It was designed to replace both Group 5 Special Production Cars (closed top touring prototypes like
Porsche 935) and Group 6 Two Seater Racing Cars (open-top sportscar prototypes like Porsche 936). Group C was used in the FIA's World Endurance Championship (1982-1985), World Sports-Prototype Championship (1986-1990), World Sportscar Championship(1991-1992) and in the European Endurance Championship (1983 only). It was also used for other sports car racing series around the globe. The final year for the class came in 1993.
The roots of the GTP category lie in both FIA Group 6 and particularly in the GTP category introduced by the ACO at Le Mans in the mid-1970s. GTP was a class for roofed prototypes with certain dimensional restrictions, but instead of the more usual limits on engine capacity, it placed limits on fuel consumption. The FIA applied the same concept in its Group C rules. It limited cars to a minimum weight of 800kg and a maximim fuel capacity of 100 litres. With competitors restricted to five refuelling stops within a 1000 kilometre distance, the cars were effectively allowed 600 litres per 1000 kilometers. The FIA hoped this would prevent manufacturers from concentrating solely on engine development; in the late 1970s, a few manufacturers (especially
Porscheand Lancia) had dominated sports car racing by simply increasing turbochargerboost pressure, especially in qualifying trim — the 3.2 L Porsche 935was capable of more than 800 hp. Engines had to be from a recognised manufacturer which had cars homologated in the FIA's Group A Touring Car or Group B GT Car categories.
While the consumption requirement meant that cars needed to conserve fuel early in the race, manufacturer support for the new regulations grew steadily with each make adding to the diversity of the series. With the new rules, it was theoretically possible for small naturally aspirated engines to compete with large forced induction engines. In addition, all races were to be contested over at least 1000 km — usually lasting more than six hours — so it was possible to emphasize the "endurance" aspect of the competition as well.
Ford (with the C100) and Porsche (with the 956) were the first constructors to join the series. The traditional turbocharged boxer engine in the 956 was already tested in the 1981 version of the Group 6 936. Eventually, several other makes joined the series, including
Lancia, Jaguar, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota, Mazdaand Aston Martin. Many of these also took part in the IMSA championship, as its GTP class had similar regulations.
With costs increasing, the FIA introduced a new Group C Junior class for 1983. This was intended for privateer teams and small manufacturers and it limited cars to a minimum weight of 700kg and a maximim fuel capacity of 55 litres. With competitors limited to five refuelling stops within a 1000 kilometre distance, the cars were effectively allowed 330 litres per 1000 kilometers. As in Group C, engines had to be from a recognised manufacturer which had cars homologated in Group A or Group B. Although it was originally expected that C Junior cars would use two-litre normally aspirated engines, in practice most cars used either the 3.5l
BMW M1engine or the new 3.3l CosworthDFL, but, like in the main class, a variety of solutions was employed by each individual manufacturer. Alba with a small, lightweight turbo, Tiga, Spice and Ecurie Ecossewith Austin-Roverand later Cosworth-powered cars were among the most competitive in this class. The low cost of these cars even lead to the notion of their use in national championships, such as the short-lived British BRDC C2 Championship. Group C Junior was formally renamed Group C2 for 1985.
Rise and fall
By 1989, the Group C series popularity was nearly as great as
Formula One. When C1 cars were found to be breaking over the 240 miles per hour mark at Le Mans' Mulsanne Straight — the WM Peugeotrecorded the highest at 254 mph (over 400 km/h) — the FIA revolutionized the class by attempting to turn it into a formula series to replace the C2 category (after they proved to be unreliable at endurance races). The new formula restricted the performance of cars built to the original rules (such as the Porsche 962used by many privateers) and benefitted teams using F1-sourced 3.5 L engines — these latter teams being effectively the large manufacturers alone, as the new formula cars were more expensive than the C1 cars. What followed was the quick downfall of Group C, as Ford, Mercedes and Peugeotelected to either concentrate on or move to F1 directly, while F1 engines were unaffordable for privateer teams like Spice and ADA. A lack of entries meant the 1993 Sportscar World Championship was cancelled before the start of the first race; however, because the Le Mans 24 hour race had became a non-championship race the previous year, the ACO still allowed the Group C cars to compete (albeit with restrictions). Nevertheless, the race still witnessed protests against the new state of affairs, as spectators placed cloth banners in fences expressing their feelings.
