Restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic mean that SRO Motorsports Group’s presence on the ground is likely to be minimal for the inaugural season of Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia, according to Stephane Ratel.
The Australian government continues to only allow returning travelers with citizenship into the country, with very few exceptions made.
GTWC Australia, which is a collaboration between SRO and the Australian Racing Group, is set to have its opening round at Phillip Island on Feb. 20-21.
When asked by Sportscar365 about the extent of SRO’s ground presence in the series for its launch, Ratel said: “as long as we can’t enter the country, very limited.”
However, Ratel was quick to highlight that “nowadays we can do many things remotely” with frequent dialogue occurring between the two groups.
“The most important thing is that we are having regular conference calls with our friends at ARG,” he explained.
“We are really working together to get this concept together and to have the concept of SRO, the regulations of SRO, the driver categorizations and partners.
“I think it’s a good financial contribution, that we can bring some credible partners associated to the series.
“The fact that manufacturers are entering the World Challenge globally; we will soon release their numbers, but we are very happy with the evolution of that.”
The introduction of GTWC Australia makes a fourth different continental series for SRO, joining the well-established European component as well as America and Asia.
While only three entries have been officially announced so far for the inaugural season, Ratel says targets for growth have already been set.
It is hoped there will be a constant grid of 20 cars for the first year limited to Pro-Am and Am only classes.
“Then we will see how it evolves,” Ratel commented.
“Maybe one day we will have a Silver class. We are starting from where we’re starting, and we’ll see where we are in two years.”
Flexibility will be key, with Ratel giving an example: “if tomorrow you have ten teams coming and you have ten Pro cars, you add a Pro class,” he explained.
“But you can’t have two cars, and you basically need categories that are strong enough.”
Ratel says GT2 is not a consideration for GTWC Australia as the focus will be on strengthening up the GT3 grid and growing it over the seasons to come.
SRO’s experience from its acquisition of WC Vision in North America, which is now known as SRO America, is already being applied to its Australian counterpart for the wider success of the GT World Challenge brand.
“America is a great contribution,” Ratel added. “We’re fully integrated now, between the U.S team and the European team.
“We really work with them, having weekly calls. It’s really working well together.
“The foundations are getting stronger and stronger. I’m very happy. Thanks to SRO America we got AWS, so each series contributes to the global success.
“That’s the global idea and it works very well.”
Entry List Growing for Inaugural Season
Three entries have now been announced for the 2021 GTWC Australia season, including recent announcements from Mercedes-AMG squad Triple Eight and Bathurst local Brad Schumacher who is entering with an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
Schumacher will be joined by Supercars driver Tim Slade for the three-hour Bathurst endurance round.
Additionally, Rolex 24 at Daytona GT Le Mans class winner Chaz Mostert was named as a driver in an Audi entry last month.
Nine cars took part in a test day at Phillip Island on Friday including Audis from Melbourne Performance Centre and the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo.
Category manager Ken Collier suggested that the proposed Am-focused competition structure has been “well-received” from prospective teams.
“Interest in the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia powered by AWS has been fantastic,” he said.
“The fact that there is a renewed focus on the amateur drivers who own the cars has seen many cars come back to the circuit competitively.
“Australian motorsport needs to have a strong GT race category and get back to the regular, big fields of five and six years ago.
“I feel we have an on-track package to do this with our Seven Network TV broadcast, the ARG and SRO partnership plus the complete support of Motorsport Australia.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report