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30/07/2010

GT1 global expansion continues

Stephane Ratel, the mastermind of the FIA GT1 World Championship, today announced the latest target markets for the series and the prospect of a new brand joining the starting grid in 2011.

Discussions are advanced with promoters in North America and China to host a round of the series. That would take GT1 racing to five continents around the globe – Asia/Middle East, Europe, North America, Africa and South America.

“Our main objective is to continue the globalization of the championship,” Ratel, the CEO of SRO (Stephane Ratel Organisation), said. “As a world championship we want to visit the world.

"We want to bring the championship in to the biggest markets, the fastest expanding markets and all of the main markets such as the US. Next year we have worked as a priority to take GT1 to the North America, we have ongoing contacts in the US and in Canada.

“Our second market, the fastest growing market on the planet is China. We have had extremely good contact with China and we are working hard to take the championship there.

“We believe that most of our existing events will continue, but in the future it is no secret that we will reduce the number of events in Europe in order to have more events overseas.”

Ratel also confirmed that there was a strong possibility of BMW joining the six existing brands of Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford, Lamborghini, Maserati and Nissan for the 2011 season.

The new marquee is likely to compete under the BMW Alpina banner and be managed by Aurora Racing Designs. The programme will offer the BMW-Alpina B6 car to customers seeking entry to the championship.

“The cars that we have homologated are here for two years but we are working on adding new brands to the series,” Ratel said.

“There is one project that is very interesting, which is the BMW Alpina. It is a private project but the car that has won two races, the Matech Ford GT is also a completely private project, as is the Lamborghini Murcielago.”

Ratel confirmed that the GT1 event in South Africa had been postponed until 2011 due to issues over the homologation of the circuit on the streets of Durban.

“Durban has been more complicated that forecast. Initially we had a deal with the municipality of Durban to use the circuit previously used by AIGP.

“We had the walls, the bridge and the fence, so they only had to put the circuit back in place. The first complication came from the fact that they destroyed part of the circuit to construct a World Cup football stadium. So a new design was done and then the FIA became much more careful on the street circuit design and after various communications it needed a complete re-design of the circuit to make it happen.

“So even if the municipality agreed to do the work, it couldn't be done in the requested remaining time, so the event has been postponed till 2011.”

Circuito de Navarra in the north-west of Spain has been lined up as a replacement with a date set at 24-25 October.

“They have very good facilities and we think that it will be an ideal replacement.”

Ratel also confirmed that he will lodge a submission with the FIA for a revamped GT2 series for 2011. The central feature will be the Spa 24 Hour Race weekend with additional endurance races at leading European circuits including Monza.

The races would be open to GT2, GT3, GT4 and GTN cars – much like the 2010 Spa weekend model. The GT2 field will compete for an FIA GT2 European Championship.

“We will propose to the FIA a series going to the main prestige circuits like Monza and Nurburgring to do a limited series of events around the 24 Hours of Spa,” he said.

“It could be four or five events coming back to the format of the old FIA GT, with three-hour races, top circuits and no driver categorisation.”

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