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If you are a motorsports fan like me, you probably wondered, how fast the many different cars and classes are in relation to each other. While thinking about this question, I quickly realised that it is a near impossible task to measure this, you can’t compare cars from different series unless they share the track at the same point in time, which rarely happens. But still, I wanted to know, how the different classes compare to each other within their limitations (be it from the rules or from the conditions), in other words, which cars could go faster than others and by how much. To measure this, I chose the superior method of comparing lap times: percentages. (On a side note, I honestly don’t understand why teammates are always compared in tenths over the season, like saying X was on average 4 tenths slower than Y. This is just dumb, let’s all switch to percentages! Four tenths around Red Bull Ring is different than four tenths around Le Mans.)
Check out my new post on ranking historic sports car prototypes
if you're interested.
For the extremely busy, very unceremoniously and without additional commentary (as that comes later in this post), these are all the important racing classes with their regulations as of 2019:
- Formula 1 (100-104.3%)
- Super Formula (108-111%) LMP1 (112-114%) Indycar (112.5-115%) Formula 2 (114-117%)
- GT500 (117-120%) DPi (118.5-122%) LMP2 WEC (118-125%)
- Formula 3 (122-126.5%) DTM (123.5-126.5%) LMP2 IMSA (123-126%)
- GT300 (129-134%) GTLM IMSA - GTE WEC (130-138%) LMP3 (130-134.5%)
- MotoGP (132-139%) GT3 - GTD (134-140%) Australian Supercars (136.5-142%) Formula E (134-140%)
- Moto2 (140-144%) NASCAR Cup (141.5-144%)
- NASCAR Xfinity (144-146%)
- GT4 IMSA (145-150%)
- TCR (146.5-153%) NGTC (147-149%)
- GT4 SRO (149-155%) Moto3 (149-155%)
What I did can be described very simply, I looked up the fastest qualifying laps, of each series/class here on a bunch of tracks all around the world. Then I started comparing. First, if there was a direct comparison to F1, I calculated the percentage averages. Then, I started cross-referencing to other series which were active on most of the tracks (mainly GT3 and TCR) and calculated back to F1. There are some problems with this method. I can’t be 100% sure that for example GTD and GT3 have similar pace, or that TCR in Europe and TCR in Japan have similar pace. But with these two classes, the differences are not that big, which allowed me to have a more or less clear picture. After that I estimated the percentage range and made it bigger, because track conditions and other factors could mean up to 1-2% in lap time (this was the most “subjective” part). Because of the big ranges, I will always provide the direct comparison to F1 if there is one.
Why are there ties?
Many classes were surprisingly close to each other regarding their percentage ranges, despite (or maybe because) they rarely race on the same track. This led to some three- or four-way ties. In those ties I tried to rank them, based on feeling and direct comparisons. The classes could be in a different order within those ties if they raced in similar conditions, we can never be sure. Which leads me to the final boring paragraph I promise.
What factors influence lap time?
• Drivers, especially in series where there are pro and amateur drivers
• Qualifying and race formats: how much fuel is in the car; do you have to start with the fuel load; is it an endurance series; is it a one-lap shootout or is it the average of all drivers, do you have to negotiate around lower class cars; does your engine need to last another 5 races or 24 hours etc.
• Tires, very important, explains differences between GT500 & DTM or GT300 & GT3, think about how much faster F1 would be if the softest of the five compounds was available everywhere
• Performance Ballasts (BoP, EoT etc.), can be very severe (e.g. in LMP1 it is up to 2%)
• Track Conditions, very important even in a single session, as the track constantly changes
• AiTemperature conditions
Lap Time Percentage Ranking 1 Formula 1
I referenced all percentages to Formula 1 because it is obviously the fastest motorsport in the world. The pinnacle of motorsport (like it or not, it is the pinnacle) has mind bending machines, which produce enormous amount of downforce, have incredibly efficient and powerful engines and in the words of George Russell “ridiculous” brakes. On the note of Russell, I calculated the average percentage difference of the faster car of the slowest team to the pole time: 104.3% (side-note: it was surprisingly not always Williams, in Hungary, both Racing Points were beaten by a Williams).
