07/04/2009 Media Day press conference

 The 2009 season of the FIA GT Championship got underway with the official media launch, which took place at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit, within two days of official testing.  Cars from the FIA GT Championship, the FIA GT3 European Championship and the GT4 European Cup were entered for the test days, with a total of 49 cars expected to take part over the two days.  A press conference was followed by the unveiling of the first two cars built according to the 2010 GT1 technical regulations : the Nissan GT-R and the Ford GT1.

During the launch press conference, Stephane Ratel, CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, promoter of both the FIA GT Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship, outlined the changes for the 2009 season.  Despite the difficult economic times, an FIA GT calendar reduced to eight events, the removal of development tyres, along with a generous team assistance package, have helped to assure full-season grids of 42 cars – with 12 brands represented – for the FIA GT3 European Championship, as well as an entry list of 25 cars for the FIA GT Championship, including full-season entrants and race-by-race competitors.

Ratel then continued with a comprehensive update on the GT1 World project.  The plans made over recent years reached a new level today, not only with the unveiling of the first two cars built according to the 2010 GT1 technical regulations, and with the announcement of a third, but with a full presentation of the planned Championship and the status with the FIA.

The 2010 GT1 World project aims to set up a World Championship title for independent teams, based on the FIA balance of Performance system which has proved so successful in keeping close competition and balanced costs in the GT1 and GT3 categories.  A truly global programme aims at 12 events in 12 countries, on five continents.  Letters of intent have been received from circuits in Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The single GT1 class would consist of six brands, a maximum of 24 cars, two cars per team and two teams per brand. Only full-season entries would be eligible, as is currently the case in GT3.  The teams would receive substantial support for the long-distance events.  With a general format of two one-hour races per event, a qualifying race and a Championship race, there would be one winner per weekend.  However, the continuation of the 24-hour race at Spa would maintain the endurance nature of the cars.

As for the cars, the 2010 technical regulations have been drafted in collaboration with the ACO and approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in December, to be applied in the FIA Championships and in the ACO series.  The 2010 GT1 cars can be developed by the manufacturers or independent tuners.  A compromise between the cost-effective approach successfully developed with GT3, the detailed technical regulations of GT2 and the need to have distinctive cars, 2010 GT1 cars can be specifically built, an evolution of existing GT3 cars or a 2010 GT2 car with a performance kit.

Gabriele Cadringher, representing the FIA, confirmed the situation : “The FIA does not give World titles easily.  There have been months of discussions with Stephane, but the contract with the FIA is now ready, and all the conditions have been laid down to move to this new stage.  The conditions which need to be fulfilled include ten races on three continents minimum, which looks like being the case, four different brands represented, which I don’t think will be a problem, and 18 cars at least on the grid, which is up to Stephane. We think that Stephane has all the chances to get this.  We will monitor him, and give him help on the technical and sporting side.  And we would like to wish him good luck; we look forward to good races in the future.” 

At the end of the press conference, Mr Sanada, the president of NISMO, and Henry Barczynski of Gigawave Motorsport, NISMO’s partner team, unveiled the Nissan GT-R, while Martin Bartek of Matech Concepts unveiled the Ford GT1. 

“It is a wonderful experience to work with Nissan. It’s going to be a tremendous year and I know we will learn a lot from them, and next year, we are aiming to win the Championship !” explained Henry Barczynski.

Martin Bartek commented : “When I met Stephane about the GT1 project in late 2007, the goal we set and agreed at that time was to build a spectacular GT1 car but with the running budget of a GT3 equivalent car. This is what I think we have managed to achieve in one-year’s development time.  We have built two cars, one which will be entered by ourselves, and the second which will be entered by MarcVDS Racing.”

Afterwards, Hans Reiter confirmed that he would also be building a new generation GT1 car : “As some of you may know, Lamborghini has recently released a new version of the Murciélago, SV version, 670 hp, 6.7 litre, and this will be our car for the GT1 World Championship.  Unfortunately, the car is not ready yet as the car was only launched in March, but should be ready for the second part of the season,” he explained.