SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel believes the long-term growth of the Suzuka 10 Hours will depend on additional Japanese entries joining the race.
This year’s Asian leg of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli features a 36-car grid, mostly made up of full-season teams or IGTC-nominated entries.
A total of 15 Japanese-flagged entries are on the grid this weekend, although several are regular competitors in Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia series, which count towards SRO’s quota.
Ratel said they again achieved their contractual agreement with Mobilityland and GTA of delivering 22 cars but admits the number will not likely rise dramatically in the future, despite IGTC’s expected growth.
“We discussed with Suzuka [Friday] morning,” Ratel told Sportscar365.
“It’s true that even if we believe, and know we will have a couple more manufacturers joining Intercontinental next year, and maybe one or two [existing manufacturers] with more cars.
“We can maybe go from 22 to 25 cars, which is quite exceptional because we don’t offer any transport support. All these teams and manufacturers come by themselves.
“Let’s be realistic. In any case, we’re not going to get over 25 international cars coming to Japan.
“If you want the event to grow to the 40 or 45-car mark, which is really what we need, and what this event deserves, there needs to be more Japanese teams.”
Ratel has specifically called out Lexus in not having any RC F GT3s on the grid, along with other regular Super GT entrants that compete with GT3-spec machinery in the GT300 category.
The difference in tires is understood to again be the biggest holdup, with Super GT running to an open tire formula and confidential tires, which are significantly different to the single-supply Pirellis that are used in IGTC competition.
“We know the tire is a question as many of them are closely associated with tire manufacturers,” Ratel said.
“But if we were doing it the other way around in saying it’s open tires like in Japan, maybe we’d have more Japanese cars but we’d lose half of the grid of Europeans.
“You can’t win or lose. We’d maybe gain 12 car on one side and lose 12 cars on the other.
“I think it’s the way it is.
“We need more Japanese teams that really want to do well. And to do well, they need to get used to the Pirelli tires. That’s the key.”
Ratel has suggested that Japanese teams could take part in the Suzuka round of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia, which is run on the control Pirelli PZero DHD2 compound, as preparation for the Suzuka 10 Hours.
“They need to get to the setup and maybe come and race in the Blancapain race we have in Suzuka,” he said.
“I’m not saying the Japanese teams should move to Blancpain Asia; they should really come, use Suzuka as a test race, come here, work on the setup on Pirellis to be ready for the 10 Hours.
“They need to do this commitment to do well.
“I think if Japanese teams do well, I hope more will be motivated to join this event. That’s the challenge we have.”