Ferrari had previously left GT1 racing to the Maserati MC12, but Vitaphone Racing is switching from the Maser to an upgraded version off the BMW Z4 GT3. No announcement has been made identifying which team will field the GT1-spec 458, but whoever takes up the mantle faces a tough field tough field that includes the new McLaren MP4-12C GT3, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, Audi R8 LMS Ultra and Nissan GT-R. The Ford GT, Lamborghini Murcielago and Aston Martin DBR9 all follow the MC12 out of the series this season.
Series organizer SRO also announced that it has struck a deal with Pirelli to provide all the rubber for both the GT1 and GT3 series. Follow the jump for the official statement.
· Pirelli confirmed as official tyre supplier
· Ferrari team joins the 2012 entry list
· Venue for 10th round to be revealed soon
The build-up to the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship season gathered momentum today with two significant announcements.
Stephanel Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, confirmed that negotiations had been on-going on several fronts over the past few months and SRO was now in a position to begin announcing a number of key developments prior to the opening event in Nogaro on 9 April.
The first of those announcements is the confirmation of Pirelli as the official tyre supplier for the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship in 2012.
In confirming Pirelli's involvement, Ratel said: "We are delighted to confirm a partnership with Pirelli as the official tyre supplier for the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship for the 2012 season.
"Pirelli have an unrivalled reputation in global motorsport and we are pleased that our teams in both GT1 and GT3 will benefit from the technical expertise and experience the company brings. Their recent success in helping to create competitive racing in Formula One through their innovative approach underlines that point."
Pirelli's Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said the company was looking forward to linking up with the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship for the coming season.
"We have a long and rich history in all categories of motorsport, particularly GT racing," he said. "GT racing is an important segment for us as a number of our customers drive the vehicles which compete in the GT categories, particularly our premium customers so the relationship makes a lot of sense.
"Even though we are involved in Formula One, we have also had a major involvement in a number of other categories of motorsport for over 100 years."
The line-up of supercar brands for the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship has been bolstered by the confirmation that Ferrari will join the grid.
The identity of the team running the pair of Ferrari 458 Italias will be officially revealed later this week.
Ferrari joins Audi (Team WRT), BMW (Vita4One), McLaren (Hexis) and Mercedes (All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport) in an impressive line-up for the 2012 season. Additional teams are poised to announce their participation in the near future.
Such a diversity of prestigious brands in a single category makes the FIA GT1 World Championship unique in international motorsport.
"The addition of Ferrari to the 2012 line-up makes for a mouth-watering array of supercars racing in one world championship," Ratel said. "The Ferrari team brings to five the number of confirmed teams and we are in advanced talks with a number of other teams. For reasons of confidentiality, we are respecting the wishes of those teams to announce their participation in their own time."
The final deadline for entries is next month, as per the decision laid down by the FIA GT Commission in November, 2011.
The venue for the 10th race on the 2012 calendar will be revealed in the coming days along with further team announcements.
Meanwhile, the opening date for entries for the FIA GT3 European Championship is 15 February.