The Gulf 12 Hours will become the season finale for this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli, replacing the Kyalami 9 Hour on the calendar.
Announced during SRO Motorsports Group’s annual press conference at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Friday, the globe-trotting GT3 series will join forces with the longstanding enduro at Yas Marina Circuit for the Dec. 9-11 event.
The race will also serve as the season finale for the 2023 IGTC season, which will return to a five-round calendar.
Event promoter Driving Force Events Ltd. previously announced plans for this year’s race to run the full 12 hours without a mid-race intervention that had become a staple of the enduro since its launch in 2012.
The race takes place one week after the originally scheduled Kyalami 9 Hour, which has been canceled for this year but will occur in 2023 as the second round of the season.
The partnership between SRO and the Andrea Ficarelli-led organization is understood to be similar to that of SRO’s involvement of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which is organized by Supercars.
Also announced on Friday was a return to a five-round IGTC calendar in 2023, with Kyalami being moved to late February.
SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel told Sportscar365 that it didn’t make sense to have an edition of the Kyalami 9 Hour this December, only to return to the South African venue nearly two months later.
“That’s why we said, ‘We’re not going to do two races in two months’ differences. Then I contacted Andrea [Ficarelli, Gulf 12 Hours promoter].
“We had discussed it already during the pandemic. But then we didn’t do it. But this time [we made it happen]. Pirelli is happy because it’s a Pirelli race.”
Ratel confirmed that the Gulf 12H will feature a GT3 Pro class and will be reinforced by SRO’s sporting and technical regulations, including the use of its Balance of Performance.
“With Intercontinental, we pick up individual races and we make a challenge out of it,” he said. “It’s not a World Championship.”
The deal is understood to be for two years, with Ratel still not giving up on a return to Suzuka, which hosted the last Asian leg of the series in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I absolutely want to go back to Suzuka,” Ratel said. “I hoped it would be possible next year. But when you go to Japan, everyone wears a mask; every single person.
“You realize that COVID is not relaxed as it is here now.
“We discussed it but they preferred to say, ‘OK we’ll wait another year and we will see.’
“As long as the 1000 km doesn’t reappear on the Super GT calendar, we’re OK. That means they still want to keep an international event and I hope it will come back.”