The Australian GT Championship will expand to run separate sprint and endurance series in 2016, mirroring the format of Europe’s successful Blancpain Series.
AGTC owner Tony Quinn says that the growth of the GT3 class in Australia has triggered his desire to increase the calendar beyond its current eight rounds.
Thirty-two competitors have already registered for the full 2015 season, with 42 entered for the opening round at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide, which features a grid limit of 34.
Early plans for 2016 see Quinn promising an expanded schedule to accommodate the flood of interest in the class.
“Next year we’ll run a sprint series and an endurance series, which will be more in-line with the European Blancpain Series,” Quinn told Speedcafe.com.
“There will be one champion across the two of them, but they’ll operate as separate series.
“A team could opt to do the sprint series only, which will be with the V8s predominately, and the endurance series will run separate to the V8s.”
Quinn has touted the inclusion of the Bathurst 12 Hour in the endurance series, as well as more races overseas, either through a second visit to New Zealand, or as far afield as Malaysia.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but there may be more offshore races or we’ll do more in Australia,” he said.
“It’s early days, but the endurance component could have the Bathurst 12 Hour, the Phillip Island 101, a six or four hour race somewhere and then finish with the Highlands 101.”
Quinn confirmed that recent discussions with V8 Supercars included the possibility of an ownership change, which the petfood magnate has since categorically ruled out.
While endurance rounds will continue to be held separately due to scheduling restrictions at V8 Supercars meetings, Quinn says he’s fully supportive of the touring car category and its management.
“I think V8s have enough of their own problems without trying to tackle more,” he said of the sale discussions with V8 Supercars.
“We talked about it, but I really think they need to stick to their knitting and concentrate on what they’ve got.
“I will fully support them because there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s no room for anything other than one circus around Australia.
“The Kiwis have tried different things, Ross Palmer (with Procar during the early 2000s) has tried different things, but I’m happy to support the V8s ongoing.”
Although the formats of the endurance series races will vary in 2016, Quinn expects that the current 40 minute race distances will continue for the sprint events.
In a bid to protect the bulk of the car owners, both series will be designed to ensure that amateur drivers are competitive.
“I think it’s very important in GT to understand that most of the vehicles that race are owned by guys that can afford to run them and they need a fair crack of the whip,” he said.
“The current model that we have is good, where the sprint series is open to pros or pro-am combinations, with a pitlane time penalty.
“I think what we’ve got in the sprint series works perfectly. It might need a bit of a tweak for the endurance model, but I don’t think it’ll be too difficult.”
After capping its eligibility to year-old GT3 machinery in recent years, the AGTC has opened its rules to allow 2014 and 2015 spec cars this season.
Quinn will be among those with brand new equipment on the grid in Adelaide, debuting McLaren’s 650S.