Stephane Ratel – 15 Minutes With “Mr GT Racing”
Stephane Ratel took some time out of a very busy schedule in Bahrain
on Friday to talk to dsc’s Deputy Editor about the future
of the FIA GT Championship, the next GT Festival, LMES date clashes
and the prospects for racing in GT1, GT2 and GT3.
exactly do you currently have in mind for International GT racing?
started a globalisation of the FIA championship, with two races
outside Europe this season (Dubai and Zhuhai). There will be four
in 2005 and more still in 2006, when I hope half of the rounds will
be outside Europe.
plans for a further GT Festival?
The GT Festival is I believe a good tool to test the organisation,
both of the circuits and of SRO, and we will certainly use some
of the lessons we have learnt this week when we return next year
with the FIA GT Championship.
also use this format as a way of testing the promotion of proposed
events for 2006. There are advantages for all involved. We get to
learn more about our own capabilities and about the strengths and
weaknesses of the circuits, while competitors from all of the national
series get to enjoy racing at top class circuits in a nice country,
after the main season is completed at the end of November.
the numbers to 54 this time and then unfortunately lost six with
problems in China, but next time I hope 60 cars will be possible.
Rumours here in Bahrain suggest that you may be planning to
take the Festival to Philip Island next season?
nothing is settled. It is well known that I have just returned from
Australia and that I had discussions with several circuits: Surfers
Paradise and Bathurst, as well as Philip Island.
at Surfers Paradise would be fantastic but that cannot happen while
the circuit is still under contract to Champcars. It is possible
that we can do something with Philip Island and it is possible that
we might do something with Bathurst.
is a very interesting market for us, but for a Festival it would
be very expensive. If we were to keep to a late November date the
shipping would be difficult, with national championships often finishing
in late October and air freight is of course far more expensive.
envisage an arrangement to promote the 24 Hours at Bathurst?
immediately. Bathurst would like to work with SRO but there is a
lot of work to do to see whether that means the festival, or perhaps
later the 24 Hours.
GT1 cars coming on stream are fantastic but they are also very expensive.
Are you convinced that there will be enough teams able to afford
to race them?
all fits in with our globalisation. In order to grow the sport you
need not only races in the Gulf, Australia etc you need national
interest in terms of teams and drivers too, and you need commitment
to TV coverage to support the events in those markets.
no mistake it is a risky approach: we will certainly lose some of
the smaller teams from the championship, but hopefully we will attract
larger teams with a better package for them.
learnt from the mistakes in the past of direct factory involvement
and I am fully aware that enthusiasts like Frederic Dor do not come
along every two years. We need to avoid factories campaigning two
car teams against their clients.
manufacturers need to support a number of cars in their class. Perhaps
five manufacturers supplying and supporting five cars each. In answer
to the original question, yes I am convinced, we have the interest
from manufacturers and teams and we have the cars.
have said it would fail before, that the LMES would take away our
entry. As it was the LMES took away five cars, from smaller teams.
Dubai and Zhuhai had 30 cars each and I believe we can sustain that.
numbers suffer or recover in 2005 and beyond as the cost increases?
2005 there will definitely be two classes. GT2 will definitely have
a part to play in the FIA championship. In the future, as the strength
of GT1 grows, I can see that the two classes might appear with two
separate races, each with their own promotion.
will be a quiet one in GT2: Nissan have confirmed that they are
racing but it will be a development year for the 350Z. Porsche’s
997 is not yet ready and the Ferrari 360 is coming to the end of
its development. In 2006 though the Nissan will be up to speed and
we should also by then have the Porsche 997 and a new Ferrari 430
about GT3? When grid numbers got low it was mooted that this class
too could feature on FIA GT entries?
working hard on GT3 for the future. It is growing in the national
championships and yes, eventually I would like it to have a class,
or a race of its own, on the FIA GT bill.
LMES dates have raised voices of disappointment with the clashes
agreement with the ALMS was to respect both Sebring and Petit Le
Mans. There was never any commitment to avoid other clashes. With
international and national championships to consider it is very
difficult to avoid other conflicts.
happy with the LMES events so far on the promotional front?
and Spa were very successful and we had some great racing at all
four races, but there is still a lot to do to promote the events
at the ‘Ring and Monza. We need to grow the audiences at the
is currently happening over a possible fifth LMES race in 2005?
not against a fifth event but I do feel we need to consolidate the
existing races. There are others involved who would like to see
a fifth event, but we need to consider carefully where that might
best be held. If we stay in Europe then Spain is an obvious market,
but China is very appealing from the perspective of manufacturers
though you need to look at the costs involved. With four races over
1000kms each, the costs are relatively reasonable. Five, six or
even seven races start to get expensive, particularly for the smaller
And what about LMES grid numbers in 2005?
a strong first year and I believe we will have 50 cars coming in