To give you another example about percentages: the slowest team in recent history HRT had a 109% lap time on their worst days.
Just in case you forgot how an F1 car looks: 2019 Mercedes W10
2.1 Super Formula (108-111%)
direct comparison: 109.3%
Super Formula (formerly called Formula Nippon) is the top racing series in Japan and is the second fastest open-wheeled motorsport in the world. They race on Japanese circuits only, which gives us few direct comparisons to big international series (Suzuka with F1 and Fuji with WEC). It has a spec chassis and two engine manufacturers (Honda and Toyota). The new car, introduced in 2019 was to the tenth as fast as an LMP1 car in Fuji, but edges the class on direct comparison with F1 at Suzuka.
this is how the Dallara SF19
looks like in the hands of last year’s champion Nick Cassidy
2.2 LMP1 (112-114%)
direct comparison: 112.7%
On to the fastest non open-wheeled series, the next fastest cars are the magnificent sports car prototypes of the World Endurance Championship. This class has produced many great hybrid cars since 2014 from Porsche, Audi and Toyota, which battled at the 24h of Le Mans. Unfortunately, in the later years, only Toyota remained with a hybrid LMP1 and their car now competes against the privateer LMP1s of Rebellion. LMP1 beats both F2 and Indycar on direct comparison. If there is one class which could go much faster, it has to be the hybrid LMP1 Toyotas. The WEC introduced the fancy-named Equality of Technology, which basically should slow down the hybrids to the privateer speeds. Unfortunately, it actually means that the Toyotas go 2.5s per lap slower than they could and lose 1s per lap to the non-hybrid Rebellions at COTA. Because of that, the lap records are from 2016-17, when Audi and Porsche still were on the stage, pushing each other to greater and greater speeds.
this is the 2020 Toyota TS050 Hybrid
, you won’t see this car for long on track because in the near future, there will be new prototype regulations
2.3 Indycar (112.5-115%)
direct comparison: 114.6%
The premier North American open-wheeled racing series would certainly be unbeatable on ovals, but on road courses, they are edged out by a few series. Again, like with SF, Indycar only races in a specific region and few tracks are visited by big international series, but they finally gave us a direct comparison with Formula 1 at COTA. This series also has a spec chassis (also by Dallara) and since 2018 a universal aero kit. There are two engine manufacturers: Honda and Chevrolet.
this is how the Dallara DW12
looks like in the hands of last year’s champion Josef Newgarden
2.4 Formula 2 (114-117%)
direct comparison: 115.8%
Finally, the slowest series in this four-way tie is the top feeder series for F1. This is a series, where young drivers can finally be part of the F1 paddock by racing in support races on the same weekend with the big ones. There is no direct comparison with Indycar and through cross-referencing it is still impossible to tell which one would be faster. The series employs a spec chassis by (again you guessed it) Dallara and has one engine manufacturer (Mecachrome). This series is more about the drivers, because it should find the best of the talents looking to get into F1.
this is how the Dallara F2 2018
looks like in the hands of last year’s champion Nyck De Vries
3.1 GT500 (117-120%)
direct comparison: 119.8%
The grand touring beasts populating the top class in the Japanese SUPER GT series are astonishingly quick. These race cars are the fastest production-based cars right now (well at least they kinda look like a production car) and can put some prototype classes to shame with their lap times. They beat the WECs LMP2s in Fuji but have unfortunately few other direct comparisons with similar classes. There are currently three manufacturers competing in GT500: Nissan, Toyota/Lexus and Honda. Recently, GT500 and DTM aligned their rules to be able to compete in each other’s series, which led to the Class One cars, as they are called now. While the chance of seeing DTM cars in SUPER GT and vice versa is low, it provides a great opportunity to see how tires influence car performance, as GT500 (having a tire war with 4 manufacturers) is clearly faster on track than DTM.
