The arrival of the new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge provides a needed shot in the arm for the GS class, which suffered significant car count losses elsewhere over the winter.
With at least a half dozen of the new Caymans GT4s expected to compete during this season, if not all at Daytona for the season-opening BMW Performance 200, the car will likely be the most represented within the class.
CJ Wilson Racing has ordered two cars, with Team TGM, Bodymotion Racing and Muehlner Motorsports America having also publicly confirmed their programs.
Sportscar365 sat down with Owen Hayes, Director of Operations for Porsche Motorsport North America, to discuss the process of integrating the new factory-supported car into the series.
What was the process to get the car approved and attract new customers?
“There has been a huge interest. We don’t see it reflected 100 percent here, because the car just arrived just before Christmas and some teams have been able to get them assembled and some of them didn’t.
“You’ll see the car here in various forms. The car was clearly developed as a track day car, and to go to the CTSC GS class is obviously a gap. The car was never developed (specifically) for the CTSC GS class. That regards who is here.
“You’ll see it in various configurations where some teams have come here with the car completely standard, from ex-works factory, where others are starting to do things with them. That’s where the customer will have to close the gap.
“The car is on a certain level and will have to be brought up to the GS level. Working with Jeff Mishtawy, the series manager, we have every faith in that process happening properly.”
How many cars have you sold, and how many do you expect for Daytona?
“We have sold at the moment six cars. If they come to Daytona or not I can’t say, but that’s all I can say for that championship, is that amount of cars.”
Why is Porsche supporting this new GT4, since the Cayman hasn’t received factory support in the past?
“To me, it’s very exciting. It’s clear for Porsche that the 911 is the icon; it always has been.
“However, what was certainly missing as the 911 GT3 Cup car was developing, was something that got equipped to be more than a Clubsport level and more than an entry level car. It needed a bit more looking after.
“What I refer the Cayman GT4 to is the equivalent of a 996 GT3 Cup. It’s a simple car where it didn’t need that much personnel to look after it. And that’s what we have here.
“It’s a fun car. We’ve reintroduced an entry-level car for Porsche you can have loads of fun with. To us, that’s really important, because that’s been missing for quite a few years.”
Although this car also will race in some one-make series, how important is it that this car has enough competition within GS?
“One thing we do is we welcome open competition. It’s a different type of market, and it’s a different type of philosophy. The one-make championships are true driver’s championships; you have no balance of performance.
“But we’ve always appreciated open competition. In a sense, we’re not coming into this championship to dominate or anything. The definition of this car is that it’s an entry-level car.
“ST, which we don’t have a (factory-supported) car in, leads into GS… it’s a development class, and we have to bring the car for the class. We want the driver to have a good, stable, reliable car. In regards to the competitiveness of it, that’s between the customers and IMSA.”
Of the announced teams, clearly CJ Wilson Racing has the highest profile. As an outsider, did you recognize his sphere of influence and importance to the brand?
“I’m very excited about it. Not being an American, and not living over here my whole life, I think it was good in a sense that I certainly knew who CJ Wilson was, but I didn’t know his, as you say, sphere of reach he has. I wasn’t in awe, because I didn’t know.
“But in a sense it was good, as I’ve met him a few times. He’s come round to PMNA a few times, to our base, and he’s a totally normal down-to-earth guy. I love that about people.
“Through a career, you’ll certainly meet a lot of drivers, and some have bigger egos than others. CJ is a guy who’s a really nice genuine guy, like Patrick Dempsey as well. It’s such a delight to work with down-to-earth, genuine guys.”