At his annual press conference during the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Founder and CEO Stephane Ratel unveiled the plans of the SRO Motorsports Group for the near future. The existing SRO Series will all continue with some minor tweaks, but several new series will be added to the existing portfolio.
Due to the ever growing success of the Blancpain GT Series, the biggest championship for GT3 cars on the motorsport planet, Stephane Ratel was happy to announce that not only had the number of entries increased in 2016, but that there had also been significant growth in the world-wide fan base.
The successful formula of ten races – five in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup and five in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – will continue in 2017, with only minor changes to the existing calendar. Zandvoort will make a welcome return, the Nürburgring round in September becomes a sprint event and the season finale in Barcelona will be a three-hour race next year.
The highlight of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series season will of course be the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which celebrates its 70th edition next year. The endurance classic is also included in the second season of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the premium global championship for GT cars. Together with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa and the Sepang 12 Hours, there will also be fourth round added to the calendar in 2017. Laguna Seca will have the honour of hosting the first Intercontinental GT Challenge round in the United States, during the month of October.
Speaking of America, ever since the SRO Motorsports Group acquired a shareholding in WC Vision, there have been significant efforts from the management and the partners to improve and streamline the Pirelli World Challenge. To reduce costs and bring the series more in line with SRO’s other GT series, the revised 2017 calendar will have ten rounds. Similar to the format of the Blancpain GT Series, those ten rounds will be split up in five Sprint events for one driver – all as a privileged partner of IndyCar – and five SprintX events, in which two drivers will share the same car. That means that drivers can aim for a title by competing in either Sprint or SprintX, but can also have a go at the overall title by competing in all ten rounds.
With the success of the Blancpain GT Series and the Pirelli World Challenge it was only logical that the SRO Motorsports Group should launch a top-notch Asian GT championship. The newly created Blancpain GT Series Asia will have six rounds in 2017, with a season finale during the Sepang 12 Hours. Competitors in the Blancpain GT Series Asia will take part in the first two hours of the race as the final round of their championship. It is SRO’s ambition to bring to Asia what has made the success of the Blancpain GT Series in Europe: a globally acclaimed Balance of Performance, high level TV production and media coverage, a strong support programme, dedicated timing services, significant prize money and high level team and driver hospitality and catering services.
All these global initiatives do not change the fact that the SRO Motorsports Group keeps a mindful watch on GT racing in Europe, effectively the roots of the company. As ever, the British GT Championship has produced some spectacular racing this season and will certainly do so next year as well. The interesting mix of GT3 and GT4 cars in races of varying formats has proven to be a successful formula, in part due to the ever-growing interest in the GT4 category.
That interest is now growing in other European countries as well, especially since more and more manufacturers are now proposing specific GT4 machinery in their catalogues. The introduction of a new BMW M4 GT4 earlier this week serves as a good example. That is why the SRO Motorsports Group will introduce a second GT4 Cup next year. The existing Competition 102 GT4 European Series will be transformed into the GT4 Northern Cup, with an almost unchanged calendar. In addition, there will be a new GT4 Southern Cup, which will also carry the prestigious name of ‘Championnat de France FFSA GT’, after reaching an agreement with the French Motorsports Federation FFSA. This series will include six events, five in France and one in Barcelona. Both GT4 Cups will avoid clashes with the Blancpain GT Series, except for the weekends when they are part of the same meeting.
Those meetings will also include several rounds of the Blancpain Sports Club, which includes the Blancpain GT Sports Club for Bronze drivers and the Blancpain Ultracar Sports Club for exclusive hypercars. The latter gets a new sibling in 2017, in the form of the GT1 Sports Club, which will showcase some of the iconic GT1 machinery that graced the SRO events during the early years of this century.
Curbstone Track Events, SRO Motorsports Group’s partner for ultimate track driving opportunities for both supercar and race car owners, will increase its number of track days in 2017. Spa-Francorchamps will have 15 event dates, Le Castellet four and Brands Hatch and Nürburgring will be added to the calendar. In cooperation with the SRO Race Centre by MMC at Le Castellet, Curbstone Azur will continue its activities in the South of France.
Stephane Ratel (Founder and CEO SRO Motorsports Group): « I am delighted to confirm that all the series organised by the SRO Motorsports Group show a clean bill of health. Not only teams and drivers want to be part of modern GT racing, but an ever increasing number of race fans thoroughly appreciate the spectacle that is on offer. As the SRO Motorsports Group, we will do our utmost best to provide them with the best GT racing in the world for years to come. »