The organisers of the 24 Hours of Spa are heralding a new era for the famous endurance race this season as the race takes its new place at the centre of the new Blancpain Endurance Series.

But, as Stephane Ratel explains the 24 Hours of Spa is much more than the highlight of the season, it is the inspiration for the new championship. “This new reference in motorsport, created by the SRO Motorsports Group, is reserved for GT3 and GT4 cars,” he said. “Directly inspired by the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the sporting and technical regulations, as well as the procedures, will generally be similar.”

As well as the trip to Spa (July 27-31) the calendar – presented by the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium (RACB) – also includes rounds at Monza, Magny-Cours, Silverstone and Navarra, with dates designed to not class with events in either national GT series of the FIA GT3 European Championship.

GT3 cars – for the first time ever – will form the premier class at the Spa 24, another milestone for the category popularised by the SRO. “The principle behind these two categories [GT3 and GT4] is the balance of performance between different cars,” said Ratel. “The team strategy will therefore be vitally important, and, as far as the driving is concerned, the competition will be more amazing than ever!”

As many as eleven manufacturers are expected to compete against each other in this year's event.

“We are convinced that the variety and the quality of this category should provide an incredible show, and a top-quality competition between the major makes,” said Jean Francois Chaumont, of the Spa 24 organisers. “It will also be an opportunity for the Total 24 Hours of Spa to welcome the greatly anticipated Mercedes cars. The new McLaren MP4/12 GT3, like the Nissan Skyline GT3, will also have made their racing debuts, and we will be able to admire them on the 2011 grid. The same goes for the Lotus Evora GT4, signalling the renewal of this legendary manufacturer.”

The Spa 24 weekend will also include the Lamboghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, the French F4 Championship and a round of the new FIA Formula Three International Trophy, the supporting round of the British Formula International Series being selected – alongside other high-profile F3 events – to be part of the new championship, intended to promote young driving talent.