Last weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa once again lived up to its billing as the premier GT3 race in the world.
Sixty-one GT3-spec cars, spread between a race-record 13 manufacturers, took the start in the Belgian endurance classic, which serves as the centerpiece of Stephane Ratel’s hugely successful Blancpain GT Series.
Yet, less than 24 hours prior to the race start, Ratel quietly announced what could eventually serve as the future flagship category for SRO Motorsports Group and customer GT racing globally.
GT2, a new category aimed for high-powered supercars, at least initially for gentlemen drivers, was formally unveiled, following nearly two years of development to create a new class of cars to bridge the gap between GT3 and GT4 in both costs and performance.
While the name, which SRO shrewdly acquired more than a year ago, dates back to the FIA and ACO-inspired category that was renamed GTE in 2011, there’s virtually no similarities to the factory-blooded, FIA-controlled class that we see today.
In fact, Ratel’s vision for GT2 is quite the opposite.
The concept, detailed during the Frenchman’s annual press conference, is to take “true supercars” with limited drivetrain and aerodynamic developments, and put them into a new cost-effective class, in an architecture similar to SRO’s booming GT4 formula.
While not giving any examples of eligible cars, it’s believed models such as the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, McLaren 720S and Aston Martin Vulcan are targeted for the all-new category, which will launch next year with eligibility in several series, as well as a planned one-off race.
Taking the ambitious timeline aside, Ratel’s new vision may not initially make a lot of sense to sports car racing aficionados.
First, the name is confusing, and potentially even misleading, given that GT2 will slot in between GT3 and GT4, and not be above GT3.
Some may also question whether the already crowded GT marketplace could use another category, at a time when there’s GTE, GT3, GT4, as well as various single-make Cup series competing around the world.
There’s also the thought of whether 700-horsepower, low-downforce supercars in the hands of gentlemen drivers is a viable option, particularly on the same track with GT3 machinery.
But I have to believe Ratel is just laying the groundwork in his pursuit to protect customer-based GT racing.
It was described at the press conference that GT2 has been launched to also act as a “safeguard” should GT3 cars get too expensive, or if the long-discussed convergence, or now know internally within FIA as ‘harmonization’, with GTE materializes.
While Ratel, who’s been adamantly opposed to convergence, has stressed he remains fully committed to GT3, the category’s future is not in his full control.
GT4, which is largely devoid of involvement from the FIA, however, is.
That same model is being used for GT2, in that the SRO is expected to serve as the sole regulators of the class, with the help of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium, the organization that’s behind some of the administrative duties in GT4, including car homologations.
It would allow Ratel, largely considered the father of modern-era GT racing, to steer his own ship and bypass the oftentimes political landscape of the FIA and have full freedom with the new class.
I fully believe that GT2, which will initially be launched as an Am subclass for the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, Blancpain GT Series Asia and Pirelli World Challenge in North America, for 2020, could eventually replace GT3 altogether in SRO’s series, given the right conditions.
The next 24 months will be a crucial phase in determining its path and success, but if history tells us anything, GT racing has been, and will likely always be, a constant evolution.
Ratel has lived through the rise and fall of GT1 and there’s no doubt he has one eye on the incredible GT racing landscape he’s created and another keen eye on the future.
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