Stephane Ratel says he’s pleased with the changes made to the Blancpain GT Series this season, including a new qualifying format and cap on all-pro lineups in the Endurance Cup.
The changes were mainly made to alleviate growing problems in the Endurance Cup surrounding the existing qualifying format and declining amount of Am-rated drivers on the grid.
The new qualifying format for both the Sprint and Endurance Cup uses the average lap time of each driver and has had unanimous support, according to Ratel.
Furthermore, a minimum pit stop time for the Endurance Cup has been implemented, replacing the previous system of a prohibited time range.
“[The qualifying system has been] very well received,” the SRO Motorsports Group CEO and founder told Sportscar365. “Drivers drive where they should start, and it worked very well.
“Also, the new pit stop rule in Endurance is very well received. I heard zero complaints, and we completely changed the system.
“We have to balance to avoid too much competition, which becomes very detrimental to the championship, and we have to control cost, but we also have to offer something that looks good to the public.
“It’s not satisfactory that you were on the clock so people wait. Now, we’ve seen in Monza, it’s good for the public and it looks professional while being reasonable for the teams. At the end, that’s what we want.”
Ratel also pushed for a reduction in Pro Cup entries for the Endurance races, in order to attract more Am drivers back to the series.
The cap was placed at 26 cars although 24 took part at Monza, slightly under half of the field, while the remainder is made up of Pro-Am, Am and Silver Cup entries.
“That’s the biggest satisfaction,” Ratel said. “This means that you have four classes and I know it seems a lot but in each of the four classes you have real competition.
“We have double the number of Am cars that we had last year. I always say this series is a mix of Ams and professionals.
“I think if we didn’t take the measure we took, it could have been dangerous for the series. Now, I think we have restored the confidence of the Am drivers.
“They feel at home again and that is the most important for us.”
Ratel Wary of Large Teams Dominating Series
Ratel has warned of the risks brought by the growth of some of the series’ larger teams, saying that he would like to see a maximum of four cars per operation.
The largest team in the series currently is AKKA ASP, which has five Mercedes-AMG GT3s for Endurance and four for Sprint.
Half of the Sprint Cup grid is made up by just three teams – AKKA ASP, Grasser Racing Team and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, meanwhile.
“I’ve seen that in British Formula 3 in the old days, Carlin started and then the drivers either wanted to be with Carlin or they were going to another series,” Ratel explained.
“If you look at [AKKA ASP team principal] Jerome Policand, he came to the championship and was running in the Am class of the French championship with his team. He grew and grew and he came to Blancpain.
“It was a big jump for him to come from the French championship to international, and I’m very happy to see him grow. He has four, five cars and it’s amazing. I congratulate him.
“On the one side, you want a reward for success, which we should all have, and on the other end, we don’t want to see one team pushing out the other ones.
“It’s good to see a team like Attempto challenging WRT and we’ve seen last year Sainteloc winning at Spa, and other Mercedes teams are also there. It’s good.”
Nevertheless, this is something that Ratel wants to keep an eye on in the future, viewing an ideal maximum of four cars per team.
“We don’t have the problem for the moment but we shouldn’t have more than four cars per team, in principle,” he explained. “After, it becomes too much.”