Stephane Ratel is hoping that next year’s inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will build into a long-term success, with plans and interest progressing for the eight-hour enduro.
A number of key staff from Ratel’s SRO Motorsports Group were in Monterey for last weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge season finale as part of a reconnaissance mission for next October’s event, which will be run in partnership with PWC.
“It’s our race, rather than my race, and it’s still part of the Pirelli World Challenge package, and we need to work together, the SRO and WC Vision, to make it a success,” Ratel told Sportscar365.
“I’m convinced it is the right place to do it. Eight hours is the maximum format we can do here, because we have [time] restrictions. We should be finishing the race at around 6:30 p.m. at the latest, which means we have to start at 10:30 a.m.
“I think there is an opportunity to have the only endurance race in America where a GT3 can win [overall], and I think that is important.
“Being part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which I hope will be growing next year with more manufacturers participating, it’s also the guarantee of having some strong entries.
“It’s not going to be an overnight success, but over a couple of years, I hope it will grow.”
Launched this year as an initial three-round championship featuring established GT endurance races at Bathurst, Spa and Sepang, IGTC expands to include a U.S. round for the first time, after a failed attempt at Circuit of The Americas.
The Oct. 13-15 event, which will be open to GT3, GT4 and GT Cup machinery, is expected to attract teams from around the world, with its season-long manufacturers as anchors.
Ratel, however, said he sees a good number of teams to come from the U.S., primarily PWC and the potential of GTD teams from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will end its 2017 season one week prior at Road Atlanta.
“If some IMSA teams want to come, they are of course very much welcome, and if some European teams want to come as well,” Ratel said.
“I’ve already had one of my [Blancpain GT] teams, saying, ‘Oh Laguna Seca, I want to do it next year.’ It’s a mix, I would say like Bathurst.
“[At] Sepang, we have essentially Asian teams but we also have some Europeans that are coming. In Bathurst it’s essentially Australian teams but a couple of Europeans that are coming.
“I think it should be the same here.”
Ratel said it would be too early to estimate the size of the grid but admitted he’d be happy with 20-30 cars for the first race, and build on that number in the years to come.
“We need to go step-by-step; I know nothing comes overnight,” he said. “Sometimes, some things start big overnight, but it usually needs a bit of time.
“The fact that it won’t be with a [PWC] GT race, is important. When we tried to do it in Austin [this] year, many people said they’d like to do it but they can’t jeopardize the main race.
“A separate meeting, as part of the Pirelli World Challenge umbrella, and the series goes from 11 races this season to ten next season, so logically, teams should have a little bit of budget left to come and do it.”