Grassroots racing has become an important layer of Porsche Motorsport North America’s pyramid, with a recent increased focused at the club sport level, according to PMNA President and CEO Dr. Daniel Armbruster.
While regarded as having one of the most extensive networks of club racers worldwide, Armbruster and Porsche’s North American motorsport team have worked to standardize the foundation of its activities in order to help bring more drivers and teams up the ladder.
“Everyone is focused on top racing,” Armbruster told Sportscar365. “So that means GTD or GTLM but these are just a handful of cars. When I started in America, my team said we have to work on getting [more] cars on the grid because it’s so difficult to get customers.
“Where is the source?
“We realized we had to go back in the ladder system to look at the different platforms to [see] where our customers are at and what their needs are.”
Armbruster said work began on PMNA’s pyramid two years ago and has involved increased cooperation with some of the leading Porsche clubs in North America.
“I intensified our relationship with Porsche Club of America, Tom [Gorsuch ], their CEO, and Ron [Palmer] from Porsche Owners Club,” he said.
“Like a house, this is our proper foundation and without a proper foundation, everything will collapse.
“For me personally, this is a very important layer. Meanwhile, we also experienced that there’s a layer below, under PCA or club sport racing. These are our dealers with track days.
“They have VIP customers, they have GT customers who are buying some GT3 cars. And if you are buying a GT3 street car, they are pretty close to executing [on] the race track, and everything starts there.
“That’s the reason why we’ve defined from the PMNA side, the club sport experience, to have track days with the dealers.”
While PCA and POC racing serves as the base, drivers are able to graduate into single-make series, such as the Porsche Sprint Trophy USA West, before making their way into the IMSA-sanctioned GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Canada by Yokohama series.
From there, it’s on to open competition in series including Pirelli GT4 America, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, utilizing the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, or GT World Challenge America powered by AWS or the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Armbruster said that while he’s been proud of the numerous drivers that have gone through the pyramid, including Anthony Imperato, Madison Snow and reigning IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup Champion Zach Robichon, a number of teams have also been able to graduate to new levels.
“Look for example at Pfaff, which started in Challenge Canada as a Cup team, then they moved to SRO America with the 911 GT3 R, then IMSA,” he said. “They are doing a perfect job as a team but also the drivers like Scott Hargrove for example.
“Max Root and Fred Poordad are doing this now in SRO with Wright Motorsports, all came together from Challenge USA. Wright is another team that has followed the path. These are really success stories.”
The top of the pyramid, however, has not been designed as the destination for all Porsche racers, according to Armbruster, who believes there are successful landing points at every level depending on the driver or team’s abilities and goals.
“For me, the ladder system is a two-way system,” he explained. “It’s not important to move everyone up where sometimes he’s overwhelmed [in a higher level] and is not comfortable.
“It’s important that everyone finds their own spot in the pyramid where they are happy and successful.
“Every person has different [points] in their life.
“For example, if you’re starting a business or retiring from a business, things are changing and I want to offer everyone in our pyramid a place for their individual situations to go racing.
“If you don’t have a lot of time because of your business you can do PCA club racing but if you have a little bit more time you can go to a Trophy.
“Or if you are selling your business and think that ‘I want to retire at 40 and have lots of time and be really focused on going racing’ they can start in Challenge USA with a Cup car and then move up to a 911 GT3 R.
“We’re continuously working on the ladder system to make it more obvious and clearer and defined for the different target groups.”
Carrera Cup North America Remains “A Goal”
Armbruster said it remains a goal for PMNA to launch a Carrera Cup into the market although he has not laid out any specific timeframe.
The single-make series, utilizing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machinery, features in many other countries and regions around the world as a stepping stone for up-and-coming drivers into Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup or top-level sports car racing.
It is considered one rung above Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge.
“We are working to develop our pyramid and the Carrera Cup in general is a worldwide platform,” Armbruster said.
“We have it in lot of different countries, even smaller countries, but we don’t have any in America.
“I would say it’s shame not having a Carrera Cup in the largest racing market for Porsche. So that for me was an obvious deficit when I started here.
“Of course, it’s a goal having a Carrera Cup because we are the largest market for race cars, we have amazing drivers.
“To give them a platform where they can really compete on an international level that it is more comparable to the other countries, I think it should be the goal.”