AUSTIN, Texas – After the most competitive season in the 26-year history of the Pirelli World Challenge, the 2016 season opener at Circuit of the Americas promises to match the 2015 action with 93 entries already received in the seven classes scheduled on March 3-6.
Led by the always-tough GT category at the nation’s start-of-the-art racing facility in the Texas capital city, the season kickoff event expects to supply intense, wheel-to-wheel action from the exotic GT machines to the factory stock Touring Cars.
Last year’s GT division saw seven drivers with seven different automobile makes in the top seven point positions at season end and sports car legend Johnny O’Connell capturing his fourth straight GT championship in the famed Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS V.R. sedan. Now, O’Connell leads the GT group into COTA with a new bright red livery on his iconic No. 3.
But 18 other outstanding GT drivers are entered to battle “Johnny Red” on the 3.427-mile, 20-turn COTA layout including three big names in sports cars worldwide with the addition of International GT Cup and recent Bathurst winner Alvaro Parente (K-PAX McLaren), factory Porsche stalwart and former LeMans winner Patrick Long (EFFORT Porsche) and sports car and open-wheel champion Jon Fogarty (GAINSCO McLaren).
And we can’t forget young GT stars such as 2015 GTS champion Michael Cooper (Cadillac), Michael Lewis (Porsche), 2015 GT Cup titleholder Colin Thompson (McLaren) and 17-year-old sensation Austin Cindric (McLaren). Then there’s seven-time series Champion Peter Cunningham and teammate Ryan Eversley in RealTime Racing Acuras, JD Davison in the AE Nissan GT-R, and cars of Bentley, Audi, and Mercedes AMG. Quite a shootout is set in GT as usual with GTA (5) and GT Cup (6) competitors in the same event at COTA.
Returning to the GTS category in 2016 and ready for the COTA opener is four-time champion Lawson Aschenbach in the always-popular Black Dog Racing Chevrolet Z-28 with veteran teammate Tony Gaples. Battling the Black Dog duo with outstanding drivers in machines such as Ford BOSS 302 Mustangs, Aston-Martins, Sin R1, Maserati, Ginetta and two Lotus models. 17 drivers are listed in the GTS class thus far for COTA.
“The 2015 Pirelli World Challenge proved to be the most competitive in the series’ 26-year history and we expect another incredible season in all seven of our classes especially the GT and GTS categories,” said Greg Gill, President and CEO of WC Vision, producers of the Pirelli World Challenge. “The driver, team and manufacturer lineup will see some of the best wheel-to-wheel action in North American racing and we believe the racing fans will love following the PWC series throughout 2016.”
In addition, the very entertaining Touring Car classes (TC, TCA and TCB) produce tremendous side-by-side and nose-to-trail racing over the winding 20-turn circuit at COTA. On the COTA entry list, 23 drivers are set to compete in the TC division with 13 in TCA and 10 in TCB.
Cars such as Nissan 370Z, Mazda MX-5, Honda Accord, Ford Mustang, BMW and Porsche Cayman make up the Touring Car class with TCA hosting the likes of Mazda MX-5 Cup, Honda Civic and Kia Forte Koup. In the TCB division, the machines are Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio 5, Mini Cooper, Mazda 2 and Honda Fit.
Testing for the season opener at COTA is scheduled for Thursday, March 3, followed by practice, qualifying and feature races set for Friday, March 4, through Sunday, March 6.
The big attraction for the fans at the Pirelli World Challenge at COTA is the “close-up” nature of the paddock with the variety cars and the interaction with the drivers. It is much different from COTA events like Formula 1 and MotoGP where fan access is extremely limited.
The 27th year of PWC promises to rival the incredible 2015 on the track with the best sedan racing in the world.
Click here to link to the full entry list for the COTA race weekend: