SPO: Racing Ladders Explained


For once, this edition of SPO will not include any ranting (I know, right!?). With SRO announcing the revival of the GT2 category (which seemed really odd to me, but we’ll save that for another day), I think that a conversation about racing ladders is required.

Now, I’ll get this out of the way early; this is based on driver development, and not necessarily about money and age. We all know that there are drivers out there that pay their way into higher levels of racing where they really shouldn’t belong at that stage in their career. Age, again leads to some other peculiarities. If somebody starts out racing in their kiddie years or when they grow up and come into money in their 30’s, it will be in a different spot. You don’t see a 30yo starting out in karts (they should, but that’s not what happens), nor do you see a teenager starting in WEC.

Ok so here we go! There are 4 major disciplines in road racing: Touring, Openwheel, GT/Sportscar and Prototypes. Touring cars are small cars, typically front-wheel drive and typically hatchbacks. Openwheel cars are single seater cars with exposed wheels (karting can be grouped in with these types of cars). GT cars (and sportscars depending on who you ask) are higher power and higher prestige cars. Finally, prototypes are cars built similarly to openwheel cars, but sport a fully body without exposed wheels.

The typical ladders vary in each of the major regions (North America, South America, Europe and Australasia), so I will cover each of the 4 disciplines and break it down into each of the 3 regions. From top to bottom, I will list the major series from lower rungs on the ladder to the highest. Also a disclaimer, and world championships I will group in Europe since the FIA typically sanctions them.

Touring Cars:


North America:

  • Karting
  • PWC TCB / Nissan Micra Cup
  • PWC TCA / Mazda MX-5 Cup / CTCC TC

South America:

  • Karting
  • Various Cup series, like Volkswagen Racing Cup
  • Regional TCR
  • Brazilian Stock Car Championship (or what I like to call, baby DTM)


  • Karting
  • Various Cup series, like Toyota [Yaris] Cup
  • Australian Utes
  • Australian Dunlop Super Series / Regional TCR
  • Australian Supercars


  • Karting
  • Various Cup series like Clio Cup
  • Regional TCR
  • British Touring Car Championship / Scandinavian Touring Car Championship
  • World TCR Championship
  • DTM *I place this higher than WTCR because the cars are faster and has historically been more prestigious*

GT/Sports Cars:


North America:

  • Karting
  • (usually a lower tier touring car championship, like Mazda Cup)
  • Regional GT4 / CTCC GT
    • TransAM TC3
  • Porsche Cup / PWC GTS / IMSA GS
    • TransAM TC2
    • TransAM TC1

South America:

  • Karting
  • (usually lower tier touring car championship like Volkswagen Cup)
  • Regional GT4
  • Porsche Cup Brazil
  • (Usually then go to other places around the globe to race higher levels)


  • Karting
  • (usually a lower level touring car championship like the Toyota [Yaris] Cup)
  • Australian GT Series GT4
    • Super Taikyu
    • Asian Le Mans Series GT
  • Australian GT Series GT3 / Super GT GT300
    • Blancpain Asia
  • SuperGT GT500


  • Karting
  • (Usually a lower level touring car championship like Clio Cup)
  • VLN (lower classes)
  • Regional GT4
  • Porsche Cup
  • British GT / VLN SP1 / SPX
    • Porsche Supercup
  • Blancpain GT / WEC GTE AM
  • WEC GTE Pro



North America:

  • Karting
  • Lower Tier open wheel, like F1600
  • IMSA Protoype Challenge MPI
    • Radical Cup
  • IMSA Prototype LMP3
  • IMSA Prototype (LMP2)
  • IMSA Prototype DPi

South America:

  • Karting
  • Lower tier open wheel, like F1600
  • (usually then go to other places around the globe to race higher levels)


  • Karting
  • Lower tier open wheel, like F1600
  • Australian LMP3 Cup (coming 2019)
  • Asian Le Mans Series LMP3
  • Asian Le Mans Series LMP2


  • Karting
  • Lower tier open wheel like F1600
  • Le Mans Series LMP3 Cup / European Le Mans Series LMP3
  • European Le Mans Series LMP2
  • WEC LMP2
  • WEC LMP1

Finally we get to Open wheel racing. This one will be a little different, because there are typically two sub-streams of open wheel racing. One that ends at F1 and the other that ends at Indycar. I will, for all, regions split it by putting the series bound to Indycar in italics and everything else I will have in regular font.

Open Wheel:


North America:

  • Karting
    • Formula Vee
  • Formula 1600
  • Formula 2000
  • Formula 4
  • Formula 3 Americas
    • (at this point drivers bound to the F1 route would have moved to Europe)
  • Star Mazda
  • Indy Lights / Formula Atlantic
  • Indycar

South America:

  • Karting
    • Formula Ford
  • Formula 1600
  • Formula Renault 2.0
  • Super Formula Brazil
  • (Usually then go USA for Indy or Europe for Formula 1)


  • Karting
  • Formula 1600
  • Formula 2000 / Formula Gulf
  • Japanese F3 / Australian F3
    • Usually go to either USA to pursue Indycar or Europe to pursue F1
  • Japanese Super Formula
  • Usually go to Europe to pursue F1


  • Karting
  • Formula Ford
  • Formula Renault 2.0
  • National F3
  • FIA F3
    • Formula V8 3.5L (formerly known as World Series by Renault)
  • F2
    • Those who cannot make it to F1 by this point usually then go to USA for Indycar
  • F1


There you have it! The simplified version of the road racing ladder! I’m sure I’ve missed some series along the way, but these are the major championships.

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