The inaugural Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign will feature a six-round, 12-race calendar in 2017, as well as a number of elements designed to offer teams greater value for money, opportunities and exposure throughout the season.
The promoter, SRO Motorsports Group, has pooled its experience of overseeing the world’s biggest GT3 Series - the European Blancpain GT Series - as well as national championships catering for GT4 cars, with that of respected leaders in Asian motorsport and its teams to devise a format and benefits specifically tailored to the region’s GT market.
The result brings together the best of both cultures to create a highly-professional platform equally geared towards professional and amateur drivers, while employing the same world-renowned BoP, sporting and technical expertise, and Pirelli tyres common across European and American GT racing.
The inaugural season’s six-round, 12-race calendar features a mix of Asia’s internationally renowned and newest domestic circuits.
2017 begins at Malaysia’s Formula 1 circuit, Sepang, in early April before moving on to Thailand’s only FIA Grade 1 track, the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, for two more one-hour races in late May.
These are followed by trips to Japan’s most internationally renowned motorsport destinations, Suzuka (June) and Fuji Speedway (August), ahead of two Chinese rounds separated by four weeks. The first of these takes place at Shanghai’s Formula 1 circuit in late September before the newly constructed Zhejiang Circuit plays host to the season finale in late October.
With no Intercontinental GT Challenge (Liquid-Moly Bathurst 12Hour, Total 24 Hours of Spa, Laguna Seca 8 Hours and Motul Sepang 12 Hours) date clashes, the calendar also offers Blancpain GT Series Asia teams and drivers the opportunity to compete outside of their traditional heartland using the same cars, BoP and Pirelli tyres.
Scroll down for the complete 2017 calendar.
Weekend format and classes
Each Blancpain GT Series Asia weekend will follow the same format, which has been designed to maximise track time. Friday features two 45-minute practice sessions before another 30-minute session on Saturday morning. That’s followed by two 15-minute qualifying segments ahead of that afternoon’s 60-minute race. A second hour-long race then takes place on Sunday. Both races will feature a mandatory pit-stop and driver change governed by a minimum pit-stop time.
GT3 and GT4 cars will compete in the same race, albeit fighting for individual honours, which adds an exciting multi-class element.
Equally, SRO’s driver crew classifications offer an opportunity for existing professionals to excel, youngsters to develop and amateurs to win. GT3 will therefore comprise separate categories for Pro/Am, Silver Cup (Silver Cup cars will be balanced) and Am/Am line-ups, while GT4 remains solely dedicated to all-amateur pairings in preparation for a potential GT3 graduation.
Pirelli: a tried and trusted GT partner
Pirelli has won the tender to become Blancpain GT Series Asia’s official sole tyre supplier.
While other manufacturers expressed considerable interest, Pirelli’s P ZERO GT3 and GT4 tyres have consistently proven themselves in other SRO-promoted series. A sole supplier prevents teams from footing significant development costs, while the considerable existing data held by manufacturers, as well as European and US teams, can be shared.
Amateur drivers can easily switch between SRO-sanctioned series or contest one-off rounds of the Intercontinental GT Challenge without spending time and money testing unfamiliar tyres, or altering the car’s set-up and their driving style to suit. Equally, Pirelli’s GT compounds have been praised by amateur drivers for their durability, consistency and confidence-inspiring performance over a stint’s duration.
Clearly, a focus on amateur drivers proved a significant factor in Pirelli’s selection. But its continuing supply deal with Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia (see information below) also emphasises the close cooperation between the package’s various stakeholders.
Greater value for money and prize fund
SRO has also focused on the often difficult logistics teams face when competing at venues across the continent and has taken steps to make the Blancpain GT Series Asia package more affordable.
Building on its successful European partnership, Blancpain GT Series Asia will be supported on all weekends but one by Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia. This makes it more cost-effective for teams (and drivers, if they wish) to compete in both at the same event, while an amateur driver’s progression from one-make category to globally-recognised GT3 rules racing is also streamlined.
A further support series announcement, aimed at making the package even more cost-effective, is expected in the coming weeks.
Finally, a substantial $300,000 prize fund has also been guaranteed throughout the year, with $50,000 available at each round. This will be split between the GT3 and GT4 classes, although only full-season entries are eligible to win a share of the money.
Hospitality, live TV, multi-language resources and dedicated logistics
Blancpain GT Series Asia will feature a number of elements designed to widen the exposure of its teams’ successes, enhance sponsor relations and aid general organisation.
A dedicated central hospitality unit at all races provides teams with an area to wine and dine their partners. Four VIP guest passes are included with every full-season entry, while more can be purchased upon request.
In line with all Blancpain GT Series races in Europe, SRO’s Asian equivalent will benefit from professionally produced live streaming at every round, while TV exposure is also guaranteed across the continent and beyond.
A dedicated logistics partner will help lower the cost associated with freighting cars and personnel across Asia, while standardised professional timing will be used at every round.
Blancpain GT Series Asia will combine SRO’s world-renowned GT racing expertise with that of experienced Asian motorsport professionals.
Blancpain GT Series Asia Championship General Manager & Director Benjamin Franassovici provides a wealth of experience earned over 20 years at SRO. Having first worked as FIA GT Championship Team Coordinator between 1997 and 2009, he has overseen the British GT Championship since 2011 and will already be familiar to many Asian teams through his work as Motul Sepang 12 Hours Manager and Macau FIA GT World Cup Coordinator.
Meanwhile, Championship Co-Director Paul Yao’s motorsport involvement began as a driver before founding the Hong Kong Supercar Club in 1999. Four years later he established the Asian Supercar Challenge which, after several name changes, eventually settled on the GT Asia Series moniker. He remained an active partner until 2015.
2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia Calendar
April 8/9 Sepang International Circuit Malaysia 2x 1hr races
May 20/21 Chang International Circuit Thailand 2x 1hr races
June 24/25 Suzuka International Circuit Japan 2x 1hr races
August 19/20 Fuji International Circuit Japan 2x 1hr races
September 23/24 Shanghai International Circuit China 2x 1hr races
October 21/22 Zhejiang Circuit China 2x 1hr races