Stephane Ratel has revealed that no decision has been made on whether the newly announced Suzuka 10 Hour race will serve as a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, replacing the struggling Sepang 12 Hours.
Ratel’s SRO Motorsports Group and Super GT promoter GTA inked a deal earlier this month that will see the joint race, open to GT300 and GT3-spec cars, taking the place of the Suzuka 1000 km and creating Japan’s longest endurance race in 2018.
“We’ll see how this event then we’ll make a decision,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “Maybe in 2018 Suzuka will be independent and maybe it will join later. No decision has been taken again.”
The Sepang race, which currently serves as the Asian round of the IGTC, has struggled since relaunching under the SRO banner in 2015, with low car counts and nearly zero fan attendance.
Ratel, however, said he remains fully committed to the event this year, which will close out the expanded four-round IGTC season in December.
“For the time being, we have the Sepang 12 Hours and we need to continue to grow this event,” he said. “We’ll see what the prospect is but we have a challenge to promote the race.
“The problem for Sepang for the moment is that there’s not really enough spectators. With Intercontinental [GT Challenge] being a manufacturer-oriented challenge, it’s important there’s [exposure].
“So we’re going to work on improving, already for 2017, and we’ll see then.”
Ratel said the new Suzuka event, organized by leading Japanese motorsports promoter Mobilityland, has the potential of becoming one of the premier GT endurance races in the world.
“From a pure business sense, I think it’s very clever,” he said. “With this 1,000 km race extended to 10 hours, it will be the longest endurance race in Japan and may very well keep its crowd.
“Ideally, GTA should be bringing half of the grid, with SRO the other half, a good part of it being built from the success of Blancpain GT Asia.”
While a majority of the GT3 teams will likely come from the new-for-2017 Blancpin GT Asia Series, Ratel is also expecting some entrants from Europe and potentially North America.
“It’s a good date for us because… our two races in Japan are in the summer just before this race,” he said. “Logistically it would be perfect for us. If we keep the same dates on the calendar, it’s ideal.
“They can come to Suzuka for the first time for the sprint event for a bit of training. Then they can stay for Fuji and we hope that a good part of them would stay for the 10 hours.
“The rest, we hope to bring cars from all over the world. We’re working on possibly doing air freight help to selected cars. But that’s a project for the moment.”
Ratel said it was the Honda-owned Suzuka Circuit that approached him on the project.
“I would like to believe that this maybe has something to do with the NSX being in GT3,” he said.
“It could be possible that it comes about at the same moment, that the NSX would be fully available next year.”