The Pirelli World Challenge series for GT and Touring Cars has celebrated its re-configuration after a five-year programme which has brought the American road racing scene into line with international standards. The series, which races at both standalone events and on the Verizon Indycar Series undercard now caters for GT3 and GT4 spec machinery and various TCR and Cup spec touring cars.
In 2017 the series has played host to 25 brands and over 40 models of car, including the debuts of both the new Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang GT4 offerings. Panoz chose the Pirelli World Challenge to launch the new Panoz Avenzzano GT race car despite Dr. Don Panoz sitting on the board of IMSA, who run the Continental Tyres Sports Car Challenge, for which the car is also eligible.
“The Global manufacturer interest in the Pirelli World Challenge continues,” said Greg Gill, CEO and President of PWC. “Currently we believe we have the highest number of original equipment manufacturers and brands racing in one Series in the world.”
The programme of development began, under the supervision of Marcus Hasselgrove, Vice-President, Competition and Operations at the series, in the autumn of 2012 with the introduction of two GT3 spec machines, the Audi R8 LMS Ultra and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. After this toe-in-the-water trial of GT3 machines the announcement came at Mid Ohio Sportscar Course in 2013 that all homologated GT3 machines would be welcome to the championship.
In 2017 the GT3 field includes both the new Audi R8 LMS and the Mercedes AMG GTS GT3 with additional entries from McLaren, Ferrari, Acura, Aston Martin, Bentley, Porsche and Cadillac. Lamborghini and Nissan have also made appearances in the series this year. The resulting rise in professional drivers led to separate Pro/Pro and Pro/Am classes in GT.
The result was astounding with the 2015 championship decided in Jonny O’Connel’s favour at the final round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2016 was even closer with Alvaro Parente taking the title on the final lap of the Laguna Seca finale.
The series has continued to lead from the front in North America with the introduction of other classes to the field along with new formats of racing. This year’s new format is SprintX, which is proving to be equally as close. In five races, TR3 Racing’s Ferrari 488 GT3, CRP Racing’s Mercedes AMG GTS GT3, Wright Motorsports and their Porsche 911 991 GT3 R, Magnus Racing’s Audi R8 LMS and Cadillac Racing’s Cadillac ATS-V.R have all taken overall victories. McLaren and Bentley have added to the winning brand list with victories in the Sprint series.
“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.”
GT4 now contains the previously mentioned Panoz, Chevrolet, Ford and Maserati along with the KTM X-Bow, SIN R1, Ginetta, Lotus, Aston-Martin and Porsche. Ten different drivers took to victory lane in 2016.
The touring car class has also been given a makeover in 2017 with the introduction of the BMW M235i Racing Cup and Audi RS3 LMS. Other cars from the TCR stable are set to join the series in the future. Further growth in all the classes is the target with PWC working closely with the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO) on Balance of Performance to allow all GT3 and GT4 spec cars to be competitive.
“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.”
Pirelli World Challenge returns to competition at the Utah Motorsports Campus with the PWC Grand Prix of Utah, presented by Security National Mortgage on the 11th – 13th August. As with all PWC rounds, live streaming without geo-blocking is available on world-challenge.com and all the races are available to watch live, and then later on demand with MotorTrendOnDemand.com’s subscription service. US fans can also catch as-live recorded broadcasts on CBS Sports Network after the event, for scheduling check your local stations.