SRO America’s Gill explains calendar changes for 2023

SRO America’s core 2023 schedule announced last week for Fanatec GT World Challenge America, Pirelli GT4 America, TC America and GT America, includes a return to NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans for the season opener in February and a the resurrection of the Circuit of The Americas stop on the circuit. Missing from the schedule is a fixture in recent years, Watkins Glen International.

NOLA (pictured above) was a last-minute substitution this year for Ozarks International Raceway, which the series said wasn’t ready with some key infrastructure. There was also concern voiced by drivers who had tested at the circuit that it wasn’t suitable for GT3 cars. Whatever the reasons for the switch, NOLA proved to be a worthy host despite some challenges of its own, not the least of which was hurricane damage suffered the previous winter. Series officials and competitors alike heaped praise on the circuit’s staff, who bent over backwards to make it work.

“We had a great experience at NOLA,” declared SRO Motorsports America President and CEO Greg Gill. “And the majority of our teams really enjoyed it and liked the idea of returning, especially with better weather. We can’t predict rain, but we know it will be cooler that time of the year.”

Gill adds that the track’s FIA Grade 2 homologation and new general manager David Pace, who came to the track after serving as VP Operations at COTA, made it easy to work with them. “And, of course, their willingness in helping us out last year with a sudden schedule change was much appreciated,” he said.

NOLA will serve as the season opener the last weekend in February, which should ensure cooler weather than the teams experienced in May. NOLA will be followed by Sonoma Raceway March 30-April 2, then a return to COTA, absent from the schedule last year.

“[COTA has] a new management team in place, and we wanted to work with them. We were able to talk about creating a multi-year relationship and it worked out for both sides,” said Gill. “We’re really excited about returning; it’s a track and a town that our teams love going to, so it was a natural course get back. It does, however, preclude going to Watkins Glen, and that’s been a multi-year relationship that we’ve really enjoyed; however, our Watkins Glen date would have fallen on an IMSA date.”

After COTA, the schedule looks much as it did this year, accounting for the absence of the Glen. VIR in June, Road America in late August, Sebring in late September and the finale in conjunction with the Indianapolis 8 Hour Intercontinental GT Challenge Race. GT America adds stops at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

When the schedule was announced ahead of last weekend’s 24 Hours of Spa, SRO Motorsports principal Stephane Ratel also outlined some changes to the FIA’s driver categorization that will increase the number of gold-rated drivers, and limit the silver-rated drivers largely to drivers under 30.

“Stephane had proposed things to the FIA which they’ve now ratified as a change in drivers’ rankings. That is going to be an evolution that you won’t necessarily immediately see changes in the U.S. but, over time, it will change and it’s out of a reflection for the silver categorization being as broad as it is, and maybe not really fair in a lot of ways to new silver drivers,” explained Gill.