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Gold-Rated Driver Ban Planned for GTS in 2019

Gold-rated drivers likely to be eliminated from Pirelli World Challenge GTS class in 2019…

Photo: Brian Cleary/PWC

Gold-rated may no longer be eligible to compete in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class next year, according to WC Vision President and CEO Greg Gill, who has reaffirmed the category’s vision for amateur drivers.

Currently, only FIA Platinum-rated drivers are prohibited in the GT4-based class, with mandatory Pro-Am pairings required for the Gold-rated drivers in the new-for-2018 SprintX races.

Gill indicated it will likely be the final year where Golds will be eligible in the class altogether, in order to move towards the SRO’s global landscape for the platform.

“The spirit of GT4 globally is an amateur class, or at the most a pro-am combination,” Gill told Sportscar365.

“I think in the long haul, the intention is to certainly be a Bronze class when we have a second Silver driver at the most. I think we’ve been very clear about that.”

Sportscar365 understands that WC Vision came close to implementing the standard for this year, although received pushback from several longstanding GTS teams.

Such a rules change would have prohibited five-time PWC champion Lawson Aschenbach, who is Gold-rated, from defending his GTS title with Blackdog Speed Shop.

“We noted this year when you have someone like Lawson… when we talked with everyone and made the rulings in December, you can’t suddenly go back on that,” Gill admitted.

“They’re there and are part of things and are welcome to run in 2018.

“But in the future this would be Silver and below drivers, that’s the goal.”

Gill said establishing GTS as a category for Bronze and Silver-rated drivers only will help re-enforce PWC’s ladder system.

“You’ve got to have a way for people to move [up],” he said. “The ultimate [place] is to be in GT3.

“In my mind, where I think the right direction for us is getting this solid Pro-Am/Am feeling to GTS and then making it very clear that GT3 is where you want to be as a pro.

“IMSA’s not doing that [with CTSC]; they’re approaching it in a different way. I don’t think that speaks to how GT4 was developed. When you look at it in Europe and Asia, it’s not Gold drivers.

“I think the spirit of that class, and what ruins motorsports in this country, is when you burn something up with too many pros or too much factory money, and then it goes away.

“One year it looks really good, then it goes away. We had that here in 2015 [with GT].

“We had people drop out because because they couldn’t run with so many factory drivers. You have to think where your future customer growth is going to come from.”

PWC to Monitor SprintX Driver Pairings

Gill said PWC’s competition department will keep a close eye on GTS SprintX driver pairings this year, in order to prevent any team from slipping through with effectively an all-pro lineup.

The class will feature Pro-Am and Am-Am pairings, as well as a provision for Bronze-rated Ams to drive solo.

Additionally, any car featuring a former pro driver that has since been re-classified as Silver or Bronze will be subject to a weight penalty equivalent to 2.5 percent of the car’s minimum weight.

“We’re going to look at the times, we have the provision, based on the 2.5 percent weight to be added, so that’s already there,” Gill said.

“We’ll also look whether ‘this is really fair that this person, should they be properly rated as a Bronze?’ That’s what we’re dealing with.”

A number of GTS competitors have argued that Blackdog’s SprintX pairing of Aschenbach and former Cadillac factory driver Andy Pilgrim, who is now rated Bronze due to his age, could produce an unfair advantage.

Gill, however, said that Blackdog and GM are working “within the constraints” of the system and PWC would act accordingly should any team exceed its guidelines.

“We have to keep the racing fair for everybody, and I think we’ve made it clear,” he said.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Donnie S

    March 12, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Greg Gill has a knack for really messing a good thing up. I don’t watch PWC GTS to watch Dr.Moneybags go around the track in his GT4, I watch to see guys like Lawson and Sandberg kick some ass and push their cars to the limit.

    • Matt

      March 12, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Greg Gill is straight up awful. PWC already has a GTSA “class” and a GTA class for rich guys that need participation trophies to feel validated. PWC sells itself to fans as a pro series, then complains about having pro drivers.
      Gill should’ve never gotten the GTS class involved with this SRO GT4 and “SprintX” junk. The GTS class used to be packed with teams that inexpensively built their own cars in their own shops. Now teams are forced to go out and buy an overpriced pre-built racing version of the same car they could’ve previously built themselves for much less.

      The reason teams have been leaving the GT class is because of crappy officiating, inconsistent BoP with last-minute overreactive decisions, and a bad broadcast package leaving no ROI for sponsors, not because of pro drivers. If pro drivers were the case, this year should’ve been a great opportunity for AM’s to join GT. So far nobody has showed up.

      • nasportscar

        March 12, 2018 at 1:37 pm

        Greg is not awful. There is, possibly, too much SRO influence in decision making though

        • Matt

          March 12, 2018 at 2:24 pm

          He’s the CEO. He got PWC into this situation and is responsible for the overall decisions.

