Is there an initialism in the entire glossary of motoring terms more flagrantly abused than ‘GT’? To some car makers, such as Honda, Infiniti, Kia and Volkswagen, it is a mere trim level, and to BMW the term now seems to be synonymous with ‘ugly hatchback’.
When you think of the cars that made the name famous more than 50 years ago – the likes of the Ferrari 250 GT and Lamborghini 350 GT – it’s enough to make you cry. Add just one number to those two letters, however, and once more you are transported into a world of thrills and excitement peopled only by proper driver’s cars. This is the world of the GT3.
Of course, if we think of a GT3 today, it is a Porsche 911 that inevitably pops into our minds, because although others used the term before the first 911 GT3 of 1999 (notably Lotus with the shamefully underrated Esprit GT3), it is Porsche that has made the name its own.
Not for much longer, though. Within a year, a GT3 will be not so much a car as a class, and although not every member will be called a GT3, you won’t struggle to tell them from the rest of their stablemates.
A GT3 road car may or may not be the quickest car in the range, but it will always be the most focused. It will be more powerful than the standard offering but, unlike, say, a 911 Turbo, lighter, too. It will have extensive aerodynamic modifications and a race-ready alter ego to compete in global GT3 racing, now the most popular category of sports car racing the world has ever known.
More than anything, while a GT3 car might look wonderful, it is anything but a car merely for show. It is a hardcore driving machine for serious drivers and no one else need apply. For their manufacturers, these cars are not the money-making machines you might expect, because they require extensive modifications in all important areas – powertrain, chassis and aerodynamics chiefly – yet will sell in tiny numbers.
So why do them? Simply because they act as antidotes to other cars in their ranges, detoxifying reputations that might otherwise be poisoned by the world’s current addiction to SUVs. Porsche knows it can build as many Audi-based off-roaders as it likes as long as it also builds hardcore GT3s, because no one is going to fear that the company has lost touch with the cars on which its reputation was built.
So as the likes of Bentley, Jaguar and Aston Martin prepare their first SUVs and inevitably least sporting cars, there shouldn’t be too much surprise that they also feel the need to balance them out with what may prove to be the most sporting, driver-orientated cars in their collective histories.
There’s no doubting the existence of this car, nor the timing of its arrival at the Geneva motor show in March. The road-going GT3 Vantage will aim to build on the many successes of its racing brother while elevating the bar of Aston Martin performance far beyond anything seen to date by any production car.
The Vantage GT3 will retain the 6.0-litre V12 engine that has been used by Aston Martin since 1999, but with its power raised from its current maximum of 565bhp to perhaps the magic 600bhp mark, a still relatively low level of stress when you consider that Ferrari’s F12 achieves 730bhp from less than 6.3 litres.
Perhaps as significantly, weight is set to drop, by as much as 100kg. The Vantage has never been put on such a strict diet before, and it is believed that simply removing some interior gadgets and installing thin seats will create most of the saving, while lightweight body panels using lessons learned over many years of racing will account for the rest.