Império Endurance Brasil: a beginners guide to the Brazilian Endurance Championship

In an era where motor racing becomes every day more standardized and BoP’ed, hardcore fans dream about what would be if there was a series with technical freedom similar to what the Can-Am or Interserie were. Sure there is the Unlimited class at Pikes Peak that gave us machines like the VW ID.R or the Peugeot 208 Pikes Peak, but even so that’s only one category of a once per year 12 mile race. Time Attack also provides a lot of room for thinking outside the box, but still lacking wheel-to-wheel competition.

So, what would you think if I tell you there is an endurance series where, bar the safety requirements, only engine displacement and minimum weight are controlled?

Well, this series is not a dream, and in fact, is held in Brazil, of all countries. Organized by the APE (Associação de Pilotos de Endurance – Endurance Drivers Association), the Endurance Brasil has its roots in 2014, when the APE took on the organization of the regional endurance championship from Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul. Endurance Racing was until then perennial in Brazil, with a long tradition of ups and lows, ranging from years with almost no competition to championships filled with the latest brew of prototypes and GTs.

Under the organization of the APE, the series soon grew in relevance in the national scene until it hit another major milestone. Starting with the 2017 season, the APE closed a branding deal with Brazilian brewery Imperial, first through the energy drink brand Dopamina, and later through the beer brand Império. With the support of a major sponsor, the live coverage improved, with live broadcasts from the race in YouTube and Facebook, attracting even more competitors. Like many other endurance championships, the races feature both Prototypes and Gran Touring Cars, making up a total of 8 classes (4 per discipline) plus an overall title championship, in a very eclectic field. To help fans identifying the different styled cars, Prototypes are mandated white headlights, while GT have to use yellow headlights.

Driver wise, each race features a mix of pro, gentleman and amateur drivers, with driver ages varying from 20’s to 70’s. Some names that may sound familiar include: Daniel Serra, Ricardo Maurício, Marcos Gomes, Alexandre Negrão, Sergio Jimenez, David Muffato and Tarso Marques, among others.

This mix of machines and drivers provide an even field, where at least 10 cars enter each round with chance of taking the overall win. In a show of this competitiveness, last season had eight races, which had four different overall winners, split 6-2 between prototypes and GTs. More than that, only twice the winner was able to lap the runner up, and the overall title was decided on the last hour of race of the season’s finale.

For 2020, the series has much promise, with the arrival of new cars and drivers in all categories, as well as live coverage in SporTV in addition to the usual YouTube live streaming.

The classes

P1

Current champions: Nilson Ribeiro / José Roberto Ribeiro (AJR #65)

  • #5 - Metalmoro JLM AJR - Chevrolet LS3 6.2 V8

This is the premier prototype class in the Endurance Brasil, and the fastest overall cars in track. Top end Brazilian built prototypes dominate this class, but cars like the Ginetta G57 and G58 as well as FIA homologated LMP3 cars are allowed. While the LMP3 are allowed to run without engine restrictors, so far no such a car has competed. Meanwhile, we can expect two Ginetta G57 to compete, run by the Team Ginetta Brasil. However, the most impressive cars in P1 are the locally built tube frame prototypes like the Metalmoro JLM AJR, Sigma P1 and DTR01. In addition to weight and displacement restrictions, some engine options are forbidden, in order to avoid a cost escalation that may hurt the series success.

Other than that, the Formula libre style rules mean that concepts like DRS and hybrid powertrains can be fully exploited, without the need for things like DRS activation zones or complex energy storage and deployment rules. In addition, the top classes have other thing long gone in most of the top echelon of motor racing: freedom of choice of tires. Currently, Yokohama and Pirelli supply tires, with different working ranges and durability, adding another factor to the mix.

GT3

Current champions: Xandy Negrão / Xandinho Negrão (Mercedes AMG #9)

  • #8 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3

As the name implies, the GT3 category is for cars homologated by the FIA or a national sanctioning body. Opposed to other championships using the same formula, in the Endurance Brasil these cars do not suffer any form of BoP, meaning there is no engine restrictions and only the weight is limited. Cars competing in this class include the Ferrari 488 (the same car that took the GTD pole at Daytona in 2019), Porsche 911 GT3 R, Mercedes AMG and Lamborghini Huracàn.

