Roland’s View: Now this really is a smart calendar
By Roland Dane
Wednesday 22nd November, 2023 - 6:00am
As I’ve pointed out before, it isn’t until Supercars has finalised, and announced, its calendar that other categories can do the same. Hence there is a burden of responsibility on Supercars regarding timing, a responsibility that they have shirked both last year and this.
Despite various series previously announcing dates for 2024, in the wake of the tardy Supercar calendar announcement there have been some changes forced upon some other categories.
Through all of this though, one of the most sensible and well thought through schedules has emerged. Namely, the 2024 calendar for GT World Challenge Australia.
This is on the back of the dissolution of the seemingly awkward partnership between ARG and SRO as category managers for the last three years. SRO has set up an Australian office to become sole custodians of the local GT Championship and the immediate result has been two crucial good news stories.
Firstly, the emergence of a single GT4 Championship here, rather than the potentially messy situation that was developing until recently with two separate organisations planning 2024 series for GT4 cars.
ARG and Motorsport Australia had allowed a vacuum to develop whereby GT4 car owners and competitors hadn’t been given a clear picture of when and where they could race their cars next year. Therefore, they’d gone off and sought pastures anew to guarantee themselves a place to race.
In recent days, with new management at Motorsport Australia plus ARG stepping back from the scene, the various relevant parties have got together, to their credit, and ensured that there’s a single major GT4 contest here in 2024, the Monochrome GT4 Australia Series.
GT4 can now continue to grow and prosper with standalone races away from GT3 in the same way as it has in much of Europe and also in the US, whilst under the umbrella of the well-proven SRO Balance of Performance.
For me, the only shame is that GT4 hasn’t yet been adopted as the lead category in the Bathurst 6 Hour. I’d adopt it as such, and then cap the GT4 class at 20 or so cars in order to ensure that all the other classes still get plenty of oxygen. Class X cars are a dead end in reality, and GT4 should replace them, but without destroying the ecosystem beneath.
Secondly, the other big win to flow from the SRO control of GTWC Australia, is a really sensible 2024 calendar for GT3 competitors.
The Bathurst 12 Hour sits outside the regular Sprint Cup, so there’s no pressure to take part for those who don’t want to find that budget.
The rest of the schedule is pretty well spaced and, apart from the Bathurst International in November, consists of events at permanent circuits without having to play second fiddle (or worse) to Supercars by being a part of one, or more, of their weekends.
Pleasingly for fans, GTWC Australia will visit three circuits that Supercars aren’t going near next year, namely Phillip Island, The Bend, and Queensland Raceway.
That makes so much sense for GTs. Supercars are creating a vacuum by denying fans events at The Bend and QR, in particular, and SRO have jumped into that space. Well done them.
For me, staying away from the likes of Adelaide is smart. GT3 cars aren’t really designed for street circuits, and they regularly cost a fortune to repair after the inevitable contact with walls.
Those people who profit from such damage might not agree with me, and some competitors have been seduced by the undoubted size of the Supercars show at the Victoria Park venue, that is until they hit the fence!
But, with a much improved television deal promised to the GT field for 2024, it makes sense to be the big fish at the SpeedSeries events, often at tracks that Supercars don’t visit, and build up a real, separate, identity.
Running on different weekends also creates more opportunities for Supercars drivers to compete as co-drivers in GTWC Australia and that’ll be popular with fans as well as attracting more eyeballs to the broadcast.
There’s one potential bear trap waiting for GTWCA however, if SRO Australia aren’t smart.
That’s the apparent fixation of some elements with the broader SRO organisation with making the series into a predominantly PRO (professional drivers) one, rather than a PRO-AM one.
That would be a disaster in Australia. It might work in Europe for example, in a market of 350 million people. It won’t work here.
The AM (amateur) drivers must be given primary consideration at all times. Without them, there is no series in this country. Fail to nurture them at your peril. They own the cars, after all!
The timing is right for the GT World Challenge Australia to take a big step forward in 2024 on the back of an excellent calendar and the chance to fill at least a part of the vacuum being created by Supercars.
Hopefully, Motorsport Australia see the opportunity to make GTWCA the lead category at all the SpeedSeries events where they compete in 2024.
In the meantime, hats off to Ben McMellan and the team at SRO for finally sorting out a decent calendar for GTs here. I really hope they’re rewarded with a great grid come Phillip Island in April.