Stephane Ratel has revealed exciting plans for the growth and development of SRO Motorsport Group’s global racing activities during his annual press conference ahead of the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
There is considerable stability across the wide range of international, regional and domestic championships that are organised and promoted by SRO, while exciting new ventures will ensure that the company retains its place at the cutting edge of the motorsport industry.
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Few events can claim the same depth of history as the Total 24 Hours of Spa. First staged in 1924, it began on the tree-lined country roads between Francorchamps, Malmedy, and Stavelot at a time when the automobile industry was rapidly evolving.
That same pioneering spirit is at the heart of the GTX World Tour, a new concept that draws its inspiration from the city-to-city contests that laid the foundation stones of motorsport during the early years of the 20th century. Just as those events saw new technologies put to the test, so GTX World Tour will embrace the latest automotive developments.
Reserved for machinery that uses alternative energy, it will be split across four classes: GT-X E will cater for electric power; GT-X H competitors will use plug-in hybrid equipment; GT-X H2 will utilise hydrogen-powered cars; while a GT-X A category for autonomous vehicles will be introduced at a later stage.
The overall classification will not be determined as in a traditional race but will instead be decided by a combination of the timed competition and on energy consumption. As such, the fastest car that uses the least energy will emerge victorious.
The events will take the form of road shows that travel from city to city, with the European leg set to launch the concept in 2021. Further road shows will follow in North America (2022) and in Asia (2023) with multi-discipline competitions taking place along the way, including short-distance circuit races, rally stages and hillclimbs.
Global stability for leading GT3 championships
In 2020, GT World Challenge will form a non-clashing global 23-round calendar that contests events in Europe, Asia and America. Comprising sprint racing and, for the first time, endurance events on all three continents, GT World Challenge will offer manufacturers a unique platform on which to compete against rival brands and demonstrate the success of their customer racing programmes.
With two of these events also forming part of Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli, the total of non-clashing events rises to 26. Now firmly established as the world's only global GT3 championship, Intercontinental GT Challenge will retain a five-round calendar that encompasses marquee events in Europe, America, Asia, Australia and Africa.
There will be one major change from the 2019 schedule, with the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway joining as the U.S. event to stage an eight-hour race over the first weekend of October. This will take Intercontinental GT Challenge to the premier racing venue on the American continent, further enhancing the status of the world's only global GT3 championship.
To harmonise SRO's regional programmes, what is currently known as the Blancpain GT Series will become GT World Challenge Europe next year and will encompass endurance and sprint racing at the continent's leading venues.
The calendar will continue to be anchored by the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which retains its traditional date over the final weekend of July and will reach a significant landmark as it contests its 20th running since adopting GT rules in 2001.
GT World Challenge America will retain its present format while also adding an endurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Indianapolis 8 Hours, introducing a long-distance contest alongside the existing sprint events. There will be a similar change in Asia, with the popular GT World Challenge Asia series remaining in its present form while also adding an endurance race in Shanghai.
On the domestic level, British GT remains stable. All seven events will continue in 2020, beginning at Oulton Park over the Easter Weekend and concluding at Donington on 19-20 September. The series will also retain the mixed field of GT3 and GT4 equipment that has led to grids in excess of 40 cars during the 2019 campaign.
GT2 set to for first full season, GT1 concept launched
GT2 will take the latest step in its development over the course of 2020. First announced during last year's Total 24 Hours of Spa, the concept has taken major strides in the intervening 12 months. Porsche and Audi have already revealed their machines, both of which participated in Wednesday's Spa town parade, while the former's 911 GT2 RS Clubsport will stage a pair of one-make races this weekend in support of the 24 Hours.
Another brand will reveal its offering during the season-ending Blancpain GT Series event at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, taking the total to three ahead of the 2020 campaign. Indeed, six brands are set to have GT2 machines by the end of 2020.
The concept will also make its full debut at the Spanish venue as part of Blancpain GT Sports Club. This will mark the first time that GT2 has competed as part of a mixed grid, allowing its relative performance with GT3 equipment to be measured. In 2020 it will be fully integrated into the renamed GT Sports Club Europe, while new GT Sports Club series in Asia and America will further expand the reach of the platform.
A new initiative for 2020 will see the launch of the GT1 Sports Club project. Focussed exclusively on gentlemen drivers, it will feature exclusive high-performance machinery such as the Porsche 935, Brabham BT62, McLaren GTR and Aston Martin Valkyrie, with top-of-the-range hospitality ensuring an unparalleled competitor experience.
