When I think back to highlights of American touring car and GT racing, the early 2000s is one era that sticks out as particularly cool. Just think of the platforms that were trading paint with each other: Porsche 996s, BMW E46s, Audi A4s, Mazda Proteges, Honda Civics, and many more.
These are cars that have deep enthusiast followings, and how they carried themselves on the racetrack that helped solidify them as some of the best cars ever made. Well, maybe not the Protege, which seems to have been unfortunately buried in the sands of time. But it was the underdog, a sort of “those in the know, know” enthusiast chassis. Especially with a turbo strapped to the front of its block.
Nowhere is all the brilliant action of the era better documented than on the Library of Congress of entertaining video content, YouTube:
I’ve blogged about other eras and series in American touring car and GT racing, but Speed World Challenge’s run always comes to mind as the heyday. Thankfully, we’re currently living through another great era in SRO and IMSA GS/TCR, before internal combustion slowly starts to fade away from roads and the racetrack.
I know people often get carried away with the good ol’ days, but I can’t help but gaze wistfully at the early 2000s and think about how much simpler things were during that time. Cars were less complex, aerodynamic additions to bodywork were barely existent (well, today’s TC America in SRO is like that), and cars were smaller. Enthusiasts often complain that cars have generally grown too big during the past 10-15 years, and this is especially noticeable on the racetrack.
Although the above video is a highlight reel of up-close, tradin’ paint action, it also seems like the action was closer and far more extensive back then, too. I’m hedging a little here, but racing was probably far less expensive than it is today, so it was easier for teams to participate, as well as field more than one car. This means deeper car counts, more competition, and more entertainment.
The flipside to all of this is that racing is a lot safer today. This is welcome and crucial progress: Racing safety equipment is more expensive, extensive, and technologically better than it was even 10 years ago. The rulebook is more thorough, too: Just the fact that the head and neck restraint, such as the HANS, has become common kit since this era means that far fewer racers have been seriously injured or killed.
Check out the video above and peek at the various suggestions that might pop up of similar content. The early 2000s really were a high watermark in American motorsport.
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