The career of Stephane Ratel, founder and CEO of British GT Championship promoter SRO Motorsports Group, was recognised at the annual Autosport Awards in London last night where the Frenchman received the prestigious Gregor Grant Award.
While the event is primarily an opportunity to recognise drivers, teams and manufacturers from across the motorsport spectrum, several trophies – named in honour of Autosport’s founder – were also presented to honour individual contributions.
For the last quarter-century Ratel and SRO have been widely credited with nurturing GT racing’s revival, first through privateers, then via manufacturers and now in the customer age of GT3 and GT4.
Both classes have been the bedrock of British GT for more than 10 years, but – under SRO’s management – now also compete around the world in Europe, America, Asia and Australia.
Indeed, it was for becoming the dominant worldwide organiser of GT racing that earned Ratel one of Autosport’s annual special awards.
“I thought I would be a lot older when I got this!” joked Ratel on stage. “It's been a very busy time this season, it started in the first weekend of February for the first round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and finished last night with inaugural GT Nations Cup in Bahrain.
“Along the way we have covered 12 championships and series, 49 events in 20 countries and four continents.”
Ratel's first experience of race promotion came with the Venturi-based Gentleman Drivers Trophy in 1992.
He was then part of the organisation behind the BPR Endurance Series that grew into the FIA GT Championship in the mid-1990s, before branching out on his own to establish the forerunners of what became the current Blancpain GT package of championships.
“I think I started like every good race promoter: I started dealing cars and I had a passion for the exotics and brought them to back to racing because GT racing stopped in the late 1970s and early '80s and there was no GT racing,” added Ratel.
“It became the FIA championship and evolved into the Blancpain GT Series. It's been a long story and we have created lots of categories: GT3, GT4 and soon GT2, and it has worked in many categories and series.”
Ratel was presented with his award by McLaren Formula 1 team boss and Motorsport Network executive chairman Zak Brown.