Last Sunday's race at Daytona, which for the first time saw cars and drivers of international auto racing's four major divisions competing in one race, initiated a year of fundamental and far-reaching change. The new year was made possible by alterations in racing rules adopted last year by the world governing body of the sport, Federation Internationale de l'Automobile. Most notable was the decision to transfer world championship points for auto manufacturers from sports racers to the Grand Touring category—a type of car which is basically a readable, passenger-carrying machine. This interests the major auto manufacturers and makes it possible for such familiar makes as Pontiac Tempests, Chevrolet Corvettes and Corvairs, etc. to compete.
Other categories of automobiles which will make headlines during the coming year are:
Grand Prix (also known as Formula I): single-seaters which race on road courses (distinct from track circuits like Indianapolis). Grand Prix racing is the only category in which drivers accumulate points for the World Drivers Championship.
Sports racers (also known as "prototypes"): two-seater road racers which must have certain qualities of a roadable car, e.g., self-starters, headlights, fenders.
Though the new FIA rule deprives these of championship status, their great popularity ensures their continued appearance in such classics as Sebring and Le Mans. Grand touring cars (popularly known as GTs): raceable but roadable coupes, sedans or convertibles, which under the new FIA rules can accumulate points toward the world manufacturers' championship. They are divided into three groups, each with separate championship standing. Group III cars include the larger Ferraris, Jaguars and, recently, Chevrolet Corvettes. Stock cars: highly modified derivations of familiar, mass-produced sedans. In America they are organized in two major groups:—the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing ( NASCAR) and the United States Auto Club (USAC)—and have separate national championship titles.
Within these major classifications are other, subsidiary categories, e.g., Formula Junior (smaller Grand Prix type cars), Formula Intercontinental (larger ones) and American single-seat track racers of the Indianapolis variety. Until 1961 Indianapolis counted toward the World Drivers Championship. Last year it did not, but Indy's prize money and prestige are such that this year it will attract not only America's top drivers but foreign drivers and manufacturers as well.