Two rounds will be staged in 2020, each as support races to existing events. Circuit Paul Ricard will host the first on 3-4 October, competing alongside Championnat de France FFSA GT/GT4 France. The second will take place at Kyalami (20-22 November) in support of the South African venue’s Intercontinental GT Challenge round. Should it prove successful, the calendar will expand to four races in 2021.
Continued success for multiple GT4 categories
GT4 will continue to consolidate its recent growth during the 2020 season. The list of championships promoted and organised by SRO currently includes the flagship GT4 European Series, as well as domestic categories in France, Great Britain, America and Asia. There are licensing agreements for GT4 South European Series, GT4 Scandinavia and ADAC GT4 Germany, while further franchises see the category stretch across Europe, Asia, America and the Middle East.
There will be broad stability in 2020, with the major development for the GT4 European Series seeing the championship re-join the support bill at the Total 24 Hours of Spa. There will consistency on the American continent as well, both for GT4 and the TC category. In the former, there will be eight races run using the Sprint format and a further eight using Sprint X, while the latter will see new manufacturers added next term.
Significant development planned for FIA Motorsports Games
Further plans have been revealed for the future of the FIA Motorsport Games, which is set to stage its inaugural event later this year with Rome as the host city. Competitors will run in the colours of their national flag, chasing glory in a range of classes that icnludes GT, touring car and Formula 4. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded and the most successful nation will be celebrated at the closing ceremony in Rome.
Six classes will be part of the 2019 event, with six more set to be added in time for the 2020 Games. Rallying, Formula 3, historic racing, hillclimb and autocross, and drag racing prototypes will all join the international contest for its second edition, which will see a different city and circuit take on hosting duties.
There is potential for this be further enhanced in 2021, with discussions taking place to encompass superbikes, motocross, powerboats and truck racing. This would expand the Games beyond four-wheeled motorsport and bring the number of competing categories to 16.
The breadth of the event will also increase over the coming years. Originally launched over two days as the FIA GT Nations Cup, it will grow to four days in 2019.
Total Look Rally takes competitors back to the nineties
Away from the circuit, 2020 will see the SRO Total Look Rally take automotive enthusiasts back to the nineties for a trip along the idyllic shores of the French Riviera.
This will represent the second running of the rally, which launched this year with Le Vendôme 80. Staged on 7-9 June 2019, the event took some 40 participants from Paris to the historic city of Vendôme in Loir-et-Cher, with all adopting era-appropriate vehicles and clothing.
The event will jump forward for its second outing, with Le St Tropez 90 taking competitors back to the final decade of the 20thcentury. Opening with a dinner at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, it will depart the principality and wind its way along the French Riviera to Saint-Tropez. The nineties theme will add plenty of colour to proceedings, with entrants encouraged to fully embrace the fashion of the decade.
More to come in 2019
Though this weekend will see the highlight of the 2019 season staged at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, there are still several major events to look forward to before the close of the year.
The fourth round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge will take place on 23-25 August when the Suzuka 10 Hours is staged for the second time. Though the current format is relatively new this will be the 48th edition of Japan's popular Summer Endurance Race. Indeed, some 53,000 fans were in attendance last year to see 13 different brands compete for victory.
The Blancpain GT Series season will conclude at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on 27-29 September, when the battle for this year's Endurance Cup and overall titles will be decided What's more, the weekend will see the GT2 category integrated into Blancpain GT Sports Club for the first time.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Blancpain GT World Challenge America finale will be staged in Las Vegas on 19-20 October. This will be followed by the annual SRO Awards Ceremony, as well as the 30th anniversary celebrations of World Challenge America.
Two weeks later the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games will begin (October 31 - November 3) with Rome as the host city and Vallelunga Circuit providing the racing venue. Later that month the annual FIA GT World Cup will take place at the iconic Guia Circuit in Macau. The introduction of silver-graded drivers is expected to expand the field for the marquee event, which takes place on November 16-17.
Finally, on 21-23 November, top-level sportscar racing will return to the African continent as the Kyalami 9 Hour is revived 37 years after its last running. The event will bring the curtain down on the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge campaign, completing a series of five events on as many continents.
Before any of this, however, the biggest race of the season is in prospect. The Total 24 Hours of Spa will begin its latest edition at 16.30 on Saturday afternoon, with a 72-car grid establishing a new record for the GT era and confirming the event’s status at the forefront of global motorsport.
2020 Provisional Calendars