this is how the Lexus LC 500 GT500
championship winning car looked like in 2019
3.2 DPi (118.5-122%)
no direct comparison
The Daytona Prototype International class is the top prototype class in the IMSA United Sports Car Championship and has the honours to be the second fastest prototype class. It was introduced in 2017 alongside the new LMP2 regulations and became a separate class in the championship in 2019. This is the first class which had no direct comparisons to F1, but it is clearly faster than the WECs LMP2 class at Sebring. It is quite interesting in the sense that despite having four manufacturers (Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan) the cars used are based on four other LMP2 chassis (Dallara, Oreca, Riley and Ligier).
this is how the Acura ARX-05
2019 championship winning car looked like
3.3 LMP2 WEC (118-125%)
direct comparison: 120%
The second class in the WEC is a very popular one, with many privateer teams battling it out for LMP2 honours. The class is also used in the European Le Mans Series with similar specifications. The class was overhauled and redefined in 2017, four exclusive chassis manufacturers were appointed (the ones from DPi), a closed cockpit was mandated and there is a spec Gibson engine. The current cars and rule concepts are the basis, together with the DPis for the future LMDh regulations. It comfortably beats the 4th placed Formula 3 cars on direct comparison.
this is how the championship winning Oreca 07 by United Autosport
looked like in 2019
4.1 Formula 3 (122-126.5%)
direct comparison: 123.6%
The third tier in the world of Formula 1 is the lowest which has a worldwide championship. It is one stage under Formula 2 and replaced GP3 in 2019. This change of name and structure also came with a new Dallara chassis and a spec Mecachrome engine. As you may have noticed, I only looked at the FIA Formula 3 Championship, and not at other regional or national series.
this is the Dallara F3 2019
driven by Robert Shwartzman, the 2019 champion
4.2 DTM (123.5-126.5%)
direct comparison: 124.9%
The cars used in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters are called touring cars only for historic reasons. These cars are silhouette cars, meaning actually purpose-built machines using a body which resembles (slightly) to their road going counterparts. Although it is a series competing in Europe (mainly Germany with some few races in other places), it actually shares few circuits with faster series, so there is no direct comparison to the WEC or the ELMS or even Formula 3. So, it is hard to call which one would be faster. This should be changed with the DTM set to race at
(Edit: now it looks like they go to Spa) in the 2020 season. The DTM is as mentioned before the sister series of SUPER GT, which gives a perspective of how much faster these cars could go. Unfortunately, the future of the series doesn’t look too bright with only one manufacturer left after the end of this season, there’s a big chance that we won’t see these great cars in the future.
this is the Audi RS5 Turbo DTM
_FP1.jpg&tbnid=VulVzwUeOXs-QM&vet=1&docid=EJNx6BNH9-qE1M&w=2560&h=1706&q=rene+rast+dtm+2019&source=sh/x/im) of champion Rene Rast in 2019
4.3 LMP2 IMSA (123-126%)
no direct comparison
The second class in North American sports car racing is a little bit slower than their WEC counterparts. This is also visible at the direct comparison at Sebring. The reasons for this could be that the LMP2s in IMSA were slowed down to create a bigger gap to the very similar DPi cars. Other features are exactly the same than in the WEC, the only difference being that there were only two entries in 2019.
5.1 GT300 (129-134%)
direct comparison: 132.7%
I think the Japanese like to show the world how fast some cars actually could go. GT300 is the lower class in SUPER GT, it consists mainly of GT3 cars from European manufacturers but also JAF-GT cars, which are just a Japanese GT class. What is surprising is how easily the GT300 cars beat their European GT3 counterparts and even the WEC GTE class is beaten fair and square at Fuji.
