Stephane Ratel has outlined plans for the Blancpain GT Asia Series to evolve into separate GT3 and GT4 races by as early as 2018, as part of the growth plan for SRO’s new championship, which launches next year.
Ratel, along with Blancpain GT Series Asia general manager and director Benjamin Franassovici and championship co-director Paul Yao held a press conference Friday at Sepang to provide further updates on the series.
“Our goal for [next] year is that we’ll be working as hard on GT3 and on GT4, with the view of having a grid half-and-half,” Ratel said. “By 2018, we expect within the same meeting to have a GT3 grid and a GT4 grid.”
The championship, run to British GT sporting regulations, will feature two one-hour races on six weekends, kicking off at Sepang in April.
It will feature $300,000 in total prize money, and $400,000 in transport assistance, with a $20,000 transport credit going to the first 20 teams that submit full-season entries.
A number of key SRO staff, including Sporting Director Jacquie Groom, Technical Director Claude Surmount and Race Director Alain Adam, will be on-site on non-conflicting weekends.
Ratel said he projects a minimum 20-car grid next year, split between GT3, GT4 and GT Cup cars, from single-make series, with the idea of it growing in the years to come.
He expects the majority of the field to come from established Asian teams, or European squads with Asian bases, as is the case with Phoenix Team Asia, for example.
“Objective number one is to have a combined grid on the first year, and then as soon as possible, move to two grids, to have a GT3 series and a GT4 series,” Ratel told Sportscar365.
The championship will also feature a strong support series package, with the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia series on five of the six weekends, and both the China GT Championship and Audi R8 LMS Cup at the season-ending Zhejiang GT Festival in October at the new 3.2-km circuit, located two hours south of Shanghai.
SRO has also formed a strategic alliance with the Audi R8 LMS Cup, in assuring no conflicting weekends and the winner of the single-make championship receiving a free entry and tires to the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
GruppeM Racing was announced as the first team to commit to the series, confirming a three-car Mercedes-AMG GT3 program spearheaded by Tim Sugden.
Additional teams are expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Despite the presence of GT Asia, Ratel doesn’t see the continent currently having a successful GT3 championship, which was one of his motivating factors to launch the Blancpain GT Asia Series.
“I don’t think GT racing has succeeded the way it could have been [in Asia],” he said. “I was invited by Mr. Tony Quinn to New Zealand for the final round of the Australian GT Championship and saw 26 GT3 cars, most of them new models.
“I thought to myself, ‘The combined population of Australia and New Zealand is 30 million people. We’re here in [Asia with] a region with 3-4 billion people and why can’t we have 26 cars on the grid?’
“Why do we need to see GT3 racing ending on a weekday with 11 cars on a grid. This is not worthy of what GT racing should be in Asia.
“Our vision is to create three powerful continental platforms. One of them is the Blancpain GT Series in Europe, the other is Pirelli World Challenge in America and third one we hope, and we expect, will be the Blancpain GT Series in Asia.”