The Porsche Carrera Cup GB has been rejuvenated, revitalised this season. Those words have been put into print more than most would think necessary. Yet the staggering turn around Britain’s premier one-make GT category has enjoyed cannot be underestimated. Rockingham 2013 is often targeted as the low point and in terms of grid numbers it certainly was.
The 7 car grid was a pitiful sight and in tricky conditions a dramatic race reduced that figure yet further by flag-fall. Yet when the new Type 991 machine was brought to the UK, the grid numbers failed to jump as expected. A new champion in Josh Webster and a titanic title tussle between the youngster and Michael Meadows ensured that the on track racing distracted any thoughts of the low grid numbers.
Behind the scenes moves were being made to ensure that 2015 really would match expectations. The effort made to get the series to where it is now was huge.
James MacNaughton became Carrera Cup GB motorsport manager for 2015 and only started in his new position on the third of January, mere days before the Autosport Show. “When we were at the show, there was very little that was actually signed and sealed,” he comments. “Nevertheless we had a very positive show.” At that time, he confirms, the series was hopeful of grids in the high teens.
“After that we started receiving more and more entries, so much so that we had to go back to Germany and try and order more cars.” By the end of the first month of the year, the championship bosses had already sold their entire allocation of one make racers.
Things were looking a lot less positive only two seasons ago. So questions abounded over whether the series would be maintained or abandoned in the UK. “There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the series, as with most things, it just needed a bit of a shake-up,” is MacNaughton’s analysis of the situation. The development of an increased prize fund, a newly formed rookie prize and the international trip to Spa-Francorchamps are perhaps the three largest elements of this “shake-up,” ensuring a grid packed with quality and quantity for this season.
MacNaughton then goes on to describe how vital racing is for the Porsche brand, whether that be full-blooded Le Mans prototypes or converted road cars like the Carrera Cup machine. “This has always been the case, throughout Porsche’s history,” he concludes.
It is the sense of history that has perhaps best sustained the category. Whilst the Carrera Cup GB is a relatively young championship, Porsche’s success at Le Mans is the stuff of legend. With the brand’s return to the LMP1 ranks and outright victory in this year’s race, a new generation of drivers are seeing and seizing the opportunity to become part of the story.
The Carrera Cup GB is just one part of a burgeoning TOCA package and MacNaughton, when asked about the collaboration between organisers, suggests “It would be good for us to all have some time together before the season ends,” as a means of discussing how each of these distinct series have adapted to the harsher financial climate of the 2010’s and individually grown grid numbers. The organisers did all come together to discuss the season ahead earlier on this year. “We can all learn from each other,” he concludes.
Perhaps one of the most significant pieces of information MacNaughton provides is a new deal the series has struck with broadcaster MAV TV in America. MAV will show all of the the series’ 2015 rounds and emulates the BTCC’s move to secure a deal with the CBS Sports network.
Looking ahead to 2016 then and one thing for certain is that the series hasn’t stopped looking for ways to further enhance the spectacle. Arguably aside from the aesthetics it has been the noise that has been the largest differentiator between the Type 997 and Type 991 Carrera Cup GB machines.
Moves are being made MacNaughton confirms, to switch to the Deutschland specification exhaust system (one step quieter than the Supercup if you will). “It has been discussed in a meeting with the team managers and they are all up for it, yet we need to figure out how to change from the quieter current specification on a Friday night due to the noise regulations, to the slightly noisier one for Saturday and Sunday,” he elaborates.
One other thing for certain is that an international round is now fixed into the calendar. The trip to Spa-Francorchamps supporting the World Endurance Championship is something that proved popular throughout all the classes and a calendar of seven TOCA supports mixed with a trip oversees now looks set to become the norm.
“For the Pro-Am2 drivers (the WEC round) gives them the chance to race on a really big stage on such a spectacular circuit,” MacNaughton explains. “For Pro-Am1 and the Professional drivers, they are wanting to make a career out sports car racing and it gives them the platform on which to show their talent in front of a variety of potential future employers.”
The championship certainly seems to have settled into a very comfortable place in 2015, which has secured a grid of substantial quantity and quality. The ideas put into place this season will be consolidated going forward and the format that has taken the series to such success looks very likely to simply be consolidated in the years to come. A slight alteration to the noise levels may well be the only change of note for 2016. That tells you all you need to know about where the series is in 2015. The effort put in by Barnaby and the organisers last year, coupled with the effort of MacNaughton and his team in 2015 should be an example to anybody working in the motor sport industry. Never give up.