Australian GT Championship management has announced that the final round of the 2019 Australian Endurance Championship season at Sandown Raceway in September will run with a new format.
After a review of the rounds at Phillip Island and The Bend Motorsport Park, which saw low car counts, the 180-minute race has been split into three hour-long sprints with the overall points for the GT3 and GT4 championships set by the cumulative result of the three races.
This change has been made to cut costs. It means there will no longer be mid-race refuelling and, potentially, tyre changes. It also allows single driver entries from the AMATEUR and MASTERS categories.
The finale of the Sprint Australian GT Championship in November, also held at Sandown, has been modified too, with the introduction of a ‘Sandown GT Cup’ which sees the Endurance and Sprint events at the Melbourne circuit combined.
The final Sprint round at Sandown will be the second event of the new ‘Sandown GT Cup’. It sees PRO drivers return to the Sprint format, allowing for PROs partnered with AM and MAS drivers. Competitors who take part in the September event can carry their points over to the second round of the new ‘Sandown GT Cup’ format in November.
“There had been a lot of ongoing discussions over the last few months with all the stakeholders – including CAMS and the competitors – to address entry numbers for the endurance events,” Australian GT Category Manager David Vervaart explained. “The endurance races provide a big challenge logistically, and cost-wise they also require more crew, refuelling rigs and obviously two drivers.
“Round#5 will now be three one-hour legs, which can allow competitors that don’t have refuelling facilities to compete, whilst also allowing single driver [AMATEUR or MASTERS ranked] entries to contest the race alone, something which has already proven popular amongst Competitors that have been sitting on the sidelines during the endurance rounds.
“Bang for your buck, the Sandown GT Cup presents fantastic value and competitors that elect to contest both Sandown events will receive a 25% deduction in their entry fees if paid before 22 August. Essentially, you pay 75% of the two-event fee and get more than seven and a half hours track time, five of that is racing alone.”
Points for the ‘Sandown GT Cup’ will be awarded to their respective classes, GT3 Championship, GT4 Championship, AGT Trophy Series and Trofeo Challenge entrants, whilst MARC Cars and Production Sports Cars that are capable of matching the minimum qualifying time are also eligible.
“The aim is to build excitement in the event and around GT racing in general, this is bang for your buck racing at its best,” Vervaart continued.
“The racing for outright honours has been incredible at both Phillip Island and The Bend, amongst the best we’ve ever seen, but that’s not enough, we want more Competitors to be able to participate and what better place to get this new format going than Sandown.”
It remains to be seen if these changes will turn out to be enough to attract healthy grids for the five hours of racing at Sandown. Speedcafe.com’s recent story on the current health of the Australian GT Championship, which includes details of recent meetings between “concerned” team owners and the AGT management, is well worth a look for further background reading.
Photo courtesy of Australian GT