SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel says it was imperative to move the North American round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli to a circuit not currently used by IMSA.
SRO, which promotes the five-round IGTC series, unveiled the Indianapolis 8 Hour as the new season-ending event for 2020 in a press conference at Spa on Friday.
Ratel told reporters that the move was partly motivated by a desire to create an event with a unique selling point that distinguishes it from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The last three seasons of the IGTC have included visits to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which also holds a date on the IMSA calendar.
IMSA last raced at the Brickyard in 2014, as part of legacy contract with Grand-Am.
“We think the problem we have in America is: if you have a [track with an] IMSA event, it’s never good,” Ratel said.
“You don’t get the crowd [at IGTC], and the manufacturers say: we can’t activate because we do it with IMSA.
“Also, we needed an event, we saw it last year when we did [California] at the end of the season two years ago and we had a good grid. When we went back in the first part of the season, we had a bad grid.
“Laguna couldn’t give us a date in the second half of the season, so we thought about this and [Indy] worked for the transportation, and it worked in terms of containers for the teams.
“It’s a Grade 1 circuit. It has all of the garages we need. We have a good working partnership and a motivated partner there with the track. They seem to be very motivated.”
Ratel suggested that by adding the Blancpain GT World Challenge America field to the IGTC race, he has plans to create a grand centerpiece event for the American GT3 scene.
“You have the Intercontinental GT Challenge teams incoming and you have your national teams combining, the event is part of those series like Spa,” he said.
“We are not reinventing the wheel. We just see what works and the same should work in America.”
Audi Customer Boss Uncertain About Indy
Chris Reinke, the head of Audi Sport’s customer racing program, told Sportscar365 that he will approach the new Indianapolis race with caution, suggesting that sponsor activation might continue to be an issue for the North American IGTC round.
Audi won two of the three editions of the California 8 Hours and also had a car finish second in the IMSA GTD class when GT3-level cars last raced on the Indy road course.
The WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca round struggled for large grids in its first and third years and failed to attract fans in all three years.
“I was excited for Laguna. At the moment, I’m not on the same excitement level for Indianapolis but I hope I’m wrong,” said Reinke.
“I’ve always been very positive with Laguna being in California, being a west coast race. Obviously, we’ve seen that we’ve all together struggled to activate it.
“For the moment, for me, it’s not really clear how we can have a better possibility to activate Indianapolis.
“But it’s always easy to criticize and unless you have a better answer to the situation, you take what is on offer.”
John Dagys contributed to this report