ADAC 24h Nürburgring joins Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli next season. The announcement, made at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours on Spa on July 1, was met with universal enthusiasm by teams, drivers, manufacturers and fans, but also raised some key questions about how the race and its promoter will work together with IGTC’s organiser, SRO Motorsports Group.
We sat down with SRO’s founder and CEO, Stephane Ratel, to get some answers…
???: Stephane, it’s incredibly exciting to see Intercontinental heading to the Nordschleife next season. But is there any risk of the event’s character changing as a result of the partnership?
Stephane Ratel: “No, not at all. I love the race just the way it is, and so do the fans that pack out the Nordschleife every year. Intercontinental’s presence will not alter the event’s traditional spirit in any way. Instead, IGTC is about uniting the world’s best GT-only races behind a common purpose. Yes, we award drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, but the races are independent. Kyalami, Gulf and Bathurst are not managed by SRO, don’t forget. That’s why we see IGTC as a ‘challenge’ rather than championship.”
“I’ve also noticed a few comments online about the race potentially becoming GT3-only as a result of IGTC’s involvement. I don’t understand where that has come from because Intercontinental has always raced in a multi-class environment. Bathurst, Gulf, Kyalami, Indianapolis, Sepang and even Spa currently or have previously featured other categories. So the Nurburgring’s existing class structure actually mirrors that of IGTC’s other events, albeit with GT3 entries remaining the sole points scorers.”
???: So how far will SRO’s involvement extend at the Nurburgring?
Stephane Ratel: “The Suzuka 10 Hours, which had its own distinct set of regulations, is probably the closest example from Intercontinental’s recent history. Generally, SRO took a very hands-off approach, and we intend on doing the same at the Nurburgring unless ADAC requests our input in specific areas. We will be in the background helping as we also do at Bathurst, but it won’t be an SRO event in any way shape or form. Fans will see IGTC logos on some of the cars, but they will be the only clue as to our involvement.”
???: And that also goes for Balance of Performance?
Stephane Ratel: “Correct. The Nordschleife is such a specific circuit and one that SRO has never raced at. Again, we are happy to apply our expertise if ADAC requests it, but the GT Bureau will not be leading on that.”
???: What about tyres?
Stephane Ratel: “Pirelli has been IGTC’s sole tyre supplier since 2017 and is a longstanding SRO partner. BOP is also far more difficult to calculate when there are multiple manufacturers to consider. However, this element has been at the heart of ADAC 24h Nürburgring for many years and isn’t something SRO is in a position to change. As such, IGTC nominations using different tyre suppliers will still be eligible to score drivers’ and manufacturers’ points.”
???: How many IGTC entries are you expecting?
Stephane Ratel: “This depends on how many manufacturers sign up to IGTC next year. But we are hopeful the Nurburgring’s inclusion will tip the balance and see several return. A calendar featuring four iconic circuits and three bona fide classic GT races is a compelling proposition.”
“Each manufacturer could nominate five entries at Spa this year. That’s one more than other IGTC rounds but one less than previous seasons. Nurburgring’s number will depend on the uptake at the start of 2024, but we are also mindful of the German manufacturers’ traditional level of commitment to their home race and how that might affect others with only one or two Pro cars. So TBC for now, but I do expect to see some teams there that perhaps wouldn’t have raced without IGTC’s involvement.”
“There’s also the question of IGTC’s drivers’ classification. Some will be entered in two cars at the Nurburgring, which obviously gives them an unfair championship advantage. Conversations are ongoing but for that specific scenario we will likely ask manufacturers to nominate one of the two cars beforehand.”
???: The Nordschleife is a very specific and incredibly demanding circuit that takes time to learn. Could that pose a problem for IGTC’s Independent Cup entrants?
Stephane Ratel: “Independent Cup will continue to feature a drop-round next season, and the Nordschleife would appear to be the obvious choice for those FIA Bronze-graded drivers without existing experience or the time to learn it. We would of course welcome them – the Nordschleife is a bucket list track for many – but then so is Bathurst, Spa and Indianapolis, which are spread out across the year and probably more straightforward.”
???: As for GT2, are you expecting this class to compete at the Nurburgring next year?
Stephane Ratel: “We hoped GT2 would be ready to join Intercontinental this season. It didn’t happen but we are continuing to push, and next season looks more realistic – especially at Spa and the Nurburgring. This year we had 70 GT3 cars at Spa so making space for GT2 won’t be easy and we won’t do it unless the demand is sufficient. We need a minimum of six cars to make that worthwhile. The Nurburgring has more space, we know teams are interested and there are more cars coming, but we need to find the right package for GT2 within IGTC before committing to a series-wide class in 2024.”
???: And finally, a potential fifth IGTC event was mentioned during Spa’s press conference. Has there been any progress on that?
Stephane Ratel: “Not yet. We first need feedback from manufacturers and teams, but from the initial reaction we’re likely to remain at four events in 2024. Going forward, we would consider Kyalami continuing or Suzuka re-joining the IGTC calendar if there is sufficient appetite. And in time we hope both can return in order to re-establish the series’ presence on five continents. But this solution would also include both European 24-hour races. We see the Nurburgring as a long-term collaboration.”