Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, has revealed plans for the on-going development of SRO Motorsport Group’s global activities during his annual press conference ahead of the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which this year celebrates its 70th edition.
SRO recently added the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) to its portfolio of international series, reinforcing the company’s significant global footprint in GT racing with a further 26 rounds over 11 events in North America.
This compliments an existing 41 rounds over 28 events in Europe, and a further 11 rounds over 10 events in Asia and Australia. In total, SRO’s international GT racing programme will visit 20 countries on five continents, featuring 78 rounds, 49 events, and 48 test days.
An average of 47 cars are present at each event, comprising 22 GT3 machines, 27 GT4s, and 44 from the TC category. The current SRO platform includes 67 sprint races, ranging in length from 25 minutes to one hour. There are a pair of two-hour events, four endurance races of three hours, one six-hour contest, one eight-hour, one 10-hour, one 12-hour and the marquee Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Alongside the series and events directly promoted by or in close partnership with SRO, the organisation’s network of GT4 and Balance of Performance franchise agreements cover an additional eight series and 69 events.
Securing a majority shareholding in WC Vision LLC has allowed SRO to acquire access to the valuable “World Challenge” registered trademark, which will be used to spearhead an ambitious programme of international and national restructuring.
The developments already set firmly in place for the 2019 season and beyond include the introduction of the new GT2 category. This will cater for powerful supercars developed in the spirit of the current GT4 regulations and with the long-term aim of reinforcing GT3 sprint grids in Britain, Europe, America and Asia.
On the world stage, the Kyalami 9 Hours will take the Intercontinental GT Challenge to South Africa as the fifth round of an expanded calendar. This will secure SRO’s place on the African continent and confirm its status as a truly global promoter.
The GT4 European Series will expand to seven rounds in 2019 and include a number of new three-hour endurance events, while standalone GT4 series will be launched in Germany, following a franchise agreement with ADAC, and in Asia.
In the United States, the Pirelli World Challenge will be restructured to feature seven GT rounds, all using the two-driver Sprint X format and running at the country’s premier road racing circuits.
GTS will comprise eight rounds, retaining the DNA of the PWC with a single-driver format. Competitors ranging from professionals to amateurs will run at an impressive set of tracks, including spots on the IndyCar Series support bill at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
A seven-round TC calendar will allow this growing category to fully develop its own identity, while two new GT4 series – GT4 America East and GT4 America West – will adopt a two-driver format for Silver and Bronze-graded competitors.
Blancpain GT Series Asia will reinforce its position as the first truly pan-Asian series by adding an event in Korea to its existing six-round calendar, while the presence of one Asian driver per car will become mandatory from 2019 onwards.
In Europe, the formats that have made the Blancpain GT Series a globally recognised success will be preserved. Sprint and Endurance will remain at five events each, with the only noticeable change seeing the Nürburgring reverting to its status as the season-ending Endurance race, a position it previously held between 2013 and 2016.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which has acted as the closing Endurance contest since 2017, will become a Sprint event next year, while Red Bull Ring will also join the shorter-format category.
In response to the requirements of global GT manufacturers for an enhanced international commercial and marketing platform, the new “World Challenge” will complement the existing Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2019.
While the “Intercontinental Challenge” is aimed primarily at manufacturer-supported competition, the “World Challenge” will offer GT3 manufacturers the opportunity to compete in global customer racing and measure the success of their worldwide sporting achievements.
Inspired by the concept successfully pioneered in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, where manufacturers compete through local teams, they will now be able to collect points for the “World Challenge” through their GT3 drivers, ranging from Platinum to Bronze, across the Blancpain GT Series in Europe and Asia, as well as the Pirelli World Challenge in America.
Full details of this new global competition will be revealed during the closing round of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday 28 September.
Motorsports Group, the architect of modern GT racing
Over the past 25 years SRO has specialised in the promotion and organisation of motorsport series around the world.
Inextricably linked with GT racing’s revival in the early 1990s, currently SRO predominantly promotes series that adhere to the successful GT3 and GT4 regulations. Indeed, these rules – a common framework allowing manufacturers, teams and drivers to compete equally with one another – have helped to establish SRO as the global leader in customer GT racing.
Today, SRO’s influence and organisation can be seen around the world. Its flagship continues to be the European-based Blancpain GT Series, which features both the Sprint and Endurance Cups. Its annual highlight remains the iconic Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The same Pirelli tyres and Balance of Performance parameters governing the Blancpain GT Series have also been adopted in the United States by the Pirelli World Challenge (of which SRO is a shareholder), while SRO expanded its successful platform East in 2017 by establishing Blancpain GT Series Asia.
In addition, the world’s best GT races from all four corners of the globe are brought together under the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The 2018 edition features four events – the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, and the California 8 Hours of Laguna Seca.
SRO is also strong domestically. The multi-class British GT Championship, over which it has presided since 2005, pairs GT3 with GT4 machinery. The FFSA French GT Championship, for many years run by SRO, returned to the fold in 2017, and was added to the existing GT4 European Series. GT4’s incredibly successful first season in France provided SRO with the blueprint and confidence to expand the class’ European footprint further. Three new regional series to support the flourishing GT4 class have been added in 2018: GT4 Nordic European Cup, GT4 Central European Cup and GT4 Belgium Cup.
In addition, SRO’s world-renowned Balance of Performance regulations are licensed by other series running GT3 and/or GT4 machinery, such as Super GT in Japan, the Australian GT Championship, the ADAC GT Masters and the VLN in Germany and the China GT Championship. SRO also works closely with the FIA when organising its prestigious Macau FIA GT World Cup race.
While Macau caters solely for professional teams and drivers, SRO also understands the important role amateurs play in GT racing’s global success and sustainability. That is why it operates the SRO Race Centre by MMC – a high-level technical centre at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France – and Curbstone Track Events, which provide the ultimate track driving opportunities on world-renowned circuits. Many of its clients have subsequently graduated to the Blancpain GT Sports Club, the first competitive stepping stone towards gaining the confidence and racecraft required to compete in a Pro/Am environment.
SRO Motorsports Group is chaired by company founder and CEO Stephane Ratel and has offices in London, Paris, Liège and Hong Kong. Its dedicated team of full-time and freelance staff work with the support of numerous national sporting authorities and sanctioning bodies to offer teams, drivers and manufacturers the world’s best professional, Pro/Am and amateur GT racing platforms.