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Ratel Not Giving Up on 18-Car GT Class Target

Stephane Ratel not giving up on 18-car target for GT World Challenge…

Photo: Gavin Baker/SRO

Stephane Ratel says the objective will still be to achieve an 18-car grid for GT World Challenge America next year, after missing the full-season target in the first season of the new-look championship.

A total of 13 cars are taking part in this weekend’s season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, down from the 22 that started the year at Circuit of The Americas that kicked off the new 90-minute two-driver format. 

While averaging 17 cars over the course of the seven-event championship, Ratel said a number of factors led to a reduced grid in the final two rounds of the season but it will not change their approach.

“I can only be disappointed,” he told Sportscar365. “We were very confident that we’d finish the season with 17 or 18 cars.

“Then it didn’t materialize and we ended up losing ground at the end of the season for different reasons.

“We just need to keep on going. We can’t change everything. I think the people that are running the new format like the new format.

“On the positive side, we’ve increased the average number of cars over the season in a substantial way compared to last year. 

“We rescued GT3 that was in a real danger zone. We have to work a lot through the winter but we need to keep the stability in the format and improve the organization itself.

“It takes time to build up and now we have to concentrate the effort.”

Ratel characterized the fifth round of the season at Watkins Glen International as a “difficult” event, that ultimately led to several teams, including Alegra Motorsports, withdrawing from the series.

“We had this tire issue [at Watkins Glen] and after that the last two events have been more difficult,” he said. “If we had stayed on the line, we would have filled our objective.

“So we’ll go back, objective 18 cars [for 2020]. Once we solidify that, we can look for growth.”

Indianapolis 8 Hours “Very Important” for SRO

Ratel said an increased effort is being put into SRO’s new endurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will double as the season finale of GT World Challenge America as well as the U.S. leg of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.

“I’m working very hard on the 8 Hours,” he said. “It’s very important for us because we need this marquee event in America.

“With Intercontinental, you have four great events. We need to succeed in the U.S. That’s it.

“The combination of the Intercontinental cars plus adding the U.S. cars, we should have a decent grid. We need to start from there.

“I think with the combination of Intercontinental and World Challenge, we can achieve it.”

SRO America Set for Staff “Reinforcing”

Changes are expected to be made within SRO America’s staff, with a “reinforcing” of many existing positions, according to Ratel. 

It has included the promotion of longtime Clerk of the Course Brian Hughes into a new full-time position as director of operations.  

“We need to improve and professionalize the organization from top to bottom,” Ratel said. “That’s what we’re working on. 

“We want to deliver better service for our teams and strengthen the organization. It goes from paddock management to everything. 

“It was the first year we really got involved fully in the organization, with Patricia [Kiefer, SRO Chief Operating Officer] attending most of the events.

“We have identified what needs to be reinforced so we’re focused on delivering a proper event management.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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