Stephane Ratel has targeted a reduction of Pro class entries in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, in an effort to make way for additional Pro-Am and Am competitors in the nearly oversubscribed championship.
A total of 58 cars took part in last weekend’s Paul Ricard 1000km, with 35 of them competing in the top, all-pro class, largely with either factory-backed teams or works-supported entries.
While 19 cars battled for Pro-Am class honors, only four cars were entered in the all-gentleman driver Am category, marking a sharp decline in recent years, partially due to the launch of the Blancpain GT Sports Club.
The SRO Motorsports Group boss is hoping the growth of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, now in its second year, could possibly lesson the demand for factory-backed entries in its flagship endurance series in the future.
“We must alleviate the pressure of the Blancpain GT championship,” Ratel told Endurance-Info. “There are too many ‘Pro’ cars in the Endurance Cup.
“If Intercontinental GT Challenge becomes a success, I prefer to see more [entries] supported by the manufacturers in order to leave more room for Pro-Am and Am in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup.
Ratel would not go into detail on what his plan would be to achieve a reduced Pro grid and whether the class could be capped to a specific number of entries in the future, similar to the explosive growth of the LMP3 ranks in the European Le Mans Series.
“The idea is there,” he said. “The professional [class] can be dangerous. We have a great product [that needs] to be retained. Having only four cars in Am is not good. You have to convince them to return to Am.”
While the next Endurance Cup race, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, doubles as a round of GT Challenge, Ratel said he’s pleased with the growth of the new series, which links key GT endurance races together in a four-round championship.
He said plans for the inaugural California 8 Hours, set for Oct. 13-15, are moving ahead, with further details to be released in the coming weeks.
A number of U.S.-based teams, including GMG Racing and ANSA Motorsports, have revealed intentions of taking part in the race, while it’s understood up to a dozen European GT3 cars could make the trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“Laguna Seca needs to succeed,” Ratel said. “We go step by step. The interest in the Intercontinental GT Challenge is here and 2018 looks very good.”
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report