WC Vision CEO Greg Gill remains bullish on the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX concept that made its season debut last month at Virginia International Raceway, acknowledging that weekend was educational for the series and its competitors alike.
Confusion in Race 1 stemming from the newly-implemented minimum pit stop time, added in lieu of a series-mandated tire change at the request of team owners, marred a race weekend that otherwise saw compelling racing, strong car count, and an impressive international array of drivers on the grid.
With several weeks to review what transpired at VIR and solicit input from the paddock, Gill said the series came away feeling good about the new format and armed with a good picture of how it can be improved.
“I would say, clearer communication: making sure people understand exactly what everything is,” Gill told Sportscar365. “We’ll be doing that with crew chiefs and drivers meetings.
“Things like: This is where pit-in begins, this is where pit out is. Making sure they clearly see that. We have a large visual aid that we’re bringing.
“I don’t think there’s a lot we would change from that weekend except we can continue to improve. Listen to the customers, give them what they’re asking for if it makes sense.
“Really what we need to do, as I’ve said before, we need to get the first three SprintX [events] done without a lot of change so everyone can evaluate it fairly as we go on to Circuit of The Americas, and then we can talk.”
Gill said two main themes emerged in the open dialogue between teams and PWC. One, a request for a full podium ceremony for Pro-Am competitors, has already been addressed heading into this weekend at CTMP.
The other, a push to standardize the minimum pit stop time across all SprintX classes, is under consideration.
Currently, Pro class cars have a minimum time of 60 seconds while Pro-Am and Am-Am lineups have a minimum time of 90 seconds.
Gill stressed that the series is still collecting data, and any major regulations change would only come after significant research and if it would not directly affect the championship.
“The question has been raised, and if you think about it at Long Beach, the SprintX owners came in and asked if we could not do tire changes,” he said. “[So] we stopped doing the tire changes.
“That raised a whole other issue then of the driver change. So we went to a mandated time to allow safety. Now, some of the teams have said, ‘Let’s have the same [mandated] time for everyone.’
“The question then remains: Do you go to the shorter time that the Pros are within and require the Pro-Am teams to work from that level, or do you try to find a compromise?
“And I would currently say our intention is not to do that. We have to wait, we have to listen to the teams, get three solid events under our belt before we make any decisions.”
Gill added that the longer minimum time for Pro-Am and Am-Am lineups was implemented purely for safety reasons, not to favor full Pro lineups.
“This was safety driven. If everyone was under the same tire change time, we would all be working to that,” he said.
He said the feedback from teams, drivers, and fans has been “overwhelmingly positive” following VIR, but cited the confusion surrounding the pit lane penalties as an area that could be improved upon.
“When you look at the fact that you have six teams that didn’t make the window, was it a technology issue?” Gill said. “Was there a miscommunication? What was it?
“We couldn’t replicate that specific issue. We went back repeatedly, brought the timing group back in. We spent a lot of time evaluating because we felt that the teams raised some really good questions.
“We could not find any smoking gun that could prove something was there, we could only see a result.
“Consequently, we left the results certified as they were. We were just making sure here at CTMP that we don’t have the issue here.”
In hindsight, Gill said they would have been better off not stating that the results from Race 1 were under review.
“I was so concerned about transparency and making sure that on this weekend, any questions were being addressed that I immediately went to [PWC Communications Director] Tom Blattler to make sure that the media, and specifically Sportscar365, was aware that these areas were being reviewed, that we see the question,” he said.
“Now, if I had it to do over again, I probably would not have even said that and just waited for the stewards, waited for the timing folks to spend the time in next 24 hours like they did, say they were not able to replicate this, and let the results stand.
“That was the end result, so in some ways it was a bit of a false scare to jump that way but I also didn’t want to have the image of our series, on a startup weekend, be of us not listening to a very real question.”
Asked what would constitute a successful event at CTMP, Gill said PWC aims for nothing short of perfection every time they’re at the track.
“After each weekend, we don’t pat ourselves on the back,” he said. “We say, ‘What are the things that we can do to improve?
“And they aren’t any major moments. Even the [separate Pro-Am] podium example is not something that, while people will appreciate it, it’s not something that’s overly costly.
“It’s just a tweak. It just makes sense, so we should do that. That’s where we are right now.”