Blancpain boss Ratel thinks Zanardi will boost GTs like Loeb
|By Gary Watkins||Tuesday, January 21st 2014, 14:41 GMT|
Ex-Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi is the perfect figurehead to replace nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb in the Blancpain Sprint Series, according to championship boss Stephane Ratel.
Zanardi's participation in the 2014 GT series was announced by BMW on Tuesday.
Last year Loeb contested the then FIA GT Series with his own McLaren team, but will now focus on his Citroen World Touring Car Championship deal.
Ratel believes Zanardi will raise his series' level as Loeb did.
"We need a hero who is bigger than racing like Sebastien, and Alex is the perfect replacement," Ratel told AUTOSPORT.
"He is an amazing personality, who can only help us in terms of TV numbers and promotion.
"We hope he will become a figurehead for us, someone who will motivate more teams and drivers to join the series."
Zanardi is returning to full-time racing with the ROAL Motorsport squad, with which he raced in World Touring Cars up to the end of the 2009 season.
Sebastien Loeb Racing has stated a desire to continue in Ratel's sprint series in 2014 despite its co-owner's move to touring cars, but it has yet to indicate any firm plans.
Ratel is aiming for a grid of 25-26 cars for the sprint series in 2014.
He hopes that a link-up with the sister Blancpain Endurance Series, which will result in overall champion being crowned based on points scored across the two championships, and a €100,000 (£82,000) prize fund for each event, will boost entries from around the 20-car mark in FIA GTs last season.
"We are looking for a solid grid, but I cannot tell you at the moment exactly where we will be - right now it could be anywhere between 18 and 30 cars," he said.