The announcement of the detail that will form the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games at Vallelunga later this year also gave the DSC Editor the opportunity to catch up with SRO founder Stephane Ratel to dig a little deeper around the details of the journey towards the establishment of what is planned to be a significant new addition to the annual motorsport calendar.
The Rome city centre event is a big part of the drive to boost the crowd, which is an important part of this format I guess for you and for the FIA.
“Promoting an event directly to the public has been something that’s been fairly new for SRO, tell a little bit about lessons learned and how we expect to build the crowd here.
“First of all, there are places where you can control the take-up. It’s not a completely new thing for us because we got a massive crowd here. And we grew it over time. Presales are up by 29% this year.
“So we have some experience and some success in promoting events.
“But there is a difference between this event and, for instance, Monza. We had additional numbers there this year even though it was raining a lot but we are over 20,000 real spectators. So we do have events where we have public, especially when they are close to places where you have a lot of people.
“Promoting events at circuits which are really far away is really difficult.
“But where they are close to the cities is easier for us. Vallelunga is 35 minutes from the centre of Rome. So we have taken on an agency, we are going to present the cars to the public in a very attractive way. The agency is very good, they are the ones that did the Red Bull Soapbox event in Rome and attracted a massive crowd. They definitely know what they’re doing. It’s an investment. We are investing, and the FIA is investing. This really is a joint effort to establish a huge annual event. This has to become very big.”
You’ve had a very close relationship with the FIA, for as long as I’ve known you and SRO?
“Yes, 22 years. I’m probably the longest standing permanent member of an FIA Commission.”
But – that’s been a mixed blessing at times for a long championship. It seems to be you seem to be enjoying that relationship rather more with this one. It’s a single event like Macao again – is that because there are fewer complications with that. Would that be fair?
“I would say there are never less complications with FIA. We’re small, we’re nimble. We’re ultra reactive. The FIA is a large organization with process. Everything goes through commission everything you have a legal department, a General Secretary, the President.
“At SRO you talk to me, or to nobody, you go direct.
“The FIA is a completely different organization. So the process is always complex. But I know them for a long time, I have to say that on this special event, I’m very happy now. We work on Macao. We work on the Nation’s Cup, so something full Pro and something which is more Pro-Am and non-professional racing.
“For 2020 I really have to say that the selection is great. A bit of electric, real young guy 14-16 never before with a license, the digital sport aspect, Touring Cars, and F4 too and what I said it’s true, I hope to grow it to many more categories.”
In 2020, with the number of categories that you want to add, that’s ambitious. I get the sense that you will grow it as far as you comfortably can and make a decision when the cut-off point arrives?
“It all depends on the capacity to attract the audience and the competitors in the event this year.
“If we fill all the categories, and we have a spectacular opening ceremony in Rome. That will work. People will hear about it. And will want to join.
“Then it’s about convincing others. I can’t do that on my own. But I will talk to promoters and say, why don’t you join?”
You mentioned France for 2020 which is tantalizing, particularly when you factor in your point about circuits close to large centres of population?
“We’ll hopefully tell you about that tomorrow!
“The big difference (for 2020) is that we won’t do it last minute.
“That’s why I am pushing the FIA, like Macao, I get the contract every year on the first of July, for an event in November!
“We have to continue telling the FIA and we have to tell them where we want to go and get the final decision right then. We’re doing it because to plan an event like this, with expanded categories, including rally, hill climb, dragster, everything. Now, this is more than a year to plan, to organise, and to promote.”