Introduction of GT3, GT4 and TC International machines brings exciting competition
AUSTIN, Texas – The Pirelli World Challenge Championships has utilized aggressive thinking by its Competition officials to help produce some of the best sports car racing during the 2017 road racing campaign.
But this year’s PWC on-track product actually dates back to advanced programming set up some five years ago when the series’ officials took the advice of its teams and participating auto manufacturers to be the first racing organization in North America to bring in GT3, GT4 and TC International cars.
Now, in 2017, some 25 car makers and 44 separate models have already been represented after six weekends of Pirelli World Challenge competition. And PWC President/CEO Greg Gill and his staff continue to be in communication with existing manufacturers regarding the introduction of new models to the series as well as all-new auto makers joining North America’s top GT-production based road racing series in 2018.
“The Global manufacturer interest in the Pirelli World Challenge continues,” said Gill, “Currently we believe we have the highest number of original equipment manufacturers and brands racing in one Series in the world.”
Led by Marcus Haselgrove, PWC vice-president, Competition and Operations, the series’ expansion into worldwide automobile homologation in the GT3 and GT4 racing models as well as the Touring Car divisions has been a boost to the Pirelli World Challenge fields which have grown to over 100 cars at several events in 2016 and 2017. PWC has remained a leader in North America by introducing the new classes to the sports car racing market.
In the Fall of 2012, discussions began to develop the PWC GT class into in the popular and highly-competitive GT3 configuration having initial entries from customers with Audi and Mercedes.
The announcement at Mid-Ohio in 2013 for PWC to allow unmodified GT3 cars starting in 2014, led to an introduction of many new manufacturers both to the series and participation in US for the first time. The pro driver count increased significantly leading to the formation of separate Pro and Am (GTA) classes with competition title fights coming down to the final races and even the final laps of the season.
In 2015 and 2016, the GT sprint championships in driver, team and manufacturer saw late race wheel-to-wheel action that rivals any sports car series in the world. Johnny O’Connell bested Olivier Beretta in the late stages of the 2015 finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and Alvaro Parente passed Patrick Long on the final lap to secure the GT title at last year’s series finale at MRLS.
Already this year with the new SprintX format, five different teams (TR3 Racing, CRP Racing, Cadillac Racing, Wright Motorsports and Magnus Racing) and five different manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Cadillac, Porsche and Audi) have captured races in the first five events. McLaren GT and Bentley have also won in the GT Sprint category.
“We have to give credit to our racing teams at GMG and Black Swan in 2012 who brought the first GT3 cars and then pushed along with the auto manufacturers for GT3 cars to be allowed to run as sold,“ said Haselgrove. “No one else was doing this back then and you had a GT3 car that was being modified for the different rules being run in the US.”
“The GT4 class started to figure prominently for PWC late in 2014 when Maserati expressed interest in running their GT4 platforms in the 2015 season. This coincided with PWC’s intention to move homologated cars into the GTS class. The Maserati car debuted at Road America to some opposition but that quickly turned to interest from other manufacturers to bring in their own GT4 products to the series. This led to the integration of GT4 homologated cars into PWC’s GTS competition class starting in 2016.”
These additional makes and models, including the Maserati Gran Turismo, KTM X-Bow, SIN R1, Ginetta G55 and Lotus GT4, were added to take on the established GTS classified cars such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang Boss 302, Porsche Cayman and Aston Martin Vantage.
The 2016, the GT4 vs GTS battle was intense. The KTM X-Bow took the top honors in the final GTS standings in a series which saw ten different winning drivers in 2016 and very spirited competition on the track.
“Touring Car had to modernize and grow also,” said Haselgrove. “We started a similar program with manufacturers on homologations in TC, first introducing the BMW M235i, and now the Audi RS3, but this also extended into the TCA class with the introduction of Mazda’s MX5 Cup, Honda’s Civic and the Toyota 86.”
“The advanced execution of the GT3 and GT4 machinery entering the Pirelli World Challenge led to working with several manufacturers like Audi this year within the Touring Car class,” said Gill. “We see many other car makers bringing in new cars to the Touring Car category in 2018 and 2019. The Touring Car classes continue to grow each year and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with our Manufacturers and teams to continue the growth.”
With some Balance of Performance (BOP) adjustments prior to the season, PWC welcomed in the new Audi R3 LMS sedan in the Touring Car class in 2017 after the successful introduction of the BMW M235iR in 2016. The PWC Competition Department believes several new cars from the TC International configuration will come to the Pirelli World Challenge next year.
“The increased fields in 2017 have been part of the developing process that began five years ago in 2012 with the introduction of the base GT3 cars,” said Gill. “Working with the SRO in BoP and other elements within GT3 and GT4 has seen PWC produce very competitive racing. We believe this will continue in the future.”
The next Pirelli World Challenge competition is set for August 11-13 at Utah Motorsports Campus with the PWC Grand Prix of Utah presented by Security National Mortgage. SprintX classes and GTS and TC sprint events are set for competition on Saturday (August 12) and Sunday (August 13) with all races live-streaming for free at www.World-Challenge.com and www.MotorTrendOnDemand.com.
Subsequent telecasts will premiere at CBS Sports Network starting Sunday August 20th; check local listings for channel and schedule information.