24 Hours of Le Manswas the last one in which Group C cars were permitted. A new category formed especially by race organisers also saw modified Group C cars without roofs. In fact, a former C1 car disguised as a road-legal GT car which was entered in the GT1 category, the Dauer 962 Le Mans, and won the race after transmission problems by a leading Toyota 94C-V. The 962 was subsequently banned; the Toyotawas later given a special dispensation to race in the Suzuka 1000km, and a few C1 racers were allowed to compete in the newly formed Japanese GT Championship— this would be its final year of competition. Many of the modified open top Group C cars continued to compete until they wrecked, broke, or retired out of competitiveness; notable among these was the Porsche WSC-95which won the 24hLM|1996 and 24hLM|1997 Le Mans races, utilizing the monocoque of the Jaguar XJR-14and Porsche 962 mechanicals (engine, transmission, etc.).
Afterwards, prototypes nearly disappeared from Europe, resurfacing again in 1997. Recently, interest in Group C cars resurfaced as more of these cars have appeared on historic racing events.
Group C series
The FIA's Group C formula was designed primarily for the World Endurance Championship which included the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, several smaller series also adapted the Group C regulations. The
Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaftallowed Group C cars to compete alongside various other types of cars from the 1982 season until 1985, when the series was reformed as the Supercup. Under the new Supercup series, only Group C cars would be allowed to compete. This series lasted until 1989.
In Great Britain, the
Thundersportschampionship combined a variety of cars with the C Junior (later C2) class of cars. This too was later replaced with a C2 only series known as the BRDC C2 Championship, and lasted until 1990. The European Interseriechampionship also allowed Group C cars to compete, although they did not use the same class structure.
In Japan, the
All Japan Sports Prototype Championshipwas created in 1983, while the Fuji Long Distance Series also began allowing Group C cars for the first time. It was not until 1989 however that the series concentrated solely on the Group C formula. Both championships lasted until 1992, when they were cancelled along with the World Sportscar Championship.
Group C cars
Some examples of Group C race cars :
** 01, 03
** AR2, AR3, AR4, AR5, AR6, AR20
** 02, 03, 04, C289, C91
** JM19, JM19B, JM19C
** B36, B62
Courage Competition(Also known as Cougar)
** C01, C01B, C02, C12, C20, C20B, C20S, C22, C22LM, C24S, C26S, C28LM, C30LM, C32LM
* De Cadenet (with Lola)
** RC82, RC83, 85C, 86C
** C284, C285, C286
** C83/1, C84/1
** JC843, JC853, C91
** S1, S2
** XJR-5, XJR-6, XJR-8, XJR-9, XJR-11, XJR-12, XJR-14
** LC1, LC2
** T610, T616, T92/10
** C302, M1C
** 82G, 84G, 85G, 88S
** 717C, 727C, 737C, 757, 767, 767B, 787, 787B, MXR-01
** C11, C291
** R85V, R86V, R87E, R88C, R89C, R90CP, R90CK, R91CP, R92CP
** 905, 905 Evo
** 936C, 936J, 956, 962C, 962CK6
** M379, M382, M482
** SHS C6, C7, C8, C9
** SE86C, SE88C, SE87C, SE89C, SE90C
** SM01, SMC2
** GC84, GC85, GC286, GC287, GC288, GC289
** 87C, 88C, 88C-V, 89C-V, 90C-V, 91C-V, 92C-V, 93C-V, 94C-V, TS010
** C81, C83
** P82, P83, P85, P86, P87, P88, P489
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