***The Pro-Am class pole-sitting Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 has lost its best time from Super Pole for missing its allocated starting time in the session by 4.416 seconds. Jonny Adam qualified the car fifth but now moves down to seventh position and still retains the class pole.
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel held his annual press conference on Friday (pictured above), confirming the 2018 Blancpain GT Series schedule, Suzuka replacing Sepang in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the launch of the Asia Pacific 36 Endurance Cup, as well as news on the Blancpain GT Series Asia, British GT Championship, GT4 Europe and more.
***Next year’s Blancpain GT Endurance Cup round at Silverstone is set to clash with the Nürburgring 24, which has been confirmed by the ADAC for May 10-13. Additionally, the Paul Ricard 1000 event falls on the same weekend as the 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day, with the race currently scheduled for the Sunday, the same day as the test day.
***There, however, will be no clashes between the Blancpain GT and Blancpain GT Series Asia calendars, despite one date in each championship still to be confirmed. Ratel said they are hoping to achieve greater joint promotions between the two series. “Even if we don’t have a joint classification, at least we can promote almost every weekend a different Blancpain event,” he said.
***As revealed by Sportscar365 last month, efforts are underway to reinforce Pro-Am and Am driver lineups in Blancpain GT, with Ratel’s “dream formula” consisting of 20 Pro cars, 20 Pro-Am and 15 Am cars in the Endurance Cup next year. “We consider the backbone of GT racing has to remain amateur or a combination of pro and ams,” he said. “So we will push very much for the teams to look for Pro-Am and Mm cars because we think it’s essential for the series.”
***A number of enhancements will be made for next year, including the installation of GPS positioning systems on all cars, as well as the addition of lifting bars for retired or crashed cars trackside.
***SRO’s 1.8 Million Euro total purse will be maintained, spread between Pro, Pro-Am and Am teams.
***Ratel said he expects a minimum grid of 25 cars for the inaugural California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October, which will serve as the penultimate round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season.
***A new end-of-year European finale event for GT4 cars is being planned for Portimao in November, which would be open to cars competing in all of SRO’s newly restructured regional Cups, as well as the new GT4 European Series.
***Interest in the GT4 platform has continued to grow, with at least two additional manufacturers likely on the way, according to Ratel. “There’s no secret there’s an interest,” he told Sportscar365. “You’ve heard it from Jaguar, you have another manufacturer which has not been announced but there’s strong interest.” A number of Jaguar representatives are on-site this weekend.
***Ratel has dispelled rumors of the creation of “GT4-plus” which had suggested that more powerful GT4 cars, such as the McLaren 570S GT4 and Audi R8 LMS GT4, could run unrestricted in an additional class. “Having spoken to our manufacturers, the problem is if you take the car and put an engine with a completely different power, there’s many other parameters you’d need to change and at the end of the day you’d develop something that’s closer to a GT3 than a GT4,” he said.
***Despite not being on the 2018 calendar, Ratel has not ruled out expanding the Intercontinental GT Challenge to five rounds in the future, with his desire to still add Kyalami . He also admitted “maybe one day” returning to South America but has stressed they must take things step-by-step. “When I see what’s happening to all these series that require large funds and manufacturers, let’s not rock the boat and don’t forget that the concept is to use local teams,” Ratel said. “We don’t have that in South Africa or South America. Ideally, I’d like Kyalami next.”
***A meeting with GT3 manufacturers and technical partners was held this morning in SRO’s new hospitality structure in the paddock. More than 50 industry leaders were in attendance, with Ratel having provided details on his organization’s vision for the future.
***A record number of cars changed chassis between the Spa test day and the race. The list includes the No. 12 Ombra Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, No. 22 Motul Team RJN Motorsport Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 (following its crash during qualifying), No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3, No. 58 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3, No. 63 GRT Lamborghini, No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari, No. 89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3.
***Furthermore, the No. 55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari already debuted a new chassis at the test day, while the No. 00 Good Smile Racing Mercedes which was not present at the test day, also sourced a new chassis following its qualifying crash.
***Audi completed an extensive four-day test with the GT3 and GT4 versions of the Audi R8 LMS at Nogaro two weeks ago. While head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke explained that the main focus was on the GT4 car, the GT3 was brought along to prepare this race. “At the moment it’s to put mileage on to prove and to fine-tune the ASR, ABS and also the electronics systems,” he told Sportscar365. “Nogaro is an area where this time of the year, you have stable conditions and hot and demanding conditions we want to prove the car on.”
***The prohibited time range for a pitstop from pit in to pit out for this event is 95 to 133 seconds, which is considerably longer than the usual 20-second margin. This was done to prevent any team from double stinting its tires. Although the decision was already signed off, it is understood that certain parties have been lobbying to lower the range even further.
***For safety reasons, in case of a change of weather conditions and after notification of “Weather Change Pit Stop Authorization” from the Race Director, teams will be allowed to make a pit stop to change all four tires from slick to rain tires only. These pit stops will be unrestricted in terms of length.
Vincent Wouters, Jake Kilshaw and Laurent Mercier contributed to this notebook