When Porsche and Michelin get together at Sebring International Raceway, their respective legacies of sports car racing success and major achievements always seem to grow.
Just four months ago, the Porsche factory GT Le Mans team signed off its program with a dream 1-2 finish and its third consecutive Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring win.
This year, a green flag waves on the next chapter in Porsche and Michelin’s partnership: the debut of the new Porsche Carrera Cup North America series.
A step-up from Porsche’s GT3 Cup Challenges within Porsche’s one-make hierarchy of race series, the Carrera Cup North America brings many new elements to the table.
Michelin and Porsche have enjoyed a successful partnership since 1961 in both motorsports and production cars, and intentionally, Michelin has been a staple of Carrera Cup racing for more than 20 years.
But until now, North America was a notable omission to the catalog of worldwide Carrera Cup series.
Timing in North America often did not sync up for a Carrera Cup here, and Porsche’s one-make series within the IMSA space focused on the GT3 Cup Challenge domain.
The GT3 Cup Challenge Canada raced with Michelin for a few seasons in the mid-2010s, but the GT3 Cup Challenge USA was contracted with another tire brand.
Stars aligned with a pair of corresponding new products, which will both make their global competition debuts at Sebring this week.
Porsche’s new 911 GT3 Cup car, the type 992 generation, presents a visceral step forward in look, performance and attitude compared to the 991.2 predecessor. The 510 horsepower, four-liter, water-cooled flat-six engine should provide a significant jolt of energy to drivers and teams.
Additionally, Michelin has developed a brand-new Pilot Sport Cup N3 tire, the successor to the previous generation N2, to align with the car’s performance leap.
There are few surprises among the teams entered for the Porsche Carrera Cup North America season opener.
Legacy GT3 Cup Challenge championship contenders like Kelly-Moss Road & Race and JDX Racing join with other Porsche specialist entries such as Goldcrest Motorsports, 311RS and BGB Motorsports.
Team Hardpoint EBM and Wright Motorsports add Carrera Cup programs to existing IMSA WeatherTech Porsche GTD programs. Potentially, these teams have created their own internal ladder systems.
Teams took delivery of their cars February 19 and had their first Porsche-run test March 8 and 9 at Sebring, to lay the groundwork before this week’s first two races, held Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Friday at 10:10 a.m. ET.
The debut of this car, tire and series mark major milestones for Michelin and Porsche as they continue to build on the partnership.
“Michelin has enjoyed a six-decade partnership with Porsche Motorsport that has defined the track-to-street programs that companies strive for,” said Tony Ménard, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.
“The addition of the Porsche Carrera Cup in North America is another thread in the fabric of the global customer racing partnership between the companies.”
Patrick Long, Porsche’s only American factory driver, one of Wright’s GTD drivers and a previous Carrera Cup Deutschland driver in 2003 (pictured above), reflected on what a North American Carrera Cup means.
“It’s exciting to think about the Carrera Cup coming to North America,” Long said. “It’s high spectacle, action-packed, door-to-door racing with a great formula and great partnerships with people like Michelin.
“It means they were developing the car in Weissach, sending that car out worldwide into different markets. To have that full-on series and certification is a great feather in the cap for the whole North American race series.
“The blend of what Carrera Cup has been, and how Porsche has worked to have a globalized package in different markets. With the racetracks here in North America, I’m excited to see this happen.”