The development of the GT3 category has proved a real winner with fans and designers, with top cars from the very best automotive firms fighting it out on the track.

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Silverstone first welcomed GT3 in 2006 and this year’s season is set to see the return of some of the racing world’s top performing cars.

The reason behind the FIA class was to encourage more manufacturers to become involved in motorsports, as well as maintain the interest of amateur drivers.

So what is in store for 2016’s season? Who isn’t perhaps expected to perform as well as they should? Are there any clear front runners?

Check out the first part of our comprehensive guide on who to watch in the 2016 GT3 season.

Aston Martin: V12 Vantage GT3

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Aston Martin’s 2016 made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed during the summer and is based on the V12 Vantage S road car.

The focus has been on reducing the overall weight of the car with the use of numerous lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre, magnesium, titanium and aluminium. Designers have also incorporated a new aerodynamic package, as well as a seven-speed manual transmission and a titanium exhaust system.

Drivers will be impressed by the 592 bhp produced by the 5.9-litre V12 engine. Just 100 cars will be built by Aston Martin – each selling for £250,000. It is understood all of the production run have already been snapped up.

Audi R8 LMS

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The Audi R8 LMS has a price tag of around £260,000, but comes with full FIA Homologation means it can be raced at the GT3 events.

Last year, the 2015 version picked up a number of top titles, including the Nurburgring 24 Hours and the Blancpain GT Series.

Without restrictions, the Audi R8 LMS’s 5.2 V10 is capable of offering 577 bhp and has carbon fibre-reinforced plastic body panels, giving an overall weight of 1225 kg.

The first Audi R8 LMSs are set to be delivered by the end of the month and in total 45 cars are scheduled to be produced by March next year.

It will feature a 5.2 litre V10 engine with 585 bhp, and owners will need to ensure they met the scheduled rebuild interval of 20,000 km.

Bentley GT3

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The latest version of the Bentley Continental has enjoyed a varied start to its racing career by taking the title at the recent Blancpain Sprint Series, but sometimes underperforming compared to its main rivals.

Drivers Maxi Buhk and Vincent Abril proved themselves against competition from last year’s Audi team, with the Bentley GT3 performing well at the Blancpain Sprint event.

“This is a fantastic achievement for Bentley Team HTP with the Bentley Continental GT3,” said Bentley’s director of motorsport Brian Gush.

He added: “The Blancpain Sprint Series is very competitive and there is no room for error. Maxi and Vincent with Bentley Team HTP have been the perfect team to take our race car to success.”

The Bentley, which is based on iconic Continental GT, will now race in the forthcoming GT Asia series race in Thailand.

For the 2016 season it is expected the car will remain unchanged with drivers relying on the proven V8.

McLaren 650S GT3

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Meanwhile, the McLaren 650S GT3 is also proving successful on the track, with the McLaren GT customer team Von Ryan Racing enjoying victory at the recent Blancpain Endurance event.

The win means the car is the only current GT3 model to secure two victories in recent months and makes it one of the strong contenders for the coming season.

Andrew Kirkaldy, managing director at McLaren GT, praised both the vehicle and the team: “The 650S GT3 to be the only car to have scored a double victory shows the strength of the car, and is a real credit to Von Ryan Racing and the drivers who have continued to move the performance forward all season.”

It is unlikely the 650S GT3 will have any major upgrades for 2016 as it was a newcomer to the scene and the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 coupled with a six-speed sequential gearbox has proved a winning combination.

Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3

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The 2016 AMG GT3 from Mercedes-Benz will replace the successful, but retiring SLS AMG GT3.

One of the major differences is the overall weight by increasing the carbon fibre components, which Mercedes are hoping will give it some edge on the track. It will also benefit from a 6.3 litre V8 engine and a six-speed sequential gearbox.

Designers have also taken steps to increase safety for drivers, with a tough carbon-fibre seat pan and a roll-over cage using from high-tensile steel.

Tobias Moers, managing chair of Mercedes-AMG, explained: “We are entering a hard-fought and hotly contested competitive environment with the new Mercedes-AMG GT3.

“The high technological standard and fair race rules are spurring us on to push to take pole position with our new customer racing car. You can only give credible proof of your ambition to lead if you’re beating the very best in the game.”

Of course, there are plenty more top cars competing in the 2016 GT3 season…we haven’t mentioned Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari or BMW yet….check out part two of our GT3 guide coming soon…

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