Stephane Ratel was the keynote speaker at the Bentley Motorsport end of season party in Crewe and the SRO founder and head had plenty of interest to say on the present and future of the GT racing scene in a fascinating presentation.
A review of the journey from one make Venturi racing in the early 1990s through to the present day GT3 (and GT4) scene was the order of the day but in amongst the reminders of GT racing’s recent past were a few snippets of what might be to come, and some interesting analysis of where things stand today.
SRO’s analysis counts no fewer than 333 GT3 spec cars racing around the world in 2015 (not including we believe the one make Audi R8 LMS Cup in Asia)
That shows the Ferrari 458 as the most raced GT3 spec car of the season with no fewer than 60 active cars, Ferrari one of an astonishing 18 active marques.
More though are on the horizon if SRO have their way with Honda (NSX), Maserati and an official effort from Jaguar on the current wish list (though SRO seem as perplexed and frustrated as the rest of us at the continued absence from competition from Jaguar!)
And one potential route forward for both potential newcomers and newer models from existing GT3 contenders comes with the aspiration from SRO that hybrid engines/ powertrains feature in near future regulations.
As for the global aspirations of SRO, the plans for an Intercontinental GT Challenge are well known with the Spa 24 Hours, Sepang 12 Hours, Bathurst 12 Hours and the new event at CoTA, a three-hour endurance race on the bill of the Pirelli World Challenge event in March combining to give a four-race series aimed at GT3 manufacturers, though the Bathurst race’s Pro-Am format continues to cause some issues.
Stephane Ratel also added that a potential expansion of the Challenge to Africa was under investigation with his organisation evaluating the potential for an organisational and promotional input into existing events in South Africa.
Ratel suggested that he anticipated solid growth in the 2016 Blancpain Sprint Series in 2016, “24-26 cars I think will not be too much to expect, it simply means perhaps some growth and moving some 8-10 cars from the Endurance grid to the Sprint Series. I’m very confident we can achieve it.”
Beyond that there was plenty of encouragement for the further development of GT4 as the British GT Championship in particular, described by Ratel as “probably the best national GT Championship in the world just now” continues to see good growth in the junior category.”