Stephane Ratel believes SRO Motorsports America’s newly revamped Pirelli GT4 America format featuring separate Sprint and SprintX series is working to plan, although has not ruled out potential changes based on customer and track demands.
The new-look championship, formerly known as Pirelli World Challenge GTS, has attracted strong grids in the expanded landscape, which features a nationwide 50-minute single driver Sprint series, two-driver 60-minute SprintX races alongside regional East and West series mostly within the SprintX season.
While the overhaul has led to some initial confusion, largely in the number of options GT4 teams now have, Ratel feels the early-season numbers have been strong for both formats.
“If you look at COTA we had 32 cars, and we had 20 cars at St Pete,” Ratel told Sportscar365.
“Both [formats] are working for the moment. It’s only a question of track time.
“If tomorrow we have more series and we struggle for track time, we can ask ourselves the question. But as long as we have enough track time to run both, then it’s fine.”
While the opening rounds of the season saw single GT4 events at COTA (SprintX), St. Pete (Sprint) and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (West), as well as this weekend’s Sprint round at Long Beach, the upcoming event at Virginia International Raceway will be the first of six SprintX and Sprint double-header weekends, which will see both national series in action but in separate races.
It will result in a busy weekend schedule that also includes the pair of 90-minute Blancpain GT World Challenge America races, TC America rounds as well as the Radical support series.
SRO America’s umbrella will expand even further beginning at Sonoma Raceway with the planned launch of the Saleen Cup, a new single-make series.
Ratel believes the current schedule, which sees the Sprint series retain key events at St. Pete and Long Beach in support of the NTT IndyCar Series, is an important element that could see further growth in 2020.
“I think it’s still good to keep St. Pete. Long Beach will be good,” he said.
“The concept was to keep the DNA of World Challenge, and many fans like the pure sprint, so I think it’s good to keep it as long as there’s a good grid.
“If tomorrow, one day, it falls and we have 12 cars at the start, we will say that the time has passed and let’s do something else. But for the moment, both are working. So why not continue with both?”
Despite some minor changes in the pipeline, such as the likely elimination of standalone races for GT4 East/West, as was the case last month in Laguna Seca, which he admitted was a “bit of a risk”, Ratel has stressed the importance of stability in championship’s format.
“This paddock has gone through a real transition, from what it was when I first got here four years ago,” he said. “It’s completely different.
“You can’t keep changing things. We have plans, and that plan will run for years, and that’s what we intend to do.
“If you keep changing, people are really going to get lost.
“For now, I think we have a good product and we can make little adjustments, but the series I think everybody understands what it is now.”