Overall champions will be crowned on the basis of points scored across the Blancpain-sponsored Endurance and Sprint Series in 2014.
Extending the sponsorship deal with the Swiss watchmaker to the championship known this year as the FIA GT Series has allowed promoter Stephane Ratel to push through a plan originally proposed for 2013. He put his proposal for an FIA GT World Series, which would have linked FIA GTs and Blancpain, to the sport’s governing body last winter following the demise of the FIA GT1 World Championship, but his idea was turned down.
Blancpain GT Series titles for both drivers and teams will be awarded and there will be a 100,000 ($135,000) prize fund and a tire deal with Pirelli, the sole supplier in both series, worth 140,000 euro ($190,000) for the joint champions. The separate classifications for the Sprint and Endurance series will remain.
“This is more about having one integrated program that we can promote together,” said Ratel. “It will be easier with one brand.
“Blancpain has built a name in the world of GT racing and become a kind of reference. Now we are receiving money from a sponsor rather than paying the FIA [a sanction fee], which means we can help our teams financially.”
Ratel stressed that he was not cutting his ties with the FIA.
“No one has slammed the door on anyone. We are still in discussions with the FIA about the support of their services on things like the Balance of Performance,” he said.
The new overall classification will help bolster grids in the Sprint Series, Ratel believes. Reduced entry fees will be offered to teams contesting the two series, whose calendars have been coordinated to help teams take part in both with the same machinery.
Next year’s Sprint calendar has been increased from six to seven races, although two of the events remain provisional. Brands Hatch has taken over the spot previously occupied by Zolder on this year’s FIA GT calendar, the British circuit replacing its lost DTM round with the Blancpain series. A race at the Algarve circuit, which was a regular on the GT1 World calendar in 2010-12, slips in between the existing Slovakia Ring and Navarra events.
A new category called the Silver Cup will be introduced for next year for pairs of young up-and-coming drivers under 25. The Pro Cup class will disappear in favor of an overall classification.
2014 Blancpain Sprint Series calendar:
April 20-21 Nogaro (F)
May 17-18 Brands Hatch (GB)
July 5-6 Zandvoort (NL)
August 23-24 Slovakia Ring (SK)
September 6-7 Algarve (P)
Sept 27-28/Oct 4/5 Navarra (E)
November 1/2 Baku (AZ)