SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel says he’s “very happy” with the grid for this weekend’s inaugural Indianapolis 8 Hour given the current travel and economic challenges faced due to COVID-19.
The second round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli is set to feature 22 cars for the first-ever long-distance pro endurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
While comprised of 12 GT3 cars, the majority are U.S.-based entrants, which has marked a turnaround from last year’s IGTC round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca that saw a largely European grid.
The Laguna round last year in fact featured three fewer cars overall.
“Twenty-two [cars] is quite a success,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “We are very happy.
“If you look at the grid we had last year at Laguna Seca with very few American teams; It was essentially the European outfits.
“Now we have made it more of an American race, because of COVID-19.
“We should have had a lot more European cars, but so be it, and Asian cars because initially we had GruppeM and others who skipped Indianapolis.
“To have more cars than last year, I think it’s quite a performance.”
While the first three hours of the race will count as double points for GTWC America competitors in what will be its season finale, all of the teams have committed to run for the full eight-hour duration.
Ratel stressed that this year’s event is not planned to be a one-off, with a multi-year contract with IMS understood to have agreed upon, with the goal of achieving measurable growth.
“Many people were not believing in it, so I think it’s good that our U.S. team – Greg Gill, Staci [Langham], Jack Baldwin – they’ve worked really hard to get this grid together,” Ratel said.
“We needed it, because the series has been really hard in America this year.
“So I think it’s good that it’s something we needed for SRO America to build something there. We’re there to stay.”
Ratel: Manufacturers Need to Focus on Local Cars, Teams for IGTC
The success of IGTC, now in its fifth season, will hinge on whether manufacturers fully embrace the championship’s intended purpose according to Ratel.
It comes at even more critical time now amid travel restrictions that are not expected to immediately go away in 2021.
“The concept of IGTC was that you don’t fly cars, teams and personnel. You use local teams and send drivers over,” Ratel said.
“If everybody followed this concept, everybody would continue, because it makes it the most cost-effective global championship.
“As the championship got more attention and manufacturers joining, more of them had teams doing the whole thing.
“When you start doing the whole thing, it’s like WEC because you have cars flying, containers and things, it ended up costing a lot of money.
“And then you say, it costs too much, so you stop. But nobody asked you to do that. The concept is that you should use local teams.”
Ratel says all markets have enough local GT3 teams and cars, with the exception of Kyalami, which he believes will remain a race largely filled by European teams for at least the short-term.
“There are enough cars in Asia and there are a number of good cars in Australia,” he said. “Bathurst was a round without European teams, initially. It should continue like this.
“Same thing in America; there are enough GT3 cars. They shouldn’t be needing to send cars abroad.
“So maybe we are going to rework the points attribution, the number of cars for each event, depending on the popularity of the event because otherwise they feel it’s too expensive if they need to field three cars, four cars.
“Maybe we’re going to reduce that.
“But I think the concept is right. Five continents, five races.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report