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Manufacturers Praise Expanded IGTC Calendar

GT3 manufacturers support Intercontinental GT Challenge’s expansion to five rounds…

Photo: Olivier Beroud Images

GT3 manufacturers have supported the addition of Kyalami to the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which, according to Audi Sport customer racing’s Chris Reinke, brings the “Spa of Africa” to the globe-trotting series.

The SRO Motorsports Group-run championship will feature the most diverse endurance racing calendar in more than 30 years, with the IGTC season set to be contested on five continents for the first time.

The feat, which hasn’t been repeated since the 1984 FIA World Endurance Championship season, has been largely praised by manufacturers, with the potential of further growth still possible.

“It becomes a series that you can get your teeth into,” Bentley Motorsport director Brian Gush told Sportscar365. “I think the proof of it will be how many people sign up for it.

“Let’s hope more cars sign up for it. You need a reasonable grid size.

“Laguna last year wasn’t great. You need more GT3s on the grid.

“Hopefully for Kyalami the grid will be bigger. Then the Intercontinental GT Challenge is looking like quite a nice series for factory teams.”

A total of five manufacturers, including Bentley, Audi and Porsche, are registered for this year’s four-round championship, which kicked off with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in February and concludes with the second annual California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

A change from Sepang to a new ten-hour enduro at Suzuka, which is set to feature upwards of 40 GT3 entries from 12 manufacturers, comes as a welcome move according to Audi’s Reinke.

“I remembered my first time coming down [to Sepang], it was us with our cars entered by Phoenix and there was a Porsche by Manthey. Those were the only two supported entries,” he said.

“There were no spectators and it wasn’t well activated.

“If there was one thing that needed renovation it was Sepang and they replaced that with Suzuka.

“I can’t wait. If you think of endurance racing’s heritage in Asia, in Japan especially, it’s the race to be in. Getting that format onto solely GT3 is a dream come true.”

Reinke said he’s also excited on the addition of Kyalami, which will close out the 2019 season.

“When the next step is Africa, we could go to Morocco as everybody goes, or we could go on the other end,” he said.

“If you look at what is really iconic races, the name that everybody has on his mind is Kyalami and nothing else. It’s the Spa of Africa. That’s where you want to be.”

With a relatively untapped market, with limited GT3 cars in the region, the success of the South African event, at least initially, will hinge on involvement from foreign teams.

It contradicts IGTC’s vision of utilizing locally based teams and cars for each of its rounds although isn’t a concern according to Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser.

“We see customers came to Spa from all over the world so I’m sure we’ll find teams to make it an attractive round,” Walliser told Sportscar365. “For sure you can’t go with the local teams.

“I think it’s a nice calendar now and it fits in the overall strategy of SRO.”

Ratel: “Never Say Never” on Sixth IGTC Round

While reaching his goal of five races on five continents, SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel hasn’t completely ruled out the addition of a sixth race in the future.

Ratel, however, has stressed that it would be dependent on manufacturers’ desires.

“There are six continents with South America. Let us digest,” Ratel said. “We’re growing fast.

“You have to say, ‘Never say never’ but then it gets very expensive and the manufacturers [then] think it’s too expensive.

“Don’t forget the idea is to use the local cars and reinforce the local teams. Already in South Africa, it’s not the concept because you don’t have local [teams].”

Reinke, who in his former job as Head of LMP1 at Audi Sport was part of the WEC’s trips to Sao Paulo, believes the Brazilian round could complete the package.

Much like Ratel’s revival of the Kyalami 9 Hours, Interlagos has played host to the country’s long-running 1000-mile enduro the Mil Milhas, which had briefly served as a round of the BPR Endurance Series and was to be FIA GT Championship race in the late 2000s.

“With the economic situation, we had great races in the WEC in Sao Paulo, and there is some endurance heritage also around there,” Reinke said.

“Do it step by step. There is a way to go with Laguna Seca to develop that race and we have to see how it kicks in at Suzuka.

“We have to develop Kyalami as there is no local GT market. [We can’t] rush it but to have eventually an intercontinental series with all continents respected would be sexy.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Madkart

    August 9, 2018 at 8:16 am

    6th round should be a 12 hour at Potrero de los Funes in Argentina!

    • Madkart

      August 9, 2018 at 8:19 am

      A a 1000km/6 hour enduro, but definitely at Potreros de los Funes

  2. Madkart

    August 9, 2018 at 8:23 am

    John, you’ve been to Potrero de los Funes, what do you think should be the sixth round? Would Potrero de los Funes make sense to add to the schedule compared with Interlagos?

    • John Dagys

      August 9, 2018 at 10:40 am

      The Mil Milhas has much more history as an event. It would make more sense to do that. San Luis is amazing but a very difficult place to get to with no heritage.

      • Old Trombone

        August 9, 2018 at 10:46 am

        How about Punta Del Este? It’s beautiful, they put on such a good welcome for FE that FE went back there for free when they needed a replacement for an abandoned round. It could be SRO’s Monaco. Remember, Monaco wasn’t that “chic” before F1, in fact old Ranier brought the GP in to upscale the place, and married Princess Grace which only added to the glamour. SRO could do that for PdE, and the folks there are way more fun than Monaco b-listers. And those smoky smells that Nurburgringers are well known for are totally allowed in PdE. Party party party, and no hangover!

  3. Old Trombone

    August 9, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Is this, in reality, the new WEC?

    Look up the history of the Bathurst 1000. In 1997, Australia’s FIA (CAMS) thought Aussies loved 2-litre puss-box’s and put them on at Bathurst in place of the V8 and Turbo monsters. Then AVESCO (a V8-specific company set up by IMG) called up the Bathurst City Council and booked the track for November, a month after the tiddlers were done. The next year the tiddlers were given half a race, and the year after they had no race at all. Then AVESCO got the October date.

    Could this happen at Le Mans? Ratel books the track with Le Mans City Council for September, avoiding the FIA and ACO altogether, puts on a grand race featuring DPi, GT2, GT3, and GT4. OEMs and fans welcome the new race in droves, meanwhile the ACO June event suffers from more withdrawals, and in a couple of years the ACO collapses and SRO gets the June date.

    • daedalus

      August 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      not possible, ACO owns the part of the purpose built circuit from the porsche curves to tet rouge. Ratel is only interested in GT racing not prototype racing as well.

      I agree tho that if the popularity grows so much that de facto factory teams like WRT go to all events around the world then it will in effect be bigger than GTE in terms of prestige. Ratel has always wanted a GT World championship, the first attempt with the old GT1 cars was too much too soon (but great while it lasted), he is taking things more slowly this time in the hope it will be sustainable long term.

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