The adoption of FIA GT3-specification cars into the Pirelli World Challenge has produced staggering growth in the championship’s GT category the last two years, and it was the single event that piqued Stephane Ratel’s interest.
Ratel, the founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, had had a partial eye on Pirelli World Challenge in previous years.
But it was the series’ move to adopt full GT3-spec cars that made World Challenge, in Ratel’s eyes, a serious player on the world stage.
“Really it’s been from last year we’ve followed more closely,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “Before it was a bit of a mish mash of different things, but last year it became a proper GT3 series, and attracted our attention.”
While the Blancpain Endurance and Blancpain Sprint Series have multiple-driver lineups, World Challenge is of course unique in its only having single-driver lineups.
That variety and diversity appealed to Ratel, as conversations intensified between the two championships.
“It’s very good… and it’s very different,” he said. “Since it’s a one-driver lineup, and the only GT3 championship with only one driver, that makes it very special.
“That’s the thing that makes [GT3] a wonderful category. We go from 24-hour races with three drivers and sometimes four, to short sprints with only sprint driver. It’s a very nice combination of formats and it works well.”
This gives SRO a distinct U.S. presence, but Ratel downplayed it as a purely SRO presence.
“It’s a joint thing,” he said. “We’ll race [here] under our identity and see how things evolve. But I think we have a good contact, we get along well and we’ll see how it develops.”
The collaborative partnership announced between PWC and Blancpain GT is, for the moment, just for the announced races in 2015 and 2016.
Formal confirmation occurred of this fall’s Baku World Challenge (BSS season finale), Circuit of the Americas round in March 2016 (World Challenge season opener) and the Italian Blancpain round to be held fall 2016.
WC Vision President and CEO Scott Bove also mentioned that several Blancpain teams would race at St. Petersburg in 2016, but no formal confirmation of that was made within the joint release.
“For the moment it’s Baku 2015, and into 2016. We’ll see how successful it is,” Ratel said.
“As Scott said, and I think he has the same view as we do, I consider myself a coordinator for teams. The team response will be essential.
“They are the ones who say they like it or don’t like it. It’s a great opportunity. I think your guys will be happy to race in Europe, especially Italy.
“That’s our idea, let’s what the response will be.”