One of the noticeable changes in the Pirelli World Challenge paddock this year has been an increased involvement from SRO Motorsports Group, in what founder and CEO Stephane Ratel feels that could be a good opportunity for future development.
The Frenchman, along with SRO’s sporting director Jacquie Groom and technical director Claude Surmont, are on-site at this weekend’s season-opener at Circuit of The Americas, and will be at the majority of PWC races this season.
Ratel admits he’s taken a keen interest in the series, working alongside PWC President and CEO Greg Gill, in what’s being suggested by some as a potential area of future growth for the organizers of the Blancpain GT Series.
“I’m looking at development,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “I’m working with Greg and the shareholders to see how we can grow the series.
“With the experience we have in Europe and elsewhere, I hope by the end of the year we can see some exciting opportunities.”
When asked directly about the possibility of SRO taking a stake in ownership of WC Vision, Ratel was coy about any potential involvement.
“Maybe one day,” he said. “But for the moment let’s see what the future brings us.”
The Frenchman is the brainchild of the GT3 platform, which PWC has now fully integrated with and for the first time is using SRO’s complete Balance of Performance system.
Ratel has repeatedly tried to break into the North American market with the GT3 platform in the past.
“I have tried to present GT3 racing so many times,” he said. “I meet from people from IMSA, American Le Mans and Indianapolis. I don’t know how many presentations I made about GT3 [in America].
“Strangely enough, at the time, when I was really struggling with the GT1 World Championship, I had a call with [WC Vision] at the time. They asked me and were interested.
“First of all I was too busy with the World Championship and had too many headaches with that.
“On top of that, [PWC] was still very much a mixed [series]. They had Volvos, etc. For me, to mix my dear GT3 cars with all of these things, I was like, ‘That’s not the right environment. Don’t go there.’
“I was wrong. Because at the time I should have jumped on it and said, ‘Guys, I’m coming, I’ll help you.’
“If I would have jumped here in 2011, I should have done it. But sometimes you make mistakes. But it’s never too late and I’m back.”
Five years later, Ratel’s group is working hand-in-hand with PWC in what he calls — for the moment — a service agreement.
Having attended previous PWC events since their discussions with then-President/CEO Scott Bove began just over a year ago, Ratel has been impressed with the potential the series holds.
“I think it’s a good platform,” he said. “It’s here and has been established. There are all of the ingredients to make it grow.
“There’s definitely potential. As I said and I keep repeating it, I don’t consider that GT3 racing should be the second category to anything.
“This is the championship [in America] that has put GT3 racing first, so that’s the prime interest for me.”
Ratel’s staff will be at all of the non-conflicting PWC rounds this season, in what will likely help strengthen the series’ competition and sporting departments.
“There’s a lot of commitment,” Ratel said. “I really want to get things right and I want everybody in the paddock to be pleased with the way it’s run and to really look at future development.”