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GT World Challenge Europe

Barcelona Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook from the Blancpain GT paddock at Barcelona…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel held a press conference on Saturday afternoon to update teams and media about the company’s plans for 2020. Major news included a new format for the rollout of GT2 in Europe and a new Pirelli tire compound for GT3.

***Sprint weekends in GT World Challenge Europe will have a modified schedule, with Qualifying 1 and 2 split up to take place before each race. Q1 and Race 1 will take place on a Saturday, with Q2 and Race 2 on Sunday. The exception will be at Brands Hatch, where this is not possible due to the condensed two-day event format.

***Changes could be made to the technical pit stop regulations at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, in order to reduce what Ratel described as a “lottery” that significantly benefits teams who pit for their mandatory five-minute stop just before a safety car comes out.

***The stops will be reduced to four minutes, with teams allowed to make them under Full Course Yellow or safety car, and within a reduced window starting at the halfway point.

“We don’t like lotteries too much but we still believe, having spoken to manufacturers, that this technical pit stop is necessary because otherwise some of them will develop cars where they don’t need to change the brake discs for the full duration of the event,” Ratel explained.

***Increased effort will be made to help team managers better understand regulations, including an online test. “Jacquie [Groom, sporting director] is tired of always being asked the same question by team managers who should be spending more time learning the regulations rather than asking questions, so we will try to help and do workshops,” said Ratel.

“It’s true that we have complex regulations that have developed over many years and if you are a new team, or a new team manager, it is not easy to know everything about it right out of the box. We are going to impose, like we do the Sean Edwards Test to the drivers, there will be a regulations test for team managers.”

***Updated schedules were released for several of SRO’s European championships, including an unchanged calendar for GT World Challenge Europe, which Ratel described as “bulletproof”, suggesting no further changes will be made.

***The Endurance Cup finale, which has moved back to the Nürburgring, is expected to clash with the FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Silverstone on Sept. 4-6. While the two events clashed this year, the Nürburgring race was moved from Endurance to Sprint in order to alleviate disruptions for WEC drivers competing in the Endurance Cup.

***An updated points system for the GT World Challenge standings has been communicated to include endurance events. Sprint races will pay 25 points, three and six-hour European races will pay 50, the Indianapolis 8 Hours and Shanghai 888 will award 75 and the 24H Spa will award 100, to winners in each class. The number of points awarded will again be multiplied by the number of cars in each class.

***The date for the GT World Challenge America opener at Circuit of The Americas is still TBC and listed as ‘March or April’. Ratel wants to keep it as late in that window as possible, saying that March is “too early”.

***The SRO has revived plans for an end-of-season GT4 finale, announcing intentions to run an event at Imola on Oct. 31 – Nov. 1 next year under the title GT4 European Final. The event would run to the same format as the GT4 International Cup held in Bahrain last year, therefore with three races.

***Plans to announce a third GT2 manufacturer this weekend, which were revealed at Spa, have been put on hold for now. “The program has been postponed for the moment, not as part of GT2 but as part of the reorganization of that manufacturer’s GT2 program, for the moment,” said Ratel.

***Sportscar365 understands that the manufacturer in question was McLaren, and that at least two other brands could still commit to the class next year.

***A total of 30 cars have already been entered for November’s Kyalami 9 Hours, according to Ratel, with nine manufacturers represented. A provisional entry list is expected to be released next week, while Mercedes-AMG will also announce its driver lineups, following on from the reveal of Porsche’s four-car Pro class effort on Friday.

***WRT is still “looking at a few options” for a full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program next year, according to team principal Vincent Vosse, who hinted that the Belgian team could establish a new base in the U.S. to facilitate the effort.

“We were in Daytona at the beginning of the year and had quite a successful outing there with the race for the first time and everyone was new to Daytona,” Vosse told Sportscar365. “We did a good job considering, and we finished as the first Audi, with no real experience of IMSA. I think we really enjoy the American way of working. There is potential here.”

***Vosse said he’s impressed by Audi R8 LMS GT2 after running the car for its race debut this weekend, expressing interest in running cars for customers in the future. “I will be happy to run some cars but I will run cars for collectors or owners. I will not buy two or three cars and run them, “ he explained.

***Andrea Caldarelli could have a bigger program in North America next year, in addition to but separate from his duties as team principal for Orange 1 FFF Racing Team. He has competed for Paul Miller Racing in the last three editions of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. 

“I would like to explore new championships as a driver myself, probably in America. I really like racing in Daytona so I think I will do that again and then we will see if there is something in World Challenge America or IMSA,” he told Sportscar365.

***Blancpain GT Sports Club championship leader Jens Reno Moller has an updated color scheme on his Honda NSX GT3 Evo, with a new Danish flag design on the hood over the rest of the car’s carbon livery. Moller and Christina Nielsen will represent Denmark in the same car in the FIA Motorsport Games GT Cup, where the Danish flag design is set to cover the entire car.

***Several titles will be decided in tomorrow’s three-hour race, which gets underway at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EDT). Maro Engel and Luca Stolz hold a two-point advantage over Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli in the overall Blancpain GT standings, with the latter pair’s FFF team 11.5 seconds clear of Black Falcon in the teams’ standings.

***SMP Racing’s Miguel Molina, Davide Rigon and Mikhail Aleshin are 22 points ahead of Stolz, Engel and Yelmer Buurman in the Endurance Cup standings, meanwhile, with SMP Racing eight points clear of FFF.

***The race will be streamed live on the series’ website and GT World YouTube channel. Eurosport 1 will broadcast the final two hours beginning at 3:30 p.m. BST, presented by Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor.

***Louise Beckett is serving as the series’ pit lane reporter this weekend, replacing Dakota Jane, who is suffering from an injury. Beckett usually works in the pit lane at FIA World Endurance Championship events.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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