The SRO Motorsports Group has announced a return to endurance racing in unveiling the brand new Blancpain Endurance Series for 2011.

The new series will be reserved for GT3 and GT4 spec cars, and will join the promoter's roster of series alongside the FIA GT1 World Championship and GT3 European Championship, though both use a format of hour-long races compared to the three-hour battles that will make up much of the calendar of the new series. The Blancpain Endurance Series will also be recognised by the FIA and be run with support from the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium.

“Although we are convinced that the one-hour sprint format is ideal for the growing mediatisation of our professional series, we are aware that we have left some of our most staunch supporters behind,” Stephane Ratel commented. “Some of the gentlemen drivers, and a number of smaller teams, are looking for a new challenge. We believe that the Blancpain Endurance Series will provide them with exactly the right environment.”

“After just a year away from the long-distance format, we are returning to our roots,” he adds. “This three-hour format was the backbone of our racing for a decade, and has proved its popularity and worth. With some of the most beautiful, powerful and challenging circuits in Europe on the calendar, no clashes with national or European GT3 Championships, and categories to suit all drivers and teams, I am certain that this new series has a real chance of success.”

“We are aiming at grids of thirty or so cars, and are certain that many teams competing with us in either the FIA GT3 European Championship or the GT4 European Cup will appreciate the opportunity to stretch their legs on longer races, amortising their costs and pleasing their drivers.”

The centre piece of the new championship is the 24 Hours of Spa, scheduled for July 30. The remaining four dates will allow teams to visit some of the most famous tracks in Europe with races at Monza, Silverstone, Magny-Cours and the Spanish Navarra circuit.

The series will be split into five separate classes, welcoming teams of up to three cars. GT3 teams will be split into three categories. The GT3 Pro Cup will be the premier class, with three driver teams and no driver classification system. The Pro-Am Cup and Citation Cup classes will be governed by the familiar platinum/gold/silver/bronze classifications. Classes for GT4 and Supersport spec machinery will also be included, though the latter class is not eligible for the 24 Hours of Spa.

The now standard FIA points systems which debuted in Formula One this year will be used with points doubled for Spa, a quarter of the total awarded after six hours of racing, another quarter at half distance, then the remaining half after the full 24 hours.

2011 Blancpain Endurance Series calendar

April 17 -Monza, Italy
May 22 – Navarra, Spain
July 30 – Total 24 Hours of Spa, Belgium
August 27 – Magny Cours, France
October 9 – Silverstone, Great Britain