During the sixth running of the Gulf 12 Hours at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, Sportscar365 caught up with event promoter Andre Ficarelli to discuss the event, the prototype class and to look towards the future.
Are you happy with the number of cars taking part in the sixth edition of the Gulf 12 Hours?
“I am very happy to have 24 cars at this level. Overall, the average level of the race has increased. The number of cars has increased. Last year we only had 18-19 cars and I told everybody that there was a specific reason why we were down with the number of cars.
“In a situation like last year, I would have been very happy to have 24 cars. Today, after having measured there is an interest for the race and all the negotiations we’ve had and all the talks with the teams, I can say that 24 is a very good number, but potentially we could have had many more.
“It’s a very good sign and I am looking forward because, really now, we have fixed our own target for around 30 cars next year. Now, I can say that it is a realistic target for next year, considering we always target the top of the market. We don’t want to fill the grid just by adding cars.”
When you target the top of the market, that means the faster cars. Do you target specific brands or teams?
“Today we had an experience, called the supercar parade. It was really a rehearsal. Next year we want to associate the race with an event that we call ‘supercars festival.’ Putting together as many owners of supercars in the region and filling the paddock with those people.
“This is one of the most important markets for these kind of brands and obviously, consequently we’d be happy to have representative of all these brands in the race.”
Are you unhappy then not to have McLaren, Bentley and Mercedes-AMG here this weekend?
“With McLaren we had a very interesting conversation about the GTX class. But basically they didn’t have any cars available, otherwise we would have had McLaren here.
“What I can say is that we have a race that is basically at the same date in Sepang. Having seen the results of this race, they are not bad at all, but at the same time I think, again, we haven’t lost a single car to Sepang.
“The people that are interested in coming here, they want to come here and we don’t have a competition [with Sepang] from our point of view. Obviously, from a geographic point of view, an Asian team will go there.
“Maybe there’s also an SRO effect, because clearly they are much stronger than us [as a] promotor and marketer and they can attract some teams, because of their relationship.
“Frankly speaking, we can do much more and much better in terms of promoting this event and so we have a margin for growing that is still extremely high.”
How does the prototype class fit into that growth?
“This year we have tried to put prototypes, like the Ligier JS P3, into this race to see how it works. It was our intention to see how these cars would fit in with the GT cars, which are really our market. This is a race for GT cars.
“Now that we are moving towards this supercars festival, I don’t think it would make sense having people to come and all these brands onboard and suddenly we put a Ligier in front that is going to kill this race.
“At the same time we wanted to be fair to all the people coming with these cars. So, we made a Balance of Performance that was very conservative, too much.
“I really feel a bit guilty now, we could have allowed some more performance. We’ve pushed them down too much. It was a mistake to force them to make more pit stops.”
So separate events for prototypes and GT cars…
“The best option would be to organize two races, one for GT cars and one for the prototypes. As soon as we feel the market is strong enough to do so, we will do that.
“If I should say something now it would be a 12-hour race plus a 6-hour race and to expand our event in the longer terms. The ideal scenario would be to have a market that is strong enough to support two events, one for GT cars and one for prototypes.”
And finally, are you planning to organize other events?
“We’ll launch a new event in Italy in March and there will be more operations and more activity here in the Middle East at the end of the season [next year], but we don’t want to become a championship promoter ourselves.
“We can ask championships what they want to do, but we are just looking at operating innovative, stand-alone events. If you have two or three stand-alone events that are good, everybody organizing a championship can jump in, but we don’t want to launch another championship.”