Blancpain GT Series Asia Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici has admitted that he never expected the series to get off to such a good start this season, with grid sizes far beyond his original expectations.
The new-for-2017 championship reconvenes for its third round this weekend at Suzuka, following races in Sepang and Buriram Thailand.
“We’re extremely pleased and surprised with it,” Franassovici told Sportscar365. “We weren’t dreaming of having the first round with 30 cars, and again the same in Buriram with 26.
“Having 26 cars in Buriram was super good, and 30 in Sepang was ten more than we were hoping to have in our first year. Six months ago, I had zero cars.”
Franassovici believes the reason for Blancpain GT Asia’s success has been the attractive overall package that the SRO has been able to offer the market.
“We’ve put a platform together with all the ingredients, approached everyone, and it took time – too long at one point for me – but there was a shift after the Sepang 12 Hours,” he explained.
“There was a shift in people’s trust, and they said they wanted to do this, and that it sounded good between the format, the BoP, the Pirelli tires, the prize money, the transport allowance, the live TV production and the timing.
“It’s a full package. It was a big gamble but we studied the client demand last year, and it all materialized very well.”
In addition, Franassovici says that the SRO has brought a stable package to the Asian market, something it has been lacking since the drop in numbers for the GT Asia Series.
“My approach was that we offered stability,” he said. “We sat down at the beginning of the year with Lamborghini Super Trofeo to join events with them, we have Pirelli with us, and our BoP.
“When you have a BoP that races with SRO events all over the world, your BoP is that much more solid. We have the Pirelli and Lamborghini brands with us, coming to each event.
“We are working closely with the Audi R8 LMS Cup which is also on Pirelli. They share the tracks with us on parallel weekends, so again it reassures clients and drivers that their car will be able to do both.
“It shows stability, which is what was maybe missing on the GT side in Asia. That’s what I sold people. We went for the best tracks, good TV and BoP, and it worked out.”
Furthermore, Franassovici is expecting to see increase growth next season, with GT4 numbers likely to rise as the class continues gathering pace across the world.
Only a handful of Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs have made up the GT4 grid so far this year, but more new-generation cars are expected to arrive next season, he says.
“In Asia they’ve had their GT3s on a national level and have a lot of cars,” Franassovici explains. “It’s what they like and it’s the top cars, the top brands. It’s a different market and they like those dream cars.
“GT4 is new, but we’ve gone from zero to five cars. Next years I’m sure we’ll see the new kids, and I think there will be a shift [in numbers] with the McLaren and other race cars.
“We’ll have that as well. I’ve got 30 cars so I’m not too worried. The GT4 class is new, and they didn’t have GT4 in the past, although they should have introduced that concept. I think it will only grow.”