The ‘90s will go down in history as a golden era of international motorsports. There are dozens of cars, drivers, and tracks that we could highlight, but three letters sum up the primary reason why this time period was so iconic: GT1.
Group GT1, simply known as GT1, is one of the fastest and most thrilling racecar classes of all time and it ran almost non-stop from 1994 until 2011. I’d like to focus on its earlier formative years, particularly between 1994 and 1998, when cars such as the Porsche 911 GT1 and Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR looked like weirdly gorgeous, stretched-out versions of their road-going counterparts. The McLaren F1 GTR was also in the mix, though it didn’t look terribly wild compared to the others. It just looked like, well, a McLaren.
Equipped with big wings, tons of aerodynamic equipment, loads of carbon fiber, high-horsepower engines in the middle of the chassis, and sequential gearboxes, these beasts had it all. Aside from mildly resembling their street-legal counterparts and only sharing as much as just the headlights in some instances, they were similar mainly in name only.
Though, because the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) required all GT1 cars be sold to the general public in some form of registrable variant, totalling 25 examples each, some lucky rich folks were able to buy them in barely streetable spec. Tiff Needell did a brilliant video about the road-legal CLK GTR for Old Old Top Gear during the era we speak of:
One of the coolest GT1 tracks is one particularly fast and tricky street circuit in Helsinki, Finland. You might have figured from previous blogs that I’m obsessed with the up-close and tight nature of street circuits, and 1997’s installment at Helsinki is an especially thrilling example. Just listen to those loud, brutal race-tuned exhaust notes echoing off of the track’s concrete walls:
They didn’t just race in Europe, however, this class also made its way to Northern California to rip through Laguna Seca, as well. Check out how these beasts roared through the legendary circuit back in the day, especially through its infamous Corkscrew:
Suffice to say, this class featured incredible cars on incredible tracks, and no amount of YouTube videos will fill our desire to watch this era.
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