Double Apex contributor and motorsport engineer, Christopher Vrettos takes a look at the world of closely contested one-make championships.
One-make championships frequently produce great racing because of the negligible performance differences between the cars. Driver skill is the most important factor, which explains why they have become important training grounds for young drivers. Here are five of my favourite series from around the world.
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Porsche Supercup (1993-Present)
Porsche Supercup has supported the Formula One World Championship since 1993. The sound of few dozen Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars’ wailing flat-6 engines serve as a solid “warm-up” act before a Grand Prix. Entry lists feature both professional and amateur drivers, with around 30 cars per race weekend. Successful drivers have graduated to become factory drivers for manufacturers including Audi (Rene Rast), BMW (Philipp Eng) and – unsurprisingly – Porsche (Earl Bamber). More racing action can see at this link.
SCCA Spec Miata (1999-Present)
The Mazda MX-5 has become one of the cheapest and most popular racing cars – even Double Apex’s editor races one. Whilst there are many popular series dedicated to this car, none come close to the sheer insanity that is SCCA Spec Miata in the United States. Grid sizes are enormous, with almost 50 cars competing in the season-finale “Runoff” race last year. Consisting of pre-2005 MX-5s, a competitive race car can be purchased for under R150 000.
Volkswagen Polo Cup (1996-Present)
As one of the most competitive racing championships in South Africa, the Volkswagen Polo Cup never ceases to entertain. For the uninitiated, the sight of over 20 identical VW Polos cornering with their inside rear wheels off the ground has to be seen to be believed. Above all, it has been a successful launchpad for drivers into international competition, with famous graduates Kelvin/Sheldon van der Linde and Jordan Pepper currently enjoying successful careers in Europe.
BMW M1 Procar Championship (1979-1980)
In 1978, the FIA scuppered BMW’s plan to race the M1 in Group 5 racing with an unexpected rule change. In response, BMW ran a championship with Group 4-spec BMW M1s (known as Procars) supporting European Formula One races. Interestingly, the grid included spaces for contemporary Formula One drivers – including world champions Nelson Piquet, Alan Jones and Niki Lauda. One of the privateer teams was Project Four – Ron Dennis’ team which later merged with McLaren Formula One.
JaguarSport Intercontinental Challenge (1991)
The JaguarSport XJR-15 was designed to be a road-going version of the Le Mans-winning Jaguar XJR-9. The lucky owners could race their cars against professional racing drivers in a three-round series supporting Formula One races. Drivers included ex-F1 drivers Derek Warwick and David Brabham and future Fifth Gear-host Tiff Needell. The finale at Spa had a winner-takes-all prize of an incredible R15 million, with a race length unknown to the drivers to deter any race-fixing.