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Intercontinental GT Challenge

IGTC Aiming to Stay in Asia for Suzuka 10H Replacement Race

SRO aiming for end-of-year Asian race to replace the canceled Suzuka 10H, subject to confirmation…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli is aiming to hold a race in Asia at the end of the year to replace the canceled Suzuka 10 Hours, according to Stephane Ratel.

Last month the IGTC and Suzuka Circuit operator MobilityLand confirmed that the event in August would not be taking place as a coronavirus pandemic precaution.

However, the SRO Motorsports Group-organized IGTC series also announced at the time that it would seek a replacement round to maintain the calendar at five events.

SRO boss Ratel has told Sportscar365 that his plan is to hold the Suzuka replacement somewhere in Asia at the end of the year, shortly after the Kyalami 9 Hour in November.

There are no intentions to hold any potential fifth event outside of Asia, while Ratel hinted that the calendar would likely shrink to four rounds if a new race is not feasible.

“It’s something we will do jointly with Kyalami, as one trip,” he explained. “So really, as late as possible in the year, that is the idea. We have had conversations going on.

“Of course, nothing is finalized, but it’s important for us to mention to our teams that we are working on a Plan B and we hope to have the answer shortly, in the next week or two.

“If it’s possible, we will have five events as initially scheduled. And if it’s not possible, we will have four events.

“Many championships have less events than originally planned, so [IGTC] could be one of them.”

The IGTC opened its season with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in February and is also set to hold the Indianapolis 8 Hour and the Total 24 Hours of Spa in October, before heading to Kyalami in South Africa.

Ratel was coy when asked about possible locations for the replacement Asian race, although when the option of the IGTC returning to Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit was brought forward he said that “this is not the plan”.

“It is a work in progress,” said Ratel. “We are very keen on keeping the Intercontinental GT Challenge at five races on five continents, so it will be on the Asian continent.”

Asian Series Start Dependent on Border Access

While SRO is trying to ensure that the IGTC can race in Asia this year, the sanctioning body is also working out how and when to open the regional GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS season.

GTWC Asia is due to begin with a pair of Japanese rounds at Autopolis and Fuji in July, but Ratel has suggested that these events remain open to adjustment.

Japan declared the lifting of its nationwide state of emergency on May 25, but a ban on arrivals into the country from a long list of regions including China, Thailand, South Korea and Europe remains in place according to the latest government advice.

“We believe motorsport will resume in Japan, sometime in July,” said Ratel.

“The problem is always the same, at the border control, and to make sure that all of the nationalities in our Asian championships are allowed in Japan.

“For Fuji [and Autopolis] we will need to know quite soon if we can be there. If the country reopens to foreign travel, then we could have the first race in Japan.

“If it’s not the case soon so teams can’t plan and freight their cars, it won’t be possible.”

Ratel said that GTWC Asia has “no doubt” been the most challenging SRO series to manage during the global health crisis, even more so than the other GTWC regional championships and the global IGTC.

“Asia is the most complex [area] because America is one country, Europe is the European Union and they naturally want to open all of their borders [in unison],” he explained.

“Asia has been the most challenging because we have a very different visibility. We don’t really know when Japan and China will reopen. It’s been by far the most complicated series.

“IGTC is the series where we have already had a race. The entries were made, a race had happened, teams and manufacturers had scored points. We already have four very good events, and if we can add one in Asia then it would be even better.

“In Asia, our old calendar went boom. There has been no visibility, so it’s been very difficult. [Series co-director] Benjamin [Franassovici] in Hong Kong has been working very hard, going through the ups and downs, but it’s been quite frustrating.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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