Friday 27th July – (Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium) – Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of the SRO Motorsports Group, today outlined a vision for a new GT world series in 2013 at his traditional media briefing at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The series would bring together manufacturers, teams and drivers from a new GT sprint series and the hugely successful Blancpain Endurance Series.
Ratel said that a “rapidly degrading economic environment” made it impossible to fulfil the financial and regulatory obligations of an official FIA World Championship in 2013.
“We have proved in the last three years that a professional racing series could be promoted with GT cars in a sprint format,” he said.
“It has not been an easy journey but over the last three seasons we have initiated a shift away from the traditional amateur racing format to build a professional business model where revenues from sponsors, event promoters and broadcasters could be distributed to the teams.
“Unfortunately in a house that was constantly on fire, we had not been able to distribute evenly as we had to help the teams more in need but in a more stable environment we will be able to establish a professional partnership with the teams.
“There were several other commercial and sporting factors which have made our task more difficult. It has been a harsh lesson and it is time to turn the page.
“I want to say very publicly thanks to the FIA and to FIA President Jean Todt for all his assistance over the past few seasons and particularly this year to enable the world championship to continue.
“We will no longer promote the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship but we are fully committed to ending the 2012 season in style and will continue to work towards a professional, international GT sprint series in 2013.”
2012 end of season FIA Championships calendars announced
Meanwhile, revised calendars for the existing for the remainder of the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship were also revealed.
“We want to conclude the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship and GT3 European Championship season in a professional manner respecting our commitment to teams, drivers, manufacturers, promoters, broadcasters and the FIA.”
As part of the season’s climax, the GT1 and GT3 grids will be merged at two of the three final European rounds in Russia and Nurburgring.
The two events originally planned for China will be replaced by European rounds, while the lack of transport constraints has allowed for a more favourable date in Moscow, avoiding potential weather issues.
The dates are: 17-19 August: Slovakia, Slovakia Ring; 1-2 September: Russia, Moscow (with GT3); 21-23 September: Germany, Nurburgring (with GT3); 30 November-1 December: India, New Delhi.
GT Sprint Series concept
The new GT Sprint Series concept has been inspired by Ratel’s experience of running and supporting teams as a championship promoter. It will be linked to the Blancpain Endurance Series to provide cost benefits for teams.
“The championship needs to be fitted to the existing teams and driver budgets. We need teams to be able to amortise the fixed costs over two series and we need to reduce the number of events per series and we have to arrange a calendarthat allows a minimum of two weeks between all the races,” he said.
“If you have two weeks in between, the same team with the same cars, the same truck and equipment can run two series in parallel.”
The proposal is for the calendar to be reduced from 10 to seven races, which combined with the amortisation over two series, will amount to about a 40% cost saving.
In order to secure seven events in time for the October presentation of the professional sprint series calendar to the FIA, SRO is working on nine potential events – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina), France (Nogaro), Belgium (Zolder), Spain (Navarra), Zandvoort (Netherlands), Slovakia (Slovakia Ring), Russia (Moscow Raceway), Portugal (Algarve) and India (New Delhi). The existing GT sprint format will remain.
Blancpain Endurance Series and Total 24 Hours of Spa
The Blancpain Endurance Series has been a resounding success in only its second year. In 2012, there have been 50 full season entries, almost 60 entries at Monza and Paul Ricard in addition to the 78-car entries and 67 cars and 235 drivers from 12 brands for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
“To have the size of grids we have to date is a great achievement for a single class GT3 category and proof that we have devised a hugely appealing format for our valued partners, manufacturers, teams and drivers.
“The Total 24 Hours of Spa is more than ever the crown jewel of GT endurance around the world. We expect the success of the series to grow further next year.
“Sporting-wise, it’s everybody against Audi at Spa. I think it is great for the event that Audi is raising the flag so high and I hope that we will have more direct manufacturer involvement because this event really deserves it.
“For all the customer teams that are here against Audi this year, it is a great challenge. The greater the challenge, the better the reward if you make it.”
For 2013, the Blancpain Endurance Series, will return to five events at Monza, Silverstone, Paul Ricard, Nurburgring and the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
“Taking into account the current European economic situation, we need to be realistic about next year and return to five events including the Total 24 Hours of Spa. One of these five events could be a 1,000km race.”
Another essential cost-saving measure has been the announcement that no upgrade will be allowed in the SRO-promoted GT series. All cars will remain in their 2012 definition with one possible exception for the Nissan GT-R GT3 which may require an upgrade.
More teams should be encouraged to join the Gentlemen Trophy class where rules will be amended to accept the latest cars and to strictly limit the class to silver (over 40 years old) or bronze driver.
Pirelli will also be the single tyre supplier for the series in 2013 in a partnership that will also include the new GT Sprint Series.
Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director, joining Ratel on stage, said: “We came back into GT racing again this season with GT1 and GT3 as part of our plan to have a bigger presence in GT racing.
“We have been very impressed with the Blancpain Endurance Series. You can see here at Spa how strong it has become, so when Stephane was looking for a tyre supplier for the GT championships going forward, we put together a proposal where we could help in promoting the championship.
“We are looking forward to it and we can’t wait to get going. We believe Stephane has put together a winning package for the GT category.”
Ratel also revealed that SRO, the promoter of the British Formula Three International Series since 2004, has proposed to the FIA to bring British F3 and a new planned FIA F3 European Championship into one series.
A 10-race calendar has been proposed which will include a return visit to the historic Pau Grand Prix in France, races on the grand prix circuits of Italy, Belgium, Great Britain and Germany alongside the Blancpain Endurance Series, and also a summer Blancpain event at Paul Ricard in the south of France – next to three additional UK venues.
Live television production will be a feature of Formula Three in 2013.
Meanwhile, the successful British GT Championship will continue with the proven format which features a seven-race calendar at Oulton Park, Rockingham, the traditional away race at the Nurburgring 24 Hour, Snetterton, Donington Park, Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
Source: SRO Motorsports Group