Thought leadership series
Ratel: Electric and customer racing will be the future
Stephane Ratel believes the current coronavirus crisis is not only reshaping the 2020 season but also the direction of technology, with a future of electric and customer racing on the horizon.
With all motorsport having been hit by postponements during the coronavirus pandemic, while NASCAR became the first series to make a tentative return behind closed doors, championship organisers have been working out how to make a comeback when it gets the green light from health authorities.
Ratel, CEO of SRO Motorsports Group and an international leader in GT racing for over 20 years, is targeting a return in late July for the GT World Challenge Europe series, while the iconic Spa 24 Hours event has been delayed to October to give organisers the longest lead-up time before its blue riband race could be forced to be called off entirely for 2020.
As part of our #ThinkingForward series, James Allen speaks to Ratel about how the ongoing crisis looks set to alter the future of GT racing.
"I've been saying that in 10 years we'll be left with electric racing and customer racing," Ratel said. "It seems that this crisis might be accelerating the move.
"In recent years we put back in fashion customer racing. So it would look that we are maybe in a more favourable position than other championships. However, our teams are also benefiting from some manufacturer support, and manufacturer support we have seen decreasing the last years, it's not something that came yesterday.
"It is certain that all motorsport programmes that are highly dependent on manufacturer direct involvement and investments are going to be suffering in the years to come. This is almost certain with the only exception of electric racing.
"Because I think that what we've seen during this last two months - we saw dolphins back in the Venice canal - [this] will leave a long lasting effect on people and the environmental question is going to be more present than before."
Ratel, who discusses a three-stage return to racing and the impact of climate change, also believes "marrying" electric and customer racing could be a bigger challenge given the strongly held attraction to traditional combustion engine cars.
"I think everybody agrees, including the car manufacturers, that electric racing for the moment will be difficult to marry with customer racing," he explained. "What we are selling [is] sensation to our drivers.
"So I can't tell you that the GT World challenge tomorrow is going to be with electric cars because before you will not have the same sensation driving a V10 Lamborghini or Ferrari or any of our manufacturers, this is going to take some time.
"But we need to have a roadmap to lower our carbon footprint."
How to overcome mental burnout after your F1 dream has died
Hulkenberg tests Lamborghini GT3 car at the Nurburgring