Ratel unveils plans for future of GT racing

Saturday 28th July, 2012 - 12:04pm


Stephane Ratel

Stephane Ratel

GT racing czar Stephane Ratel has revealed an ambitious plan to hold a reborn version of the FIA GT1 World Championship next season.

Speaking at the Stephane Ratel Organisation’s traditional press conference at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Ratel outlined his desire to establish a new ‘GT Sprint Series’ to run alongside the existing Blancpain Endurance Series for 2013.

The news follows an announcement earlier this month confirming that the SRO will cease promoting both the GT1 World Championship and the GT3 European Series at the end of this season.

The new Sprint Series will run to the same GT3 rules as the BES, and carry over the current World Championship’s twin 60 minute race format.

Ratel has proposed a seven-round calendar for the new series, consisting of races in 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 events will be spread such that they are at least two weeks apart from BES rounds, encouraging teams to compete in both with the same equipment.

“The championship needs to be fitted to the existing teams and driver budgets,” said Ratel of the Sprint Series.

“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 calendar that allows a minimum of two weeks between all the races.

“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 2013 BES and the Sprint Series are both expected to be conducted using 2012 specification GT3 vehicles, with no upgrade packages (other than that for the newest GT3 contender, the Nissan GTR) to be homologated.

It is hoped that manufacturers’ and teams’ titles will be awarded based on the results of both series. Ratel’s vision of teams having fluid driver line-ups across the year means that a drivers’ title is unlikely to be awarded.

Ratel hopes to have a full list of teams committed to the Sprint Series by September in order to lock-in the series at an FIA World Council meeting the following month.

The SRO press conference also confirmed much rumoured changes to the remainder of the 2012 FIA GT1 calendar. With two planned rounds in China and one in South Korea cancelled, the championship will now make a second visit to the Czech Republic’s Slovakia Ring in August (17-18), followed by a rescheduled Moscow event (September 1-2), a double-header with the BES at the Nurburgring (September 22-23) and the unchanged season finale at India’s Buddh International Circuit (December 1-2).

Meanwhile, the 24 Hours of Spa, which doubles as Round 4 of the 2012 BES, is scheduled to kick-off later today.

The Vita4One BMW Z4 of Frank Kechele/Mathias Lauda/Greg Franch emerged fastest in regular qualifying, and will start from pole after bad weather forced the abandonment of the Top 20 Shootout.

The #3 Marc VDS BMW of Maxime Martin/Bas Leinders/Markus Palttala will start second, with the #88 Von Ryan Racing McLaren and #1 WRT Audi making up the second row.

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