From Premium to Conversion: The Changing Face of LMGT3
Daniel Lloyd examines the current state of play in the WEC’s future LMGT3 class after the recent confirmation that ‘Premium’ kits will be optional…
In August 2021 it was announced that a GT3-based class will replace GTE in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans beginning in 2024. That fact hasn’t changed in the year or so since, however the philosophy behind it has.
During a follow-up announcement last June, WEC organizers the ACO and FIA proposed the introduction of mandatory ‘GT3 Premium’ bodykits developed by the manufacturers to give their cars a visual edge over the standard GT3s that race elsewhere. Attached to that was the idea that modifications would not result in faster lap times, however they could be used to fine-tune performance.
Initial reaction to the GT3 Premium concept was mixed at best. Porsche Motorsport vice-president Thomas Laudenbach personally questioned whether it was financially necessary to develop a new bodykit and asked how a platform as elite as GT3 could be made more premium than it already is. Mercedes-AMG’s Thomas Jaeger queried how any visual modification could be achieved without impacting performance.
The manufacturers weren’t convinced, although there were some supporters such as SRO Motorsports Group boss and GT3 architect Stephane Ratel who felt premium kits would be in keeping with Le Mans’ history of innovation. Three-time WEC GTE-Am champion Francois Perrodo indicated that he would consider returning from LMP2 to the production-based ranks if the standard GT3s were made more challenging for the new class (which we now know will be called LMGT3).
Dialogue between the organizers and stakeholders continued after the June announcement. By December, an adjusted approach was ready to be communicated.
At the final FIA World Motor Sport Council summit of 2022, it was confirmed that the plan had changed: “Dedicated bodywork conversion kits will be permitted but not mandatory,” a FIA statement read.
The use of the word ‘conversion’ instead of ‘premium’ in official text is notable here. The purpose of modifications is no longer purely about marketing but ensuring that different GT3 cars fit into the LMGT3 aerodynamic performance window that will factor in the ultra-low downforce Le Mans track.
ACO President Pierre Fillon told Sportscar365: “You can modify if you want, for marketing reasons. Or if you need, for performance reasons.”
But if you’re happy with your GT3 car’s appearance and it’s got the necessary performance, why change anything? Based on their initial reactions to GT3 Premium, it seems highly unlikely that manufacturers will voluntarily splash out on visual upgrades.