Saleen will make its racing return next year with the formation of single-make series with its new S1, ahead of a planned GT4 version of the sports car for 2020.
The California-based manufacturer has unveiled plans to launch Cup series in both North America and China with the 450-horsepower car beginning with the second half of next year.
Longtime FIA technical director Gabriele Cadringher, who most recently worked with Grand-Am and Lamborghini in technical capacities, has joined Saleen as its new director of motorsports.
A pre-production version of the road car is on display at this weekend’s California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“The plan is to start a Cup series next year,” Cadringher told Sportscar365.
“We are discussing with PWC/Blancpain GT America with Greg [Gill] and Stephane [Ratel] to run with them in the second part of the year.”
Cadringher said the arrive-and-drive series will feature five events in 2019, with two 50-minute races on each weekend and up to two drivers per car.
It will also include a category for young drivers, with the class champion securing an all-paid for drive in the manufacturer’s GT4 car for the following season.
The U.S. series will run in parallel to a single-make cup in China, with discussions underway with series in the region, including the China GT Championship, for sanction agreements.
A total of 45 chassis for the Cup car are set to be produced, with at least 20 allocated for the North American market, which will be rolled out prior to the final production car.
“We will build our first Cup prototype in December and in the beginning of January we’ll finalize the spec after a couple of weeks on track,” Cadringher said.
“That will be our development car, which in the second part of the year, it will transform into the prototype of the GT4.”
Cadringher said the Saleen S1 GT4 car will be largely based off the Cup car, including the same 2.3-liter turbo engine from the production car.
Saleen has outlined plans to build 10,000 S1 road cars within the next five years, both at its facilities in Corona, Calif. and in China, at an estimated price tag of $100,000 each.
The GT4 car, meanwhile, is slated to launch in 2020.
“The Cup car will be a pre-series of the GT4,” Cadringher explained. “I’m speaking with Stephane and Claude Surmont [SRO technical director] about the details of the GT4 already.
“My plan is to come on the market with the GT4 car much cheaper than anyone else. I want to sell this car for $160-170,000, ready to be raced.”
Additional Racing Platforms in Pipeline
Cadringher indicated that additional motorsports plans are in the pipeline for the manufacturer, which is making its racing comeback for the first time since the Saleen S7R project in the 2000s.
The Italian hinted at a possible GT3 car in the future, potentially based off a yet-to-be-announced new Saleen road car.
Cadringher, however, has stressed that it will come step by step, with the focus being on the Cup series and GT4 car for the time being.
“Let’s do a Cup, let’s learn from the car and then do a GT4. Then we will see in the future,” he said.
“Steve is still a racing driver. He still races every single day in the office.
“I like that kind of approach because he has raced, the Mustang has raced and the S7 has raced. This new car, from the very beginning, was to race it.”