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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Ratel Targeting Kyalami 9 Hour Race for 2018

Stephane Ratel targeting Kyalami 9 Hour race for 2018…

Photo: Kyalami Facebook

Photo: Kyalami Facebook

The famous Kyalami 9 Hours could be revived as part of the SRO Motorsports Group’s Intercontinental GT Challenge, according to Stephane Ratel, who is targeting an expansion to a five-round championship in 2018.

Ratel, who confirmed the 2017 GT Challenge schedule during the SRO’s annual press conference on Friday, revealed he’s in talks with organizers in South Africa for the the proposed race, which would put his new GT-only series on five continents.

“To have the Kyalami 9 Hours would be wonderful,” Ratel said. “Of course we’ve been speaking but [the circuit] belongs to Porsche [South Africa].

“We have 24 hours, we have 12 hours, we have eight hours and hopefully one day we have a nine-hour race.

“It would be great but at this stage, it’s only a dream.”

The race, which debuted in 1958, had been a staple of South African motorsport through the 1980s, and even served as a round of the FIA World Sportscar Championship.

Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass claimed victory in a Porsche 962 in 1982, the final year the event was run as a nine-hour race.

The circuit, which went up for auction in 2014, was purchased by Porsche South Africa for $19.5 million and has seen extensive upgrades since, with hopes of attracting international racing.

The proposed Kyalami round would fit in with Ratel’s expansion plans, which includes further manufacturer involvement in the series.

Audi, Mercedes, Bentley and McLaren are all registered manufacturers in GT Challenge, which launched this year as a three-round championship and features established races at Bathurst, Spa and Sepang.

“Right now we have four manufacturers today in Intercontinental,” Ratel said. “I hope to go to five or maybe to six. If I have five or six of the manufacturers with three or four cars each, we already have a grid.”

Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke is basing its support on the long-term potential of the series.

“We are supportive of the platforms that Stephane Ratel creates for GT racing,” Reinke told Sportscar365.

“This is a product — at the moment — of limited value but we support it on the base that we can that seed growing into something relevant.”

BMW, which is currently not a registered GT Challenge manufacturer, could lend its support in the future, based on customer interest, according to BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt.

“If there are teams that want to run there, they come to us and say, ‘Hey, do you have a driver or something to support?’ We’ll look at it, but it’s customer racing,” Marquardt told Sportscar365.

While having utilized the factory M-Sport team in all three rounds this year, Bentley could rely on local teams for races in the future, according to Bentley Motorsport Director Brian Gush.

“Ideally for me in the future, it would be local teams participating in those events, with America, Asia and Europe using those local teams,” Gush told Sportscar365.

“That’s the way Stephane wants it to work and that’s the way I’d like it to go in the future.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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