Stephane Ratel has confirmed that 10 teams have signed up for his new GT Series, which replaces the GT1 World Championship this year. The series will preserve the sprint-race format of the World Championship.
Former champion squad Vita4One will run BMW machinery while WRT, Phoenix and Novadriver will field Audis. Sebastien Loeb Racing will run McLarens, with Reiter campaigning Lamborghinis and Heico Gravity Charouz bringing Mercedes. ProSpeed and Rodrive/Lambda will run Porsche and Ford machinery, respectively. Ratel is expecting at least one more team to commit and, with race-by-race entries, to have grids of 24 to 26 cars at each race.
Ratel said that the success of the GT3 category, which will form the basis of the series, made the decision to push ahead with the series an easy one.
"It's probably our biggest achievement," said Ratel at the AUTOSPORT International motorsports show in England. "You can look through the history books and you'll never find an international category with 14 manufacturers – as it will be when the Bentley comes in – represented before. It's going to be very exciting."
Joining Ratel at the show appearance was Cesar Campanico, team boss of the Novadriver squad. He said that his team's graduation to the series would not have been possible without the restructuring of the series.
"We've done the last four years in FIA GT3, which was a European championship, as it was the only series regulated by the FIA for the category. We did well last year and finished fourth, but even with that, it would be impossible to step up to GT1 World because of the budgets involved.
"In the sprint series, we can do well, I hope, in the Pro-Am category, and maybe get in the top 10 overall. And with the Balance of Performance working as it does, everything is even for everyone."
A seven-race schedule with two non-European races had been planned, but Ratel said that the decision had been made to reduce the schedule after meeting with prospective entrants.
"I sat around the table with the teams and it was their decision," he explained. "They said it was better to regroup and just to have six races with only one outside Europe.
"We were ready to go to Brazil in addition to the Middle East, but we would have been obliged to use air freight. In the current economic situation that is not the right thing to do."
The opening round of the series, which takes over from the FIA GT1 World Championship, has been set back from Abu Dhabi in February to Nogaro in April. An event in the Middle East, almost certainly Abu Dhabi, will now take place at the end of the season after races at Zolder, Zandvoort, the Slovakia Ring and Navarra.
The move means the end of Ratel's plan to award a world title based on points scored in the FIA GT Series and the sister Blancpain Endurance Series. The FIA was insistent on two non-European races for world status.
FIA GT Series calendar
April 1 Nogaro (F)
April 21 Zolder (B)
July 14 Zandvoort (NL)
August 18 Slovakia Ring (SV)
October 13 Navarra (E)
November 16 or 23 Middle East *
* to be confirmed