championship that enjoys nationwide exposure - the Endurance Championship of course never ventures from the old Nürburgring.

The new series is not designed to compete with these existing championships, but rather has the intent to provide competitors in these and similar series with an additional opportunity to make use of their cars. The scheduling will reflect this, and try to avoid clashes with other championships if possible. By the same token, it does not see itself a a series purely for GT cars, but rather a mixed concept along the lines of Belcar or the Nürburgring races,

Indeed, there never was a German GT Championship per se. The series that came closest in spirit was the Deutsche Rennsportmeisterschaft (DRM) of the '70s and early '80s, which saw the sweet madness that was Group 5. This was always a "mixed" series; the only "proper" GT seen in competition with the BMW tintops was the ever-present Porsche 935, with sporty coupès such as the Lancia Beta Montecarlo and the Ford Capri making up the numbers most successfully. Only toward the end of the Gp.5 era did BMW present an outright supercar (not that the 320 in turbocharged Gp.5 guise hadn't been super enough) with the M1; a Gp.5 version was developed but it was too little, too late. For 1983, the DRM introduced the new Gp.C sports prototypes, and this was the championship's last season. In the mean time, the DTM phenomenon had started, and Germany became what it is today: firmly a touringcar nation. The former DRM fanbase was split up between the DTM, which at the time provided some of the world's best racing, and Gp.C sportscar series, such as the Interserie and the Supercup. 1993 saw the start of the ADAC GT Cup, a series designed to compete with the DTM; BMW sided with the championship as it did not want to go along with the new DTM regulations. The big class only lasted three seasons, with Porsches making up the sparse numbers after BMW had taken its M3 GTR to IMSA competition; the series soldiered on with smaller modified production "GTs" such as the Ford Escort Cosworth, BMW 3-series coupè and Toyota MR-2, but ended in 1997.

With the production tourers going through a slump, and the DTM down to two manufacturers as of 2006 (Opel has announced it will pull out of DTM competition at the end of next year), the time may be just right to introduce a GT series in Germany.
Johannes Gauglica & Markus Berns

 

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