While Formula 1, MotoGP continues to soak in worldwide popularity, GT or sportscar racing has made a name for itself as well, especially through range of endurance championships running around the globe. Several individual GT series is also running successfully, with Blancpain GT being the most popular of all.

After years of success in Europe, the organisers of the Blancpain GT Series pushed itself into the Asian market last year with the inaugural Blancpain GT Series Asia. The format is more or less similar to its European sister with several of the big manufacturers competing against each other for supreme glory.

It has names like Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Lamborghini, McLaren, BMW, Bentley, Aston Martin and Ferrari tussling on some top Asian circuits in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and China. It was a roaring accomplishment last year, which saw a tight battle for the drivers’ title which went to the final race.

In fact, the overall championship fight had India’s Aditya Patel with Mitchell Gilbert in the Audi against Hunter Abbot in the Mercedes – the latter claimed the title by just the one point. It was no brainer that the championship would continue on.

Over the years, the Asian market has blossomed for GT/sportscar racing. Japan’s Super GT has seen tremendous success for several years now with Honda, Lexus and Nissan battling for top honours. Even one-make series like Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup or the Lamborghini Super Trofeo has done well.

Patel, who has been one of the country’s best GT racer, is more than happy to see this category of racing grow in the market. At a time when drivers focus on a European move, Patel is adamant that Asia is no less than Europe. In all honesty, he feels sad that GT racing hasn’t caught on with the Indian market, but hopes it does soon.

“People tend to forget that Asia is also an extremely competitive environment,” he said exclusively. “The motorsport atmosphere in Asia has changed in the last couple of years and being an Asian I'm happy to be racing in the region.

“Audi and many other manufacturers have factory drivers in the region and we can only see it growing. It’s becoming a strong one and the future is bright. Though it's unfortunate that Indians haven't looked into the market yet, but it's only a matter of time before we see our first gentleman driver signing up to race in a professional GT Championship.”

Apart from Patel, there is Armaan Ebrahim who has been racing in the Super Trofeo one-make for the last couple of years from India. Elsewhere, upcoming racer Akhil Rabindra competed in the British GT last year and moved to GT4 European Series for 2018.

India’s first F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan, in fact, mulled a move to Blancpain GT Asia in 2017, before deciding to stay back in Super Formula series. He, however, tested the Super GT machinery ahead of the 2018 season and could make a switch in the upcoming years.

Karun Chandhok, another ex-F1 driver, has driven in sportscar - mainly the prototypes (LMP1 and LMP2) though. Even Parth Ghorpade made a brief switch to GT racing, while Mahaveer Raghunathan only had a test chance in the prototypes (LMP2).

Even the current India’s representative in the FIA WMSC, Gautam Singhania has competed in the Ferrari Challenge as a gentlemen racer. But in terms of regularity, only Patel, Ebrahim and Rabindra are into full-time GT racing.

Meanwhile, when asked if Patel is still looking to move back to Europe or even race in the bigger endurance championships around the globe, he said: “I'm always open to endurance racing and I am open to the opportunity when it arises.

“Again, it's only a matter of time before we see more Asian endurance teams and races on our calendar and I'll surely be there. Having said that, Europe is not off the radar and it would be great to do some races there, as well. But for now, my full focus is on Blancpain GT Series Asia.”

He will once again join forced with Gilbert in the OD Racing Audi LMS GT3 machinery, but this time, he will have the support from the successful European Team WRT outfit to run the cars. Naturally, he is gunning to go all out this year after missing by just the one point last year.

The 2018 season kicks-off this weekend at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, followed by rounds in Thailand (May 12-13), Japan (Suzuka, June 30 – July 1), Japan (Fuji, July 21-211), China (Shanghai, September 22-23) and culminating in China itself (Ningbo, October 13-14).