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Ratel: Late June the “Earliest” GTWC Can Return to Action

SRO set to put “Plan B” calendar option into play as part of coronavirus pandemic reaction…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

SRO Motorsports Group’s GT World Challenge powered by AWS championships are not set to return until late June at the earliest, according to founder and CEO Stephane Ratel.

All three GTWC competitions in Europe, Asia and America are set to have upcoming events postponed in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Both the GTWC Europe and Asia series had already undergone calendar shifts for their opening rounds during the early stages of the worldwide outbreak.

Further schedule adjustments are now expected to be made as SRO adapts to the rapidly-evolving situation.

The delay of the start of the global GTWC calendar is set to affect the European Endurance Cup race at Paul Ricard (May 30), the Asian round at Fuji (May 23-24) and the visit of the American series to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (May 16-17).

The America round at Virginia International Raceway, which is scheduled for the first weekend in June, could also be affected.

Heading into April, GTWC America and SRO’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli are the only two major sports car racing series that have not had any events postponed.

“Globally, the earliest we can dream of starting is the end of June, beginning of July,” Ratel told Sportscar365.

“That’s the first option. Anything earlier than that is not reasonable.

“In the UK, Motorsport UK has announced that all racing is banned until the end of June, so there it can only restart in July at the earliest.

“The first aim is the end of June, which corresponds in Asia to the Suzuka race (Jun. 20-21), and in Europe at Zandvoort (Jun. 27-28). That is our first [opportunity for] resumption.

“In America, it’s VIR (Jun. 6-7). CTMP looks extremely unlikely but we are working on being at VIR.

“Could that eventually be postponed? We don’t know. We are just waiting for the situation to evolve.”

Ratel explained that he is drawing up different schedule options in anticipation of how the pandemic might pan out.

It’s understood that a provisional 2020 calendar has been communicated to GTWC and Sports Club teams, although no official updates have been issued by SRO.

“For the moment, we have a Plan B which is to start at the end of June or the beginning of July,” said Ratel, who added that “Plan A is long forgotten”.

“We have a Plan C which is to start at the 24 Hours of Spa in July. We have a Plan D which is to start in September. Hopefully, by then, something will have restarted.

“If the worst comes to the worst, we go through the season without organizing anything.

“But it’s not something we want to consider because we want to believe the world will restart in some way before that.”

Three-Race Weekends Possible for Europe

Ratel explained that SRO would be open to running three GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup races on one weekend to help achieve the full annual program of ten races.

This measure would be taken if SRO needs to enact Ratel’s ‘Plan C’ option of starting the European season at Spa, which would force Zandvoort and Misano to be postponed.

On March 12, SRO laid out a contingency plan that promised the original schedule of 10 GTWC events – split into five each for Sprint and Endurance – would be fulfilled this year.

“The last option to deliver a full calendar is that we start with the 24 Hours of Spa at the end of July,” said Ratel.

“There, we would still be in a position to deliver the same number of rounds. We would do two sprint events with three races each, so we would go to nine events with all the races.

“But that is subject to us starting at Spa at the end of July. Should it be impossible to start at Spa at the end of July, then we have another contingency plan which is ready.

“We are keeping our teams informed which is very important.

“If we say that we’re not going to start before the end of June, you have many governments offering temporary layoffs and partial work, so it’s good that the teams can do the same.

“They can keep people if they know they’re not going to have any activity for three months.

“For the moment, everything is sleeping for two months until the end of May. At the end of May, we will re-assess the situation and will change to another plan [if necessary].”

Ratel added that SRO has placed “around two-thirds” of its staff on temporary leave while the situation is resolved.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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