here is the Honda NSX GT3 Evo
, last year’s championship winning machine
5.2 GTLM IMSA - GTE WEC (130-138%)
direct comparison: 132.6%
Now to the supposedly highest level of GT racing, which actually is beaten by two and pressured by a third one. GTE in WEC/ELMS or GTLM in IMSA is in all three championship the top GT class. The GTLMs beat the GTEs at Sebring but I still decided to take both together because they are very similar in performance. These cars are awesome, look awesome and I suspect could produce much better lap times, but especially in Europe, they are sometimes even beaten by the top GT3 cars. There are now five different manufacturers competing in the WEC and IMSA combined.
this is the Porsche 911 RSR
which won in IMSA and WEC in 2019
direct comparison: 132.7%
LMP3 is the lowest prototype class, which is more thought as an entry level for drivers and teams to prototype racing. It is used in the ELMS, Asian LMS and the IMSA Prototype Challenge. In Europe it beats the GTEs marginally and in North America it is beaten by GTLM marginally, so the actual difference between GTE and LMP3 is too close to call. There are five cars available and all have the same spec engine.
This is a Ligier JS P3
which won in the ELMS in 2019
6.1 MotoGP (132-139%)
direct comparison: 135.1%
There are two groups in motorsports which I consider the craziest. Those who jump into their small hatchbacks and rip through some forests or mountains on roads barely wider than the car itself and those who jump on a bike which can go with 360kph and you can touch the ground with your knees while negotiating corners. MotoGP is astonishingly quick, sometimes even beating GT3 race cars. There are six manufacturers currently competing in MotoGP with purpose built mororcycle prototypes.
This is last year’s MotoGP winner Marc Marquez and his Honda RC213V
6.2 GT3 - GTD (134-140%)
direct comparison: 136.9% - 135.4%
On to the arguably most widely used racing class right now: GT3. There are a lot of different championships using these cars, and there have been 51 cars homologated since its inception in the mid 2000s. The highest-level series using GT3s are the SRO sanctioned GT World Challenges (formerly Blancpain Series) and the IMSA Sports Car Championship with the name GTD. On top of that there are countless national championships, so it’s hard to actually say how fast GT3s are, because they race at so many places. Sometimes they beat GTE in Europe, they play a secondary role to GTLM in IMSA, sometimes they barely beat Australian Supercars. The interesting thing in GT3 is the variety of car styles, types, engines and the fact that all these different philosophies are tied together through Balance of Performance which equals out all the cars.
here is the Bentley Continental GT3
which won the last international GT3 race, the Bathurst 12h
6.3 Australian Supercars (136.5-142%)
direct comparison: 141.4%
The (maybe not so hidden) gem in motorsport is the Australian Supercars Championship (also known as V8 Supercars), it evolved from the Australian Touring Car Championship and has really fun to watch and actually pretty fast race cars from Holden and Ford (with sometimes other manufacturers coming and going). It is close to the Australian GT Championship lap time wise, but is a bit slower than GT3s at Bathurst, where a big international GT3 race happens every year. There are otherwise few meaningful comparisons to other series. Unfortunately, there are some doubts over its future, with the car brand Holden no longer active.
this is the Ford Mustang GT
of Scott McLaughlin, last year’s champion
6.4 Formula E (134-140%)
direct comparison (manually measured with a youtube onboard): 134%
The premier electric racing series in the world is notably famous for racing on unusual (controversial?) tight circuits located in city centres. Because of that, there is only one proper comparison with another class (TCR at Marrakech) and you can kinda guess their time in Monaco’s last sector while watching an onboard and measuring it with a stopwatch. So based on this data, we can estimate that their speed is somewhere around GT3 and Supercars. Of course, Formula E is very strong on its own circuits but would lose to everybody at Bathurst, just like a Supercar couldn’t negotiate the Paris Circuit fast enough. We can only hope, that the championship with the highest manufacturer involvement goes to the full Monaco layout for a proper comparison. The car currently used is the 2nd Gen FE car, it has a spec chassis and battery but individual powertrains.
