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SRO Unlikely to Seek New Title Sponsor for GT Series

Stephane Ratel explains future direction of SRO’s ex-Blancpain European GT championships…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

SRO is unlikely to take on a new title sponsor for its leading GT championships next year following Blancpain’s exit, according to Stephane Ratel.

Swiss watchmaker Blancpain withdrew as the lead backing of the SRO GT Series, Endurance Cup and GT World Challenge at the end of the 2019 season after eight years of involvement.

Ratel explained to reporters during last weekend’s FIA Motorsport Games at Vallelunga that he would like to move his two current concepts of ‘Intercontinental’ and ‘World Challenge’ competition to the forefront of SRO’s championship naming strategy.

“There was a small article in a newspaper in German, [asking] why no SRO championship is as well known as it should be considering it has been there for 25 years,” he explained.

“One reason is that we changed the name all the time. It is true, we were the BPR, FIA GT, FIA GT1 World Championship, Blancpain Endurance Series and Blancpain GT Series.

“Apart from the motorsport fans who are kind of keeping up with it, the less interested people… by the time they understand what it is, it changes.

“It is true that if at a dinner in London, I said I was in motorsport, others would ask if I’m in Formula 1. And when I said no, they [don’t understand].

“I have to say to them, GT racing, then grand touring, then Ferrari, and then one or two will have heard of Blancpain.

“Now we have one brand, it is GT World Challenge. World Challenge is really a brand and I think it is a really good asset I have acquired with this company, they have a registered trademark that is, to me, very valuable.

“That has to be our global entity as long as I’m still there.”

Ratel suggested that he wants SRO’s championship names to build the popularity of his two global products – Intercontinental and World Challenge – that were introduced in their current guises in 2016 and 2019, respectively.

“I am looking for ‘powered by’ [suffixes] and event sponsors,” he said. “Now we have the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the World Challenge. Intercontinental and World.

“One is a direct factory series that at the moment has three very credible events and I hope in November [at Kyalami] we will prove that it is four. The fifth one [in the U.S.] will be longer and more difficult to build.

“Then you have this customer racing global competition, which is the World Challenge. We want to get everyone involved and score points for the manufacturers.

“That, I think, is a good concept because they all do customer racing and they have built these big departments of customer racing, and that I am sure will remain.

“If one thing is there in 20 years, it is electric racing and customer racing. I have no doubt that will continue.”

It’s not yet known what will happen to the naming of SRO’s GT Sports Club for Bronze-rated drivers, which is the other series to come under the Blancpain banner.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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