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Stephane Ratel On The FIA GT Series

The DSC Editor caught up with Stephane Ratel at the NEC and there was (almost) only one subject up for discussion – The prospects for SRO’s new, revised, GT Sprint Series, now re-dubbed FIA GT Series.

What we already know, and indeed wrote about last week, is that it is a ‘back to basics’ approach after a challenging and no doubt exhausting few years as SRO’s team battled to achieve a breakthrough with the FIA GT1 World Championship.

But the smiles were back and even a joke or two from Stephane-

“Yes we’re back, back where we began with the FIA GT Series – and at least we already had the logo!”

It’s good to see him back to form after a couple of years where, to be frank, it was tricky to get anything other than a rather defensive answer from the man who, whatever anyone else says, is responsible for the current widespread health of GT racing in Europe, and arguably beyond.

“It has been tough over the past few years but it was always the dream when I started to run a World Championship – We got there but really now it is time to step back and recognise that it is not just tough to get the backing, the sponsorship and the deals you need to do this well, at the moment it’s virtually impossible.

“So we are looking to make sure that we fulfil our potential this season and to help our teams too, that’s why we are consolidating the new series and its why we have reduced the number of rounds from 10 last year in the GT1 World Championship to 6 in the new Series and from 6 in last year’s Blancpain Endurance Series to 5 this season.”

The Press release announcing the new Series lists 11 potential 2 car teams from a target of 12, again though there’s a change in tone from Stephane, from the unremitting (and at times unrealistic) optimism of the recent past to hard nosed realism.

“We have 11 teams on paper, but realistically we know that the reality will turn out to be 1 or 2 fewer than that from this list.  But now the plan is out there and other teams can see what is on offer.  I expect us to have what we are looking for.”

Provisional Entry List

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT  - Audi R8 LMS Ultra
Vita4One Racing – BMW Z4 GT3
Reiter Engineering  - Lamborghini Gallardo
Sunred  - (“most likely with Audi”)
Phoenix Racing  - Audi R8 LMS Ultra
HDC – Mercedes Benz SLS AMG
Prospeed Competition – Porsche 997 GT3R
Novadriver - Audi R8 LMS Ultra
Rodrive Competições – Ford GTs (in partnership with Lambda Performance)
Sebastien Loeb Racing – Mclaren MP 4/12C GT3

In addition Antonio Hermann’s BMW Team Brazil has also expressed a strong intention to race in the FIA GT Series this season with a strong line up of Brazilian drivers.

Hexis Racing with McLaren, Sofrev Auto Sport with Ferrari and Sainteloc Racing with Audi, have already confirmed they will take advantage of the opportunity offered for race-by-race entries to be on the grid for the opening round, at Nogaro on Easter weekend.

The final entry list will be released on 1 February.

The calendar for the 2013 FIA GT Series is as follows:

1 April: Nogaro, France
21 April: Zolder, Belgium 
14 July: Zandvoort, Netherlands 
18 August: Slovakia Ring, Slovakia 
13 October: Navarra, Spain 
16 or 23 November: Middle East (date and location to be confirmed)

We’ll have a much longer interview with Stephane Ratel in the coming weeks on DSC.