A new era of Porsche single-make racing will begin next week at Sebring International Raceway with the debut of Porsche Carrera Cup North America, in what’s taken the German manufacturer’s single-make series involvement in the region to the “next level.”
The new series, which will feature the new-for-2021 Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, is the tenth Carrera Cup series to be launched worldwide and positions the North American championship just below Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in the brand’s global motorsports pyramid.
While introducing a new championship during a global pandemic is far from ideal, Porsche Motorsport North America President and CEO Dr. Daniel Armbruster told Sportscar365 it was past time for a North American series to be elevated to Carrera Cup status.
“I would say without COVID it would be perfect timing because there’s a lot of support, especially the long-term relationship with IMSA,” said Armbruster. “I think everything was stabilized and well known. I think we just had to bring it to the next level.
“In reality our customers expect to be competing on the same level as the rest of the world. That was the reason for starting the project.
“North America is the one of the largest racing markets worldwide and in the largest market we haven’t had a Carrera Cup. That was a little bit of a shame.
“When we met in Germany for the Junior Shootout, for example, and all of the other markets had Carrera Cups and we didn’t, but we had the same performance. At the end of the day it was a logical conclusion to start a Carrera Cup here in America.
“With the COVID situation we struggled and thought about whether it really was the perfect situation right now. We definitely discussed it internally to postpone it again, but then we said no way.
“We had done so much homework so far and we invested so much time, now we just want to get it done and start the Carrera Cup. No one wanted to wait an additional year.
“My experience right now with our customers, they are running businesses and they need an escape, especially in these bad times, over the weekend where it is safe.
“A racing environment is a kind of bubble and the organizers are doing a perfect job with their COVID policies so it’s pretty safe to enjoy their hobby. There was also a huge support from our customers to get to the next level.”
According to series manager Brian Blocker there will be some differences as the championship evolves from an IMSA Challenge series to a Porsche Carrera Cup, most notably in terms of rules and regulations.
Blocker said the transition would be gradual with items like the points structure and the look and feel of the paddock being the first things to change while wholesale changes like adopting standing starts would be evaluated and potentially phased in over time.
“We’re taking steps to align further with the Carrera Cup brand,” Blocker told Sportscar365.
“We really want to get to the stage where we are introducing standing starts and some of these other technical rules but this takes a lot of research and practice and isn’t something that the North American market is used to.
“You really have to analyze all of the tracks, where can it be executed on the track in a safe way, train the drivers to do it, but it’s something that could add another level of excitement to the racing series as well.
“In general, the quality of driver, the points system will be different as we’ll be using the Supercup points system, we’re taking steps to enhance the experience that the customer has inside the paddock.
“COVID is preventing some of that here at the beginning, but hopefully when COVID allows also the fans get inside the paddock. These are just some of the topics that will elevate the series.”
The class structure has been altered slightly since the initial announcement and now includes a Pro and Pro-Am class for the new variant Porsche GT3 Cup race car alongside an additional Pro-Am class for grandfathered 991 versions that will be used only for the 2021 season, to be known as the Pro-Am 991 class.
In both cases, the Pro-Am field is restricted to drivers 45 years old and over as of Dec. 31, 2020.
Porsche Junior Program “Next Step” in North America Driver Development
On the other end of the age spectrum is Porsche’s new North American Junior initiative which offers all drivers 23 and younger unique opportunities for professional development and one driver from the group a guaranteed spot in the Porsche Junior Shootout in Europe at the end of the year
“We’re very excited about the Porsche Junior North America program which we think is the next step in driver development,” said Blocker.
“We’re working very hard to put together a comprehensive program that focuses on many different aspects of racing and hopefully also tools that can be used in their lives moving forward no matter what they decide to do.
“It will focus on Porsche as a brand and how they represent Porsche as an ambassador, how to carry themselves, understanding their car, product training, tires, driver safety, improving their car and their performance through data analysis and setup, working with race engineers, mental fitness, sports psychology, media training, managing sponsors, viewing yourself as an asset, and physical fitness as well.
“This is something that will take place the entire course of the season. Much of it will be virtual due to the environment now but hopefully we can get to the stage where we have some kind of classroom setting later in the year.
“I think this is an important step for young drivers to learn a lot about not just the racing aspect but also how to carry yourself as a professional and is something that they can utilize in their every day lives.”
Armbruster: Carrera Cup to Offer “More Attractive” Experience to Competitors, Fans
With the first batch of new 992-spec 911s already in customer hands and the series’ official test days complete, the focus turns to the debut race weekend at Sebring that kicks off the 16-round inaugural calendar.
Armbruster expressed his belief that the increased Porsche involvement that comes with Carrera Cup will help lift the Porsche single-make racing to heights previously unseen in North America.
“We are taking care of more aspects of this series than before with communication and marketing and we are also managing the series right now so we are stepping in heavily from the Porsche Motorsport North America side to transition the series from an IMSA Challenge to a Porsche Carrera Cup,” he said
“Therefore we also have to take over more responsibility in that area to give a Porsche experience and the Porsche branding. This is very important for our teams and also for potential sponsors.
“Our teams are already at a very high level… it should a be a better experience, more attractive, for fans for one-makes or Porsche fans as well as for the teams.
“We have very skilled teams and they are executing on a very high level. Now we are also experiencing interest from abroad, teams from Europe, from Asia, so that was a really important announcement to be more interesting for teams from outside of the former paddock of the IMSA Challenge.
“Our idea was to keep it easy and simple to join the next level for the teams so they don’t need to invest in additional infrastructure.”