      • tracer

        March 13, 2018 at 12:12 pm

        Your comments about the pricing of the former home-grown GTS cars and the new GT4 offerings aren’t accurate. Modern production cars were becoming quite expensive and complex to build race cars out of at the GTS level, and the electronics in particular were becoming an insurmountable issue on several platforms that were extremely difficult if not impossible to fix without help from the manufacturer. Just look at the car counts in PWC and CTSCC during the years prior to the adoption of GT4 and after, and it’s clear that this market of racers were in desperate need of turn-key race cars that are well sorted and relatively inexpensive to operate. While you’re looking at those car counts, also pay attention to the teams involved, and it’s also quite clear that the vast majority of the grids in PWC and CTSCC are racing teams and not car builders/developers/tuners. Teams which wouldn’t have even considered racing in either series are coming out of the woodwork now that GT4 is here because the platform allows them to do what they go to the track for: to race.

  2. Kyle

    March 12, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    This guy’s having a laugh, right? No one wants to watch all Amateur drivers race. It was bad enough that IMSA banned Platinums from Conti.

  3. Max

    March 12, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Their GT3 class is struggling with entries due to budgets, team churn, and their schedule changes. What could make things better for them? Imploding the success of GTS. Perfect.

    On the bright side, Spec Miata could be brought in as a nationally televised class in 2020!

    • tracer

      March 13, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Don’t forget to mention embarrassing officiating and an industry worst TV/media package too.

  4. JD

    March 12, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    These kind of restrictions are all based on driver rankings being right. And well….

  5. Frank

    March 12, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    I’m having a really hard time even caring what PWC does anymore.
    I’m probably not the only one and that’s sad.

  6. Haskellb

    March 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    “You’ve got to have a way for people to move [up],” he said. “The ultimate [place] is to be in GT3. – No the ultimate goal is to be in a better run series than PWC.

  7. Mike S.

    March 12, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Blame Lawson. It’s his fault. Sad because he is good enough to be in IMSA or GT category but this rule would make him have no ride anywhere which he then becomes a casualty of the rules. He drove Civic’s and Honda’s hes been in this series as a stalwart for a long time. Even when he wasn’t in a successful car he was still in PWC. Make subclasses like some suggested and like they have. There are better ways.

    • Cactus Tony

      March 12, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      He’s so good that he is, in fact, in IMSA GTD.

      • Mike S.

        March 12, 2018 at 5:12 pm

        Yeah Lawson has not been a staple in IMSA until now so that isn’t a staple until he is there for several seasons. I hope that becomes the case and leaves PWC behind.

  8. Dan

    March 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    The only driver this rule would effect is Lawson, every other single driver at St Pete was bronze or silver. Important to remember PWC can reclassify someone if a case can be made, so in theory a gold could become a silver if they make the case.
    If the same or simlar people return for next year pretty confident GTS will be fine.

    As gill noted else where GT4 is fully focused on either young inexperienced aspiring professionals or genuine hobbyists paying AMs the bane of many a commenters existence until the factory money inevitably dries up them they will miraculously become important. It’s not supposed to be a place for well honed years of experince professionals to “hang out and make a life beating amateurs and acting like they won Sebring or something” in the words of one GTS team owner from st Petersburg. “It’s never popular to make a decision based off predictions but I’d rather them try to make the series more appealing to my clients than to rely on factory money” said another team owner last year at Laguna seca.

    • daedalus

      March 12, 2018 at 4:23 pm

      Exactly, the people complaining here seem to think that the GTS class is for us fans, I can assure you it is NOT. The GTS and TC classes are for customer racing only. GT4 ever since its inception in 2007 has always been strictly for AMs, pros were never allowed. The only reason they allowed pros this and last season in PWC is because of the transition from the old GTS rules. GTS was dying with the old rules as people did not want the hassle of building their own cars, hence the series switched to GT4 and now there is a capacity grid!

      • Dan

        March 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm

        GTS and GS old suffered from same problem, they were full of run what you made cars and then teams showed up with half a million cars (Camaro Z28r in IMSA cost an estimated 400K new plus spares and the Blackdog built ZL1 was estimated around 300K). They showed up and blew everyone away and the numbers dropped according, remember IMSA in 2016 when GS barely had enough cars for a full podium and IMSA had to beg Ford to field one of their probably 300K shelbys for the full season just so it wasn’t all Porsche’s in the class with an Aston here and there.

        IMO, nothing wrong with PWC trying to keep factory teams from getting into the class and for rich teams to score easy wins by hiring professionals to score easy rather fielding cars for customers. Its also prevents history from repeating itself with the home built 500K cars. Its never popular with the “I hate AMs, AMs suck, I’m mad I don’t have their money” crowd but appears to be good idea so far and the long term health of series is more important than some whinny “fans” whom say they don’t care about the class, then complain about not being able to watch it.

  9. john

    March 12, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    There are more fans at the Roar than a standalone PWC event. That is the real problem they have to solve and dumbing down the product won’t help that.

  10. Roger W

    March 12, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    I’m usually the first to defend moves made by PWC in recent years. Not this time. It may well be the smart move for the series. But not for me. First, I want to acknowledge critical reasons that I think favor PWC’s actions / intents. Historically there have always been big ups and worse downs in manufacturer participation, resulting in very “lean years” and destroyed series. Any management team that doesn’t try to address that isn’t doing their job. Second, Mr. Ratel, and his strategies certainly produce full grids, and have less reliance on manufacturer participation.

