Stephane Ratel says the addition of the Gulf 12 Hours into the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli schedule has been the “right thing to do” following a successful first collaboration with the event’s longstanding promoter.
Driving Force Events partnered with SRO Motorsports Group for last weekend’s enduro at Yas Marina Circuit, which attracted 30 GT3 cars — the largest grid in the event’s ten-year, 12-race history.
It included 17 entries that were nominated for IGTC manufacturer’s points, along with several entries featuring all-pro lineups that were specific to the globe-trotting GT3 series.
Ratel revealed that he held discussions with Gulf 12H promoter Andrea Ficarelli about linking his series with the established race a few years ago but was initially hesitant to have IGTC enter the Middle Eastern market at the time.
“We’ve been talking about it for years with Andrea,” he told Sportscar365.
“First of all we’re very open at SRO to collaborate with everybody. The first contact we had with Andrea is when he came to us for GT4 license at the time. Of course we gave him a GT4 license.
“We’ve always welcomed him to come to our events and gave him VIP passes and talked to our teams. It’s true we also have the link of Pirelli because he’s always been with Pirelli and us too. It was good to help this event.
“When we could not restart with Suzuka and we wanted an event to keep it to five [races], the most logical [solution] was to get together and make it a round of IGTC, even if initially I said I didn’t want to take the easy way and take come to the Middle East.”
Ratel admitted that it was a “mistake” not to have an IGTC round in the region sooner.
“We can’t always do it right,” he said.
“I pushed to maintain events, like doing Kyalami through hard times two years in a row, and what my friends of the ACO did to just say, ‘OK, we come here [for Asian Le Mans Series].’ It was the right choice; they did it right.
“It was the right moment because this pandemic created opportunities. For us, it was esports or the Middle East, and it’s true that it was the right thing to do.
“At the end we came here. The clients seem to be happy. I think Andrea is happy and I think we brought the level of sporting, technical organization and a couple of leading cars that the race needed to be at a different level.
“I’m sure improvements still need to be made but it’s already a good step.”
This year’s edition, which ran to a continuous 12 hours for the first time, saw AF Corse claim a 1-2 finish with its factory-driven Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020s, along with factory-supported entries from Audi and Mercedes-AMG.
“I’m happy because the first condition we had was to make it 12 hours [continuous] because the two-times six hours was not for me or professional enough,” Ratel said.
“So we made this step. We’re going to continue. I want to encourage [Andrea] to bring the regulations more in line to what we do. That’s what we discussed because it’s a bit strange in my opinion to see the leading cars come in for a pit stop after two laps.
“If you want people to follow like they follow Bathurst, like they follow Spa, like they follow Indy, you need to have something. It’s something we need to solve.
“We’ll be together next year again, which is good. We’re going to learn what was good here and less good and we will improve like always step by step.”