Winward Racing’s recently announced IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge program with a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT4s is the first step in a new partnership with European powerhouse HTP Motorsport that Winward team principal Bryce Ward hopes will only expand in the years to come.
After campaigning a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport conjunction with CJ Wilson racing in Continental Tire Challenge last year to gain experience in the series, the Houston-based team has an ambitious plan in place to become one of the series’ elite operations.
The key to Winward’s expansion comes in its ocean-straddling partnership with the German HTP squad, which will bring technical knowhow and experience with the Mercedes-AMG GT4 to the table.
“I think clearly it was very, very important for us to link up with somebody like HTP because they have an enormous amount of experience,” Ward told Sportscar365.
“They will be bringing a bunch of their engineering staff and pit crew to these events for us. It’s definitely going to be a technology transfer from HTP to Winward.
“We’re going to rely significantly on HTP’s experience to keep us at the front end of the pack in GT4. There’s a tremendous amount of good teams out there and we want to position ourselves to be at the front.”
The partnership between the two teams is one of mutual cooperation.
According to Ward, both sides see this as an opportunity for expansion as well as another opportunity to gather data that can then be utilized on both sides of the Atlantic with the GT4 contender.
“What we’re trying to do is develop a European program and a U.S. program,” said Ward.
“HTP is definitely going to be running a GT4 program alongside their GT3 program, I believe, and I think the plan from our point of view is to have HTP run the GT4 program in Europe.
“It will be known as HTP-Winward in Europe and in the U.S., it will be known as Winward HTP Motorsport.
“We plan to swap data between Europe and the US so we can try and develop this car to its optimum potential.
“The engineers working on the car in Europe will be traveling to the US to help us develop it here and then take back date that we’ve learned here to make the most of this opportunity.”
The team has already announced a driver lineup of Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner for the first of its two entries, with a high level of interest in the second car.
With a rigorous testing plan along with planned entries in this weekend’s 24H COTA and the 25 Hours of Thunderhill next month, Ward believes his team will hit the ground running to start the 2018 season.
“I would be lying if I said we didn’t want to win that whole series next year,” said Ward.
“I really do think that with this car and with the support that we get from HTP and the crew that we have amassed, I really think all of the critical components are in place for the whole season.
“I’m really excited about it. I think that we will be competitive.
“The goal for  was to get Russell to every track at least one time before the 2018 season and we actually did achieve that.
“Between him and Damien and our second car we should really be able to be at the front end of the grid. That’s my expectation and I’ll be disappointed if we can’t be there.”
John Dagys contributed to this report