2006 in perspective

2006 IN PERSPECTIVE SRO is pleased to provide some information on the progress being made towards the 2006 season of the FIA GT Championship. Balance of Performance System: With two races to go and seven drivers still fighting for the title,...

2006 IN PERSPECTIVE

SRO is pleased to provide some information on the progress being made towards the 2006 season of the FIA GT Championship.

Balance of Performance System:

With two races to go and seven drivers still fighting for the title, the FIA has proven that its innovative concept of balancing the performances of cars, despite their very different shapes and architecture, succeeds extremely well.

This has not been achieved without some misunderstandings and occasional controversy, but with one Aston Martin, two Ferrari, two Corvette and four Maserati victories, the concept has been proven where it counts : on the race track. It has provided the chance of victory to most of the leading teams and has made the races exciting to watch and hotly contested right down to the chequered flag.

With the sole purpose of balancing performances between GT1 cars in their optimum configuration, the balance of performance system does not seek to level 'racing' factors such as tyres, drivers and teams. This is left to the success ballast which is gained and lost according to results.

Designed solely for the GT1 category, the balance of performance system was never meant to be applied to GT2, where cars from various manufacturers are closer to their road-car origins, making them more similar in shape and performances. The close competition between Porsche and Ferrari from 2001 to 2004 proves this approach is correct.

2006 Calendar:

Released by the FIA Motorsport World Council on October 26th, the FIA GT 2006 calendar has been limited to ten events, in line with the requests of the teams. Despite a complete separation from the FIA WTCC meetings, it is very similar to the 2005 season, the only change being the replacement of Monza with Bucharest.

The support of the event promoters to have independent FIA GT meetings has been a very strong vote of confidence that we have taken the right decision to step away from the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Bucharest (23rd April); Silverstone Tourist Trophy (7th May); Brno (28th May); Oschersleben (2nd July); Proximus 24h Spa (30th July); Magny-Cours (3rd September); Imola (17th Sept); China (1st or 22nd October); Bahrain (19th November) and Dubai (26th November).

Of the above 10 events, Bucharest and China remain to be confirmed. Should one of them not be confirmed, we are considering a replacement race in Spain.

2006 Event Schedule and promotion:

At the request of the teams, SRO has won the approval of the GT commission to modify the 2006 event format to reduce the duration of the weekend, thereby saving costs. The first ninety-minute free practice session will take place on Friday afternoon, the second one on Saturday morning. Qualifying has been reduced to a single 20 minute session, which will take place on Saturday afternoon. Only one driver will qualify the car.

The race duration has been maintained at 500km / 3 hours. Technical scrutineering will be simplified and will take place in the team's garages. Controls after qualifying will be reinforced.

The week-end program will be reinforced by the newly launched FIA GT3 European Championship, which will be run independently from the FIA GT race in a 2 x 1 hour format. This exciting innovation to international GT racing is reserved for non-professional drivers who will compete in a 'Cup of Cups' formula. Already this Championship has attracted strong interest from 10 manufacturers and is likely to attract around 40 cars in its first year. GT3 teams will share garages with the GT1 and GT2 teams, in order to continue to present the impressive line of trucks and the full paddocks to which we have become accustomed with the Super Racing Weekend package.

This already impressive week-end will be reinforced by the Maserati Trofeo at five events, the Ferrari Challenge at one or two events, and the British F3 or Euro F3 on four events. Other support series will complete a powerful package. Promotion will be concentrated on the exclusive and appealing character of GT cars. Most of the meetings will be branded "Supercar 500", most likely attached to the name of a title sponsor.

Circuit promoters are gearing up to strongly promote every event. As you will read below television promotion is becoming more likely, as is the active support of major international brands. This coupled with innovative campaigns that target the owner clubs of the brands represented in GT1, GT2 and GT3 will help drive more spectators to the events. 2006 TV production and distribution: Free from the exclusive agreement with Eurosport, TV distribution has become the number one priority for 2006. An expert team has been recruited and the Championship was presented at the Sportel, Europe's number one sports rights convention. The interest shown in FIA GT by the broadcasting world was very encouraging. Experts have confirmed SRO's belief that the FIA GT Championship has a very positive future as a global sporting event.

SRO is currently in discussion with a number of major broadcasters in Europe, Asia and America to secure a mix of terrestrial and free cable exposure and, further to strong demand at Sportel, an additional strand of pay-TV channels and premium satellite platforms. A combination of live broadcast and edited highlight packages will be provided for all the major markets.

Terrestrial deals will shortly be announced in the UK and in Germany, and over the next few months SRO will announce a network of distribution designed to reach the motorsports fans as well as to lift the profile of the series to a mass audience. We are already assured of an increased audience for the 2006 season over 2005.

TV production will remain at a high level, with live signal over the weekend and onboard cameras.

Progress will be made on the quality of the edited programs, which will give visibility to more competitors. The Live broadcasting of the full qualifying and races on a Sports Channel is a priority, while Eurosport will maintain its broadcast of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, and possibly show a selected number of events.

This year's exciting season has attracted interest from a number of new or "returning" teams, led by BMS Scuderia Italia, whose return to the FIA GT with two Aston Martin DBR9 will be one of the highlights of the 2006 season. Many exciting projects focussing on Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Saleen should guarantee a grid of 18 to 20 GT1 cars. Nevertheless, most of the progress in the 2006 FIA GT grid is likely to come from a rejuvenated GT2 class, which will probably welcome five of the new Ferrari 430 GT2 cars. The decision of Porsche to limit its support, by no longer placing two factory drivers in one car, will make the category a lot more open.

The GT2 class will remain an integral part of all ten FIA GT races. The FIA GT commission has agreed to the principle of a penalisation system to balance the presence of two top professional drivers in one car. In a system inspired by that successfully tested in the French GT Championship, an average race lap time will be calculated between the five fastest GT2 drivers (pro average). Any second GT2 driver, whose average lap time is below or too close to the "pro average", will receive a weight penalty at the following event. This proposal, to be discussed at a team meeting in Dubai, does not intend to introduce a Pro-am system but aims to avoid the presence of two top factory-supported professionals on the same car. The Group 2 category will be maintained with the objective of bringing together more of the Lotus, Mosler and Vertigo cars which have greatly contributed to the diversity of the FIA GT grid this year. SRO is determined to build up the success of the FIA GT Championship, and looks forward to another fine season of competition in 2006.

-fia-

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