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FIA GT World Cup

Q&A with FIA GT Commission Chairman Christian Schacht

Q&A with FIA GT Commission President Christian Schacht…

Photo: Rebocar Automotive Productions

Photo: Rebocar Automotive Productions

On the eve of the inaugural FIA GT World Cup, one of the featured events of this weekend’s 62nd running of the Macau Grand Prix, Christian Schacht, chairman of the GT commission of the FIA, took some time from his schedule to talk to Sportscar365 about the race, his expectations and plans for the future.

Can you explain how this race came about?

“It was an idea I already had three or four years ago. At the time, I was involved in the FIA GT1 World Championship, which was a great series, but it turned out that it could not be made financially viable.

“The main problem, from my point of view, was that a professional series at world championship level was impossible to keep alive without manufacturer support, and the manufacturers didn’t give it enough financial backing to keep it on, and teams couldn’t afford to do it by their own means.

“The classic concept with gentlemen drivers paying, which allows to have professional drivers in the team as well, didn’t work out either, because the level was simply too high and privateers understandably lost interest.

“Still, I saw many possibilities for an event at global level, given the popularity of GT racing and the number of cars from different manufacturers available, with more and more cars coming out on a regular basis, so that is how the FIA GT World Cup was made to happen.”

What was the reason to run it in Macau?

“When the FIA World Motor Sport Council gave the green light, a tender was held to appoint an organizer for the race. Several proposals were received and the decision was made to have it in Macau.

“The local organizers at Macau have acquired valuable experience in recent years with their Macau GT Cup, which became more and more important in terms of manufacturer participation, promotion and prestige, so upgrading that existing race to the FIA GT World Cup was a logical next step.

“Moreover, the Macau Grand Prix is among the biggest motorsport events in Asia with massive media coverage from all over the world. Every driver loves to race at this track. From that point of view, it made perfect sense to do it here.”

Are you happy with the interest for the inaugural World Cup?

“Absolutely. Look at the entry level: We have almost two dozen high quality drivers on the grid and five manufacturers officially represented, all of them having paid a fee to be eligible for the manufacturers’ title and giving works support to the teams.”

From the major GT3 manufacturers, BMW is missing. Weren’t they interested?

“Oh yes, they were, but I can fully understand that they didn’t want to commit with a full factory-backed effort with a car [the Z4] that will be phased out at the end of this season anyway.

“With their new M6 GT3 coming up for 2016, I am pretty sure that BMW will be here next year.”

It’s a pity that many top-level GT drivers are unable to take part because of clashing commitments in the FIA WEC at Bahrain this weekend.

“Yes, absolutely. That is something we really regret, and we know that many drivers who are at Bahrain now would also have loved to race at Macau.

“Such is the magic of the place that everyone who has raced there in the past want to come back, and those who haven’t raced here yet are eager to do so for the first time. But, as you know, calendar planning is a very delicate thing, and this date clash couldn’t be avoided.”

For this year’s race, manufacturers were able to nominate their drivers while the best drivers from the GT Asia series round out the field. Was something like a ‘road to Macau’ during the season, like there is in other sports like golf or tennis, also considered?

“Yes, we have definitely thought about that, and I can see something like that coming up for future years, with selected events in different parts of the world, North and South America, Asia and Europe, in which drivers have to take part to qualify for Macau.

“For the moment, I would say that using existing event in these regions as qualifying events is the best option and that is definitely something we are looking into for the future.”

And what about the format of the GT event here at Macau this weekend?

“I think we have quite a good format with a qualifying race on Saturday and the main race on Sunday.

“Compared to the Macau GT Cup in the past, the qualifying race is new, so the amount of track time has been increased and fans will get to see more GT racing action, which is good.

“Perhaps, a format with two drivers is something we might consider for the future, too, because that is in the spirit of GT racing, but then, the race would have to be longer.

“On top of that, in terms of communication, it is better to have one driver as the world cup winner. But let’s wait and see how this weekend’s event will play out, and then we can talk about the future.”

René de Boer (@renedeboer) is a German-based motorsports journalist, contributing to a variety of publications worldwide, including, Autosport Japan and Motorsport aktuell.

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