here is the DS Techeetah
of 2019 champion Jean-Eric Vergne
7.1 Moto2 (140-144%)
direct comparison: 142.8%
The second tier motorcycle championship also comes in at a kind of no-mans land between Supercars and NASCAR. Unfortunately, I don’t know much more about Moto2 so
here is last years champion Alex Marquez with his Kalex Moto2
7.2 NASCAR Cup Series (141.5-144%)
no direct comparison
The most popular form of motorsport in the US, NASCAR is centred around oval track racing. So much in fact, that its calendar only has two road courses (Watkins Glen and Sonoma). On top of that, to make direct comparisons even rarer, they use different layouts to Indycar and IMSA at both tracks. That leaves us with cross-referencing the Cup Series to its minor league, which leads to the conclusion that NASCAR is tied with Moto2 on pace and just edged out by Australian Supercars, which some consider to be kind of similar (very far reached imo) to it. credit to u/TacoHVAC
for the laptimes
here is the 2019 Toyota Camry
of cup series champion Kyle Busch
8 NASCAR Xfinity (144-146%)
no direct comparison
Fortunately, NASCAR’s minor league, the Xfinity series goes to two of road courses using common layouts (Road America and Mid-Ohio) so we can at least compare these cars to other classes on this list. The Xfinity cars are a bit slower than their Cup Series counterparts, and with that, they are far from GT3 and Supercars, but comfortably ahead of GT4.
this is the Chevrolet Camaro
of 2019 champion Tyler Reddick
9 GT4 IMSA (145-150%)
direct comparison: 146.3%
We arrived at the slowest GT class, GT4 is widely used in some national championships. In North America, the Michelin Pilot Challenge is a support series of the IMSA Sports Car Championship and there you can see GT4 competing as the top class against TCR, which explains why the IMSA GT4s are faster than their European brothers and sisters.
this is the Audi R8 LMS GT4
which won last year’s Michelin Pilot Challenge
10.1 TCR (146.5-153%)
direct comparison: 149.9%
The most widely used touring car class was approved in 2014 and fully took over the touring car world in 2018, when the World Touring Car Championship also adopted the regulations. These cars are “true” touring cars, with many standardised parts and a performance ballast system to ensure fair competition. There are many manufacturers and twice as many series, with nearly every region having their own TCR championship. All the results from these championship count towards the TCR Model of the Year “championship” which is handed out since 2017. TCR provided a very constant basis for other lap time calculations (especially for the Japanese series), because it is so widely used and has universal rules. In Europe it beats GT4 very consistently.
here is the Hyundai i30 N TCR
driven by World Touring Car champion Norbert Michelisz
10.2 NGTC (147-149%)
no direct comparison
One of the few places where TCR isn’t the main touring car class is of course the British Touring Car Championship. They have their own cars, called Next Generation Touring Cars, which have most likely a very similar performance than TCR. I say most likely, because there are not that many international series competing on some lesser known British tracks, so I used the British GT Championship (GT3) as a reference for NGTCs.
this is the BMW 330i M Sport
driven by 2019 champion Colin Turkington
11.1 GT4 SRO (149-155%)
direct comparison: 151.9%
Finally, we are at the bottom of this list with the GT4 cars competing in various national and European SRO series. These cars are by no means slow, they beat road going hyper cars like the Koenigsegg One:1 or the McLaren P1 at Spa, which just shows how incredibly fast race cars are, even if they are slow (if that makes sense).
the final car on here is the BMW M4 GT4
, winner of the 2019 GT4 European Series
11.2 Moto3 (149-155%)
direct comparison: 152.3%
The lowest class in motorcycle grand prix racing has about the same speeds as GT4. Generally you can say, that the different motorcycle tiers are much closer to each other than F1 - F2 - F3 are.
this is the Honda NSF250RW
Moto3 winning machine
That’s the end of the list. As you can imagine it was quite fun to research everything, but it also took a long time. Please correct any typos and feel free crosspost.
What comes next? I plan on doing something similar but for historic classes and look if somebody could challenge F1 for the throne in the past (my bet is on Group C or 70s Can-Am).
Edits: Due to popular request, I added some motorcycle classes, also corrected some technicalities about NASCAR tracks
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