Nancy Knapp Schilke
The FIA GT1 series has faced many challenges over the past years, but perhaps none as difficult as today’s news. The promoter of the FIA GT1 World Championship will step aside at the end of the 2012 season; ending their partnership that began in 2006.
In Paris, France at the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile headquarters, Stephane Ratel, founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, informed the GT Commission that this was their final year, and their decision includes the FIA GT3 European Championship.
Ratel explained that the decision was based on the low grids for the FIA premier GT series, which mainly are due to “the worsening economic climate”. Of course the growing number of sports car racing series was also cited as a reason.
The top series for GT cars to be showcased is the new FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Currently the American Le Mans Series and the European Le Mans are both part of the overall program, and yet the American-based series has good GT entries, the ELMS do not. One does need to remember that not all “GT” cars are the same due to rules and regulations.
One of the newest series to be in the spotlight which could be affected the World GT1 entries appears to be the Blancpain Endurance Series, which is also promoted by the SRO. The entries continue to increase for the BES, and today ROAL Motorsport announced that they will make debut in the endurance series at the 24 Hours of Spa. Per team principal Roberto Ravaglia: "The team will face for the first time ever such a demanding race, therefore our objective will be to end the race and gain experience in this kind of competitions”. The series also includes the popular GT3 cars classification.
Not only are they leaving at year’s end but the remaining events on the 2012 calendar will be revised per the FIA Commission, who noted “their support for the promoter and the teams” currently contending for the 2012 championships. Events already canceled were the two to be held in China. Moscow is remains questionable.
Ratel’s statement did include that his company, the SRO, will hold their annual press conference on July 27th in Belgium; the weekend of the Spa 24 hour race. While they close this chapter, the SRO will announce new ideas regarding their “other GT” series’ and plans regarding British Formula International Series, and other series that they currently promote with their organizational ability. Both the British and the Belgian GT series are under the SRO umbrella as is the ADAC GT Masters.
Frenchman Stéphane Ratel founded his company in 1995 to promote and support. His idea has flourished with over the years for national and international series across the globe. Ratel understands the world of motor sports as he once was a race car driver; he also notices the decline of series that are not growing in numbers, and instead they are actually declining. Rumors started last year that the FIA World GT1 series would fold before the first race in 2012; it now seems likely that the FIA may decide to close the series; at least for now. One would think it would be beneficial for the current remaining teams.
Ratel added that he "hopes that this will not mean the end of a long and fruitful collaboration with the FIA, with various possibilities being studied at the current time.”