What is the outlook coming into another season of GT racing?
“Our world is extremely busy, thanks to our involvement in the Pirelli World Challenge in America, in our main championships in Europe – GT3 with the Blancpain GT Series, Sports Club and all the GT4 series, British GT and all the other series – and in Asia with our growing Blancpain GT Asia Series. So, it’s a global programme, all with Pirelli.
In Europe we have put out another 50-car grid in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, which is remarkable. So, the level of competition is higher than ever: we have 11 manufacturers, all of them with at least one car with a full Pro line-up of the highest quality. I think it’s unseen in any other competition around the world, and it’s going to be extremely exciting.
We have a few less cars in the Sprint Cup, with 20, but we have a growing success in GT4, which has the same format at a fraction of the cost. We’ve enjoyed unprecedented success in the GT4 category in Europe and had to make a selection of 47 cars which is the absolute maximum that the circuits can handle.”
We see more and more manufacturers coming into the Blancpain GT series?
“That’s been the beauty of GT3. We have a record number of manufacturers, and for now, touch wood, we still haven’t lost one. Manufacturers are here, and they keep coming with new cars. We’ve seen the new Bentley and the new evolution of the Nissan GT-R this year – it seems that whenever a new model comes out, the manufacturer goes racing with the new model. We had the new Ferrari, the new Mercedes, the new BMW, the new Lamborghini. New production car: new GT3 model. And that shows the health of the category.”
We have seen increasing involvement from Porsche. What do you think is encouraging Porsche to become more involved in Blancpain?
“I think that the main problem we had in the past was that some GT manufacturers – namely Audi, Mercedes, Lamborghini – were more into the former FIA GT and Blancpain world, while in particular Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette were more in the Le Mans world. That was really the divide, and we had four manufacturers on one side and four on the other. But with the growing success of GT3, we have built events that are more and more important – like the Bathurst 12 Hours, and Spa 24 Hours – which, besides being customer racing, also delivers marketing return for manufacturers.
I think the most important thing this year is that for the first time in a long time the three manufacturers that we can consider to be among the most important in the history of GT racing – namely Ferrari from Italy, Porsche from Germany and Aston Martin from the UK – are all back here with championship-winning cars in the top Pro category. So now these manufacturers are all together with us and I think that’s very good.”
There is talk of prototypes like those at Le Mans taking a more production-based look. Is that down to the influence of championships like Blancpain GT?
“It’s always what I’ve believed in. I’m not a prototype man. I’m not a Formula 1 man. I come from a world of what the Americans call exotic cars. I love the prestige manufacturers, the good looking and good sounding cars. A car is basically always an equation between the drawing of a designer and the algorithm of an engineer. I’ve always had a tendency to like the drawing of the designer more than the algorithm. With the balance of performance, we have managed to counteract the algorithm of the engineer, and I still think today that Le Mans would have more global success if it was about dream cars rather than about prototypes. Imagine if the car that could win overall at Le Mans could be an Aston Martin Vulcan, a McLaren Senna GTR, or the Ferrari FXXK – I think it would have a better impact on the general public. That’s my belief but it’s the ACO’s question, not my question.”
Is this an unprecedented period in this category?
“We’ve had so many ups and downs over the years! But I would say that now, the fact that we have in our hands two major categories, not only GT3 but also GT4, and we went from a European-based company into a global – small, but global – company with an involvement in America and a championship in Asia, and Intercontinental bringing us all the way to Australia, that no, it’s never been that big, that’s for sure. However, if you ask me compared to my ultimate dream, we’re only at the beginning…”
What do you think of the new tyres from Pirelli for this season?
“From what I have seen at the moment, it’s too early to draw a definitive conclusion, but we’re very happy. It seems to be good. I think the cars are faster, but I’ve not heard so much
about anything in particular from the teams, and that means we have a good product!”
Are there any new things we can expect from SRO in the near future?
“Of course, we’re always working on the next project, but we usually disclose our next projects at Spa, and this year is no exception. So, we will have to wait until the 24 Hours to hear what the future is and what happens on planet SRO and beyond next year!”