The opening round of the 2023 Fanatec GT Europe season is just a week away, with Monza set to host a three-hour Endurance Cup race on 21-23 April.
The Italian event kicks off the traditional 10-round schedule which, as always, includes the marquee CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa (29 June–2 July). With record grids for the Ardennes classic and the Fanatec GT Sprint Cup, as well as a typically strong field in Endurance, a fantastic season is in store.
As ever there are several changes to the sporting regulations for the new campaign, the most significant being a revised class structure. With all cars conforming to GT3 regulations, Fanatec GT Europe classes are based on driver categorisation, and the changes implemented for 2023 will ensure that the class names are more consistent with driver line-ups.
There will be five categories at Fanatec GT Endurance Cup events: Pro, Gold Cup, Silver Cup, Bronze Cup and Pro-Am. In the Fanatec GT Sprint Cup, all five rounds will feature the Pro, Gold Cup and Silver Cup classes, while the Bronze Cup contenders will be present at Misano, Hockenheim and Valencia.
The Pro category remains unchanged from previous seasons, with no restrictions placed on the driver line-up (though a Pro crew is limited to three drivers at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa). It is worth remembering that, unlike the other classes, this is not a Cup: as such, Pro crews are only competing for the overall result.
Next, the Gold Cup. Though the name was used last year, this is in effect a new category. The maximum line-up in Endurance is Gold-Gold-Silver and Gold-Gold-Gold-Silver for the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa. In Sprint, crews must be made up of one Gold and one Silver.
The class has been created in response to the number of Silver drivers recently upgraded to Gold. With crews primarily made up of aspiring professionals, we can expect the best performers to run towards the front of the overall order and perhaps even challenge for an outright podium finish.
The Silver Cup is unchanged for 2023. Whether it’s Sprint or Endurance, driver line-ups must be composed entirely of Silver-ranked drivers. Based on the likely level of performance, we can expect the leading Silver runners to be mid-pack overall.
The Bronze Cup is set to be the biggest class in this season’s Fanatec GT Endurance Cup and at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa. While the name has been used previously for all-Bronze crews, this is effectively last year’s Gold Cup category. A maximum line-up of Platinum-Silver-Bronze will be accepted in Endurance, while an extra Silver can be added at Spa. In Sprint, the maximum line-up is Platinum-Bronze.
In addition to a sizeable Endurance field, there will be a further 10 crews in the Fanatec GT Sprint Cup, with their season running over three rounds. There’s added incentive for the Bronze Cup hopefuls this year, with the best-performing entry set to earn an automatic invite to the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Pro-Am also remains unchanged from 2022, though the class will only run at Endurance events. As was the case last year there is a maximum line-up of Platinum-Bronze-Bronze, while an extra Platinum can be added at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa.
Of course, adjustments to the class structure won’t affect the racing. However, they will certainly be relevant to fans watching at the track or from home. The more logical naming structure should make them easier to understand and help viewers to enjoy the unique storylines that each class produces.
Further changes for 2023
A new wave-by procedure for the Fanatec GT Endurance Cup is also likely to play an important role this season. During a safety car period, any cars that are ahead of their class leader in the line will be allowed to overtake and join the back of the field, effectively giving them a lap back.
The rule will only be applied in Endurance and will come into play after the Full-Course Yellow period has finished. This could be especially important during the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa, where losing a lap can effectively eliminate a potential overall winner.
There has also been a change to the maximum driving time at the marquee race. The upper limit has been lowered to 11 hours, down from 14 at previous editions, to bring Spa into line with other rounds of Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli. A minimum driving time of two hours has also been instituted when no upper limit is listed in the regulations.
The red flag procedures are to be harmonised across all Fanatec GT World events. This means that, at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa, cars will no longer return to the pits in case of a red flag. Finally, teams running cars under different licences can now be considered as a single entity in terms of their pit management, allowing them to share refuelling rigs.
Those are the key developments for 2023. Indeed, with the entry lists revealed and the pre-season Prologue in the books, all that’s left to do now is go racing. With a 57-car field in prospect, this month’s trip to Monza promises to be the biggest season-opening grid since 2016.