    But, to fill the grid while emptying the grandstands doesn’t make sense to me. That is like saying, “We know there will be lean years ahead, so let’s kill off the golden years now to be ready for them.”

    Why demote GTS to all amateur and GT to highly amateur? For a driver development ladder series? Isn’t that what Touring classes are for? And then you kick out the drivers who have developed. Who are the developing drivers going to use as a bench mark? Why make PWC just a feeder series for IMSA?

    Hope springs eternal — that PWC will find a way to hold onto their best teams even when those teams don’t have manufacturer funding. In any case, I hope their best teams aren’t kicked out!

    The good news: I am planning on going to four PWC events this year, and I’m still looking forward to each of those. The bad news: It now appears that my 2019 plans may have to be quite different.

  11. Dan

    March 12, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    “But, to fill the grid while emptying the grandstands doesn’t make sense to me.”

    So we should have an empty grid but a full stand, somehow that doesn’t make to me. I don’t think a half empty grid will fill the seats. If a full grid of GT4 machines where only 1 guy would be affected by this decision dropping the grid to 27 doesnt fill the grid, what else will. If people wont go to a race to see 30 cars why would they go to see less?

    “Why demote GTS to all amateur and GT to highly amateur?”

    Because GT4 which is what GTS is now is for young professionals ie silver rated drivers and AMs ie bronze rated drivers. As for GT its still got several professional drivers and a few good talented AMs and upcoming drivers.

    “For a driver development ladder series? Isn’t that what Touring classes are for?”

    GT4 is a good stepping stone from TC to GT. putting someone from BMW M235i cup car or Audi RS3 straight into an M6 GT3 or Audi R8 is not a good idea. the cars are drastically different. an R8 GT4 or M4 GT4 are good options for stepping up the main show.

    “And then you kick out the drivers who have developed.”
    The point is for guys to move on to bigger and better cars IE GT3 GTE or LMP3/2. At some point they need to go out and explore other options especially the young aspiring pros. They cant hang around in the lower tiers for forever. Lawson for example has made a good GT3 drivers from his Audi experience, with Black dogs GM connection, why not align with Callaway to field a C7 GT3R for him next year for GT? He gets more exposure his sposnsers do and the series fans get well like car and driver on the grid as part of the main show rather than a supporting race.

    “Who are the developing drivers going to use as a bench mark?”
    Maybe the guys that have progressed up the ladder to reach the above mentioned ranks. Even if not directly competing against you can still get mentoring from those guys.

    “Why make PWC just a feeder series for IMSA?”
    They aren’t they are trying to make a feeder series for their GT/GTA/GTCup division.

    • stop dan

      March 12, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      “with Black dogs GM connection, why not align with Callaway to field a C7 GT3R for him next year for GT? He gets more exposure his sposnsers do and the series fans get well like car and driver on the grid as part of the main show rather than a supporting race”

      Why would Tony want to buy 1 or 2 Callaway GT3 cars and increase his budget by double, probably triple? Since you don’t want factory GT3 programs, is Blackdog going to spend $1.5 – $3mil on their program?

  12. Roger W

    March 12, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    I need to retract a couple of my previous comments. I “over-read,” which is to say MIS-read one of Mr. Gill’s comments, resulting in me exaggerating the impact of the new policy and my feelings about it. I apologize to Mr. Gill, PWC management, and to other fans whom I may have confused. Specifically, I incorrectly thought that the top class, GT, was also being dumbed-down. Nothing in the story says that. I misinterpreted Mr. Gills comment:

    “One year it looks really good, then it goes away. We had that here in 2015 [with GT].
    “We had people drop out because because they couldn’t run with so many factory drivers. You have to think where your future customer growth is going to come from.”

    I should have paid more attention to his comment “The ultimate [place] is to be in GT3.”

    While I still believe that GTS should include pros, especially those who came up via the PWC ladder, my comments about “demoting… GT” and becoming a “feeder series for IMSA” are wrong.

    Now, let’s get Lawson and Tony a GT3 car, and I will really be happy.

    • John

      March 13, 2018 at 12:02 am

      No need to retract your statement. PWC’s crap management resulted in the decimination of their GT3 field.

  13. Sol Shine

    March 13, 2018 at 11:37 am

    The bottom line in all this gnashing of teeth is that racing at this level has become too expensive and even the very wealthy are turning away, witness the lack of GT3 entries this year in every GT3 series in North America. There’s no bottomless pit of money, and even in good economic times racing is in free fall. That says something. Cutting off garage built cars is a huge mistake, especially when replacing it with GT4s that are costing north of $200K to buy, probably need half a million to get some spares and run a season. Ridiculous.

    • Matt

      March 13, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Yup… PWC must bring back garage built cars with a simple set of rules and dissallowance of expensive manufacturer pre-built cars. They used to have something special.

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