SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel has unveiled detailed plans for the future of GT racing during his press conference at the season-closing Blancpain GT Series event at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The headline news concerns the sprint-format championships currently known as the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, Blancpain GT Series Asia and Pirelli World Challenge GT. From 2019 onwards this trio will spearhead a new global initiative: the Blancpain GT World Challenge.
This exciting international endeavour will present GT3 manufacturers, partners and teams with the chance to compete in worldwide customer racing and measure the success of their achievements on a truly global scale.
Each series will retain its present status as an individual championship and will be known as Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia and Blancpain GT World Challenge America.
Drawing inspiration from the concept successfully pioneered in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, where manufacturers compete through local teams, each of the 12 current GT3 manufacturers will be able to establish a line-up of 12 drivers who will score points for their brand in the overall Blancpain GT World Challenge.
They will be split across the three continental sprint series, with four competing in the World Challenge Europe, four in the World Challenge America and four in the World Challenge Asia.
To fully integrate all classes of driver, each group must include a star (classified as Platinum); a good professional (classified Gold); an up-and-coming driver or a very experienced non-professional (classified Silver); and a Gentleman driver or former star (classified Bronze).
With major manufacturers striving to demonstrate their excellence in the competitive arena of international customer racing, the new Blancpain GT World Challenge will take on-track competition to a new level in 2019 and beyond.
More action still to come in 2018
These plans offer great promise for the future and will continue to develop over the coming months. But, while this weekend’s event at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya marks the end of the Blancpain GT Series season, three significant dates remain on the SRO Motorsports Group calendar for 2018.
On 12-14 October the GT4 Sprint Cup Final will take place at Hockenheim in the context of the final round of the DTM, while on 26-28 October the Intercontinental GT Challenge will conclude its successful second season with the California 8 Hours. Finally, on 30 November-1 December, the keenly-anticipated FIA GT Nations Cup and GT4 International Cup will close the season as part of the inaugural Bahrain GT Festival.
Attention will then fully shift to a busy 2019. The calendar will once again be headlined by the manufacturer-focussed Intercontinental GT Challenge, which will expand to five events on as many continents next year. The schedule unveiled at the Total 24 Hours of Spa remains unchanged except for a small adjustment to California 8 Hours, which will now take place on March 30-31.
Europe: Consistency for successful GT3 and GT4 series
In Europe, SRO will maintain its significant presence at the continent’s premier circuits. The 2019 Blancpain GT Series calendar remains unchanged from the version presented at this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, consisting of five Endurance Cup races and five Sprint Cup events.
As with the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which scores points towards the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the Blancpain GT Series, the Sprint Cup will count towards both the Blancpain GT Series and the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.
Entry to the Pro class of the Endurance Cup, including the blue riband Total 24 Hours of Spa, will be limited to manufacturers that compete either in the full Intercontinental GT Challenge, the full Blancpain GT Series, or the full Blancpain GT World Challenge.
Following discussions with the paddock, improvements have been made to enhance the sporting aspect of the series. A ban on private testing will be implemented from the start until the end of the season. Five official in-season tests will take place as part of Blancpain GT Series events, including the traditional Total 24 Hours of Spa test day.
At the Total 24 Hours of Spa itself, the five-minute technical pit stop will now be permitted at any time during the race. The need for a “wave-by