Six months on from becoming a stakeholder in WC Vision, Stephane Ratel has been pleased with the growth of Pirelli World Challenge and its long-term outlook.
The SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO has returned to the PWC paddock for this weekend’s season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, to meet with competitors and help determine the championship’s future path.
“I’m very, very pleased,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “First of all I really appreciate the partners in this company.
“It’s a bit unusual for me, because in SRO I’m the only shareholder, and I have to make decisions by myself, even if I consult my team.
“Here, it’s interesting because you exchange ideas and you debate, and I think we all get along very well, so it’s a very nice group.
“I think [WC Vision President/CEO] Greg Gill is doing a great job and I love the racing in America.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t come to all the races. I had too much of a big gap between Lime Rock and [Laguna Seca]. It had been a long time because all the events were clashing.
“Next year, I’ll try to be more present throughout the year.”
Ratel’s staff has played a key part in the development of the new-for-2016 SprintX series, which debuted at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with single-digit numbers but has grown to a 24-car grid for this weekend’s season finale.
“I think the series is doing well and it’s a real personal satisfaction, as we pushed for SprintX, which is basically the Blancpain GT Sprint concept,” he said.
“You see so many [cars] here today, so that’s a success right out of the box.
“In the first year, there are so many cars, and I think people understand it and start getting a feel for it, it’s good.”
One of the key targets is the growth of SprintX, which is poised to feature on at least five weekends next year, including the potential for headline events.
The provisional 2017 schedule, released in July, listed five standalone SprintX rounds and five Sprint rounds, although the final composition is set to be announced by as early as next week.
Meetings have been ongoing this weekend at Laguna Seca to discuss this matter, among others.
“That is one of the points that needs to be discussed, and what we’ve done here is what I’ve always done in Europe,” Ratel said.
“I make propositions, and I basically did the same in Barcelona [at the Blancpain GT Series season finale], where I had a meeting with the teams.
“We proposed what we believed the format should be for the series going forward, and now we are really getting the feedback back from the paddock. Then we’ll discuss and make the final proposal, on what the format will be for next year.”
Ratel said one of the changes under consideration for next year is the pit stop regulations, which are currently enforced by a minimum time and an optional one-tire change.
A proposal to adopt the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup regulations, which require a four-tire change and no minimum time, is under evaluation.
“A fast tire change is definitely part of it,” Ratel said. “It’s a question mark which is being discussed in the paddock.
“Do we go like British GT and ADAC GT Masters, where it’s timed, or do we go like Blancpain Sprint where it’s full-on competition?
“I’m in favor of the full-on competition, because I think it really brings excitement to the teams.”
The packaging of SprintX and PWC’s traditional single-driver Sprint format is also another talking point, particularly with how it fits into an overall championship, a system aimed to mirror the format used in Blancpain GT.
Despite his new financial stake in the company, Ratel said he’s not expecting to push for changes overnight but admitted his desire to eventually align all three of his continental championships under a single set of sporting regulations.
SRO announced in July the formation of the Blancpain GT Asia Cup, which will launch next year based on regulations used in the British GT Championship.
“Our concept is to have three big continental series, then the Intercontinental GT Challenge. When that is done, there’s one more step,” Ratel said.
“Of course in the future, I’d like to have further integration with the format, but as time goes.
“In motorsport, it’s good to do an evolution and not a revolution. People are really used to the way of doing things.
“If you come and try to throw the table, it doesn’t really work. You need to propose evolution. You have a lot of convincing to do and to adapt it to the specificity of the market.
“It’s also about listening to the people; it’s their championship.”