GT3 Light

Current champions: Sérgio Ribas / Guilherme Ribas (Aston Martin #63)

  • #18 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3

Until 2018, all GT3 car ran under the same class. The Light class, created in 2019, was reserved for older cars, built prior to 2012, that could not keep up with the pace of the modern GT3 machinery. Models competing in this class include the Ferrari 458, Aston Martin Vantage V12, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 and LP600+. Brazilian Stock Cars, without intake restrictors can also apply for this category.

P2

Current champions: Paulo Sousa / Mauro Kern (Tubarão IX #32)

  • #4 Sigma P1 - Audi 4.2 V8 Turbo

The P2 category is sort of a “legacy car” category. With the revamp of the P1 rules in 2019 as well as the introduction of the new generation cars like the AJR and LMP3-like machinery, older prototypes where not able to keep the pace and hence, a category was put in place for cars built conforming to the 2018 P1 specifications. However, other than a smaller fuel tank, this class has similar freedom to the top tier class, meaning the P2 class can also fight for the win depending on the track. This class compromises both projects with 13-inch wheels like the Predador, Tubarão and Scorpion as well as 18-inch wheel cars like the GeeBee R1, Metalmoro MR18 and MCR Lamborghini. Theoretically, tube frame cars like the tube frame Daytona Prototypes and the Radical SR8 could also qualify for the P2 class.

GT4

Current champion: Renan Guerra (Ginetta G55 #555)

  • #3 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT4

Also for car with homologation as GT4, the GT4 class of the Endurance Brasil employs the same BoP as originally put in place by the sanctioning body to homologate the car. Car competing in this class include the Mercedes AMG, Ginetta G55 and McLaren 570S. Also, there is a Brazilian prepared BMW M3 GTR (E92), that is classified in the GT4 class.

P3

Current champions: Carlos Antunes / Yuri Antunes (MRX #72)

  • #2 VBS 01 [Dallara F394] - Opel 2.0 16V

This is the class for smaller prototypes, usually built with 13-inch rims and engines over 2.000 cm³ of displacement, or additionally prototypes equipped with motorcycle engines/transmissions up to 1.500 cm³, like the Radical SR3. It is not uncommon for cars of this class to be built around Formula 3 like transmissions, suspension parts and even tires, to the point there is even a former Ralt F3 chassis converted to a sport-prototype. Although they cannot fight for the overall win, the P3 cars have enough pace and reliability to be in the top 10. The most common car in this class is the Metalmoro MRX, a proven car in the Brazilian endurance racing scenery, with many important wins under its belt.

GT4 Light

Current champion: Júnior Victorette / Marcelo Karam (Mercedes CLA 45 AMG #14 / Audi RS3 TCR #14)

  • #10 Chevrolet Cruze - Berta 2.0 (Brasileiro de Turismo)

The lower GT class is more a Touring Car class than a proper GT class. Car allowed in this class include FIA TCR cars, Brazilian Stock Cars with engine restrictors, cars from the former Brazilian Touring Car Championship, as well as cars from various one-make series like the Trofeo Maserati, Mercedes-Benz Challenge and Trofeo Linea.

P4

Current champions: Ricardo Haag / Mário Marcondes (MRX #34)

  • #40 Aldee RTT - Volkswagen 2.0 8V

The entry-level class in prototype racing for the Endurance Brasil is focused on low cost. In order to achieve this, engines are limited to under 2.1 liter displacement, and tires are limited to Brazilian 13-inch Pirelli’s. The category allows use of imported sequential transaxles, but with a weight penalty to favor the use of national H-pattern transaxles.

Note: The cars above are a collection of those participating in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, as well as some cars that are already announced for 2020. Other cars are expected to join during the season, but these will be object of a specific post closer to the series opening.

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