As the Pirelli World Challenge makes a series of offseason announcements following this year’s 2015 campaign, silly season is already in full swing as drivers, teams and manufacturers prepare for next year’s 2016 schedule.
Sportscar365 takes a look at the confirmed and possible entries for the GT class, with the possibility that some teams could run GTA classified drivers or additional GT Cup entries.
Confirmed/Expected Entries (15-18 cars):
Cadillac Racing – The four-time defending champions are expected to formally confirm another two-car program, albeit with a driver change for the first time in several years. Johnny O’Connell will be back in the team’s No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R, but longtime teammate Andy Pilgrim has not been retained. Several drivers are believed to have tested for the second seat, with the prevailing thinking that GM will opt for a younger gun. (2 cars)
EFFORT Racing – The first Pirelli World Challenge team to commit to the new Porsche 911 GT3 R, EFFORT Racing will field a two-car lineup. It’s believed a Porsche factory driver will replace Ryan Dalziel as the team’s lead pro, while Michael Lewis will return for a second season. (2 cars)
Always Evolving/Nissan – The collaborative effort between Always Evolving Racing, Ian Willis’ AIM Autosport and Nissan North America continues for a second season. Drivers are yet to be confirmed but the team has noted publicly its desire to retain James Davison and Bryan Heitkotter. New-specification Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s are expected to replace the 2014-spec GT-Rs the team raced this past season. A third Nissan is possible. (2-3 cars)
K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports – The Darren Law-led operation has confirmed at least two McLaren 650S GT3s will be back for 2016, with hopes of running a third car now upgraded. Drivers should be announced by the end of the year and may include at least one change from this year’s Kevin Estre/Robert Thorne pairing. (2-3 cars)
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing – A surprise confirmation came in late November to see the Bob Stallings-led GAINSCO team move up a class, with Jon Fogarty driving a new McLaren 650S GT3. It puts the Hyundai Genesis GTS program on the back burner for the moment as they’re back in the top class of a series for the first time, full-time, in three years. (1 car)
Calvert Dynamics with Phoenix Performance – Preston Calvert’s Calvert Dynamics team will focus solely on Porsches in 2016 after a split Ford/Porsche year between he and the Joe Aquilante-led Phoenix Performance team. Calvert’s driver coach, Andrew Davis, will race in a new Porsche 911 GT3 R. Calvert will drive a GT Cup entry and Andrew Aquilante and Kurt Rezzetano will serve in a joint technical director/team manager role outside the cockpit. (2 cars, 1 GT, 1 GT Cup)
Acura/RealTime Racing – Team principal Peter Cunningham and Ryan Eversley will be back for their second season as teammates, while the biggest change comes on the technical front as the Acura TLX-GT has been modified to a rear-wheel drive car from its four-wheel drive configuration run this year. (2 cars)
GMG Racing – James Sofronas’ team is another of the Porsche 911 GT3 R customers, and expects to take delivery of its first chassis in January. Sofronas scaled back on the driving front in 2015 due to injuries and additional business commitments, although was back to full health later in the year. (1-2 cars)
Weistec Engineering – The Anaheim-based tuning and engineering firm has announced a new program, with two new Mercedes-AMG GT3s. Drivers are to be determined, and no further details have emerged on the team’s progress since its initial announcement. (2 cars)
R. Ferri Motorsport – R. Ferri finished second in this year’s championship with Olivier Beretta. The team was one of the last to confirm its 2015 plans, and would be logical to upgrade to the new Ferrari 488 Italia GT3. It remains to be seen whether Beretta will continue for another season, following a contentious 2015 campaign.
Bentley – Some variables are yet-to-be-finalized as to whether the Bentley Continental GT3s will return in 2016, although a return from some team within PWC is highly likely. Bentley is known to have taken bids from teams, including existing PWC outfits, for 2016 with a decision unclear. Dyson Racing, which has partnered with Bentley since entering PWC in 2014, could return but the team has been quiet on 2016 plans.
CRP Racing – The Nick Short-led squad is yet to confirm its plans for 2016 but in theory would seem to be a leading candidate to run the new Audi R8 LMS, if it maintains a similar trajectory. Underrated ace Mike Skeen is known to be exploring his options in both IMSA and World Challenge.
MOMO NGT Motorsport – Ramez Wahab’s MOMO NGT squad figures to continue with a Ferrari program, although whether it’s with the new 488 GT3 or the venerable 458 Italia GT3 is unknown. Overlooked at the season finale, Alessandro Balzan and Alessandro Pier Guidi went 1-2 in the race in one-off opportunities to drive. Henrique Cisneros may not drive a full season himself.
TRG-AMR – Kevin Buckler’s GT hopes for 2016 remain TBD. With Christina Nielsen having departed for Scuderia Corsa, it takes away Buckler’s primary World Challenge GT driver. The team will have at least two cars full season in GTS, as in previous years.
Stephen Cameron Racing – The team ran in GTA with Drew Regitz this season in an Audi R8 LMS and in GTS with Nick Esayian the second half of the year. There haven’t been additional updates from this team since the end of the year.
JCR Motorsports – The part-time Audi team from Wisconsin has explored the Maserati GranTurismo MC platform in GTS, with Jeff Courtney having driven multiple races in Maseratis in the tail end of 2015.
Possible/Partial Season/Unlikely or Unknown Status Entries:
Scuderia Corsa – Duncan Ende will not return to the team, it remains to be seen whether Martin Fuentes will, and part-time third driver Mike Hedlund has listed his Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 for sale. The Giacomo Mattioli-led squad has confirmed Christina Nielsen for its IMSA GT Daytona program; Nielsen ran a full IMSA and partial World Challenge season last year.
Blancpain Racing (Reiter Engineering) – Reiter Engineering re-branded its World Challenge effort as Blancpain Racing in 2015, but a transporter accident took the team out of the last few races. Reiter has partnered with ANSA Motorsports to run the new KTM X-BOW in GTS. For GT, Reiter has other less likely available cars, such as the Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EX or even the SaReNi Camaro GT3.
M1 Racing – The Paul Mata-led team has ran part-time with a previous generation Audi R8 LMS the last two years, with Walt Bowlin in most races and Guy Cosmo as well. Plans are developing for a potential new car to emerge here, with the team not yet ready to reveal its plans but working towards a PWC return in some capacity.
De La Torre Racing – Past GTS class rookie-of-the-year Jorge de la Torre ran a partial 2015 season in GTA with his family-run team and an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, but hasn’t made any proclamation about 2016 as yet.
Turner Motorsport – Team principal Will Turner expressed a desire to run the new BMW M6 GT3 in both IMSA and World Challenge, but with Bill Ziegler not running the season finale and Bret Curtis announcing a full-season IMSA program first, it remains to be seen whether the customer interest is there to run a likely GTA program in World Challenge with a new M6 or even the previous generation Z4. A team release out on Friday didn’t list any PWC plans or drivers at the moment.
DragonSpeed – Elton Julian has no plans for a return to PWC, despite winning last year’s GTA class championship with Frankie Montecalvo. Instead, the Florida-based operation will move abroad and ahead with its ORECA 05 LMP2 program. Victor Gomez Jr., who ran in GT Cup this past year, will move to IMSA’s Porsche GT3 Challenge USA.
Black Swan Racing – Tim Pappas’ team has returned to IMSA, after a year with both the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and later the Dodge Viper GT3-R in World Challenge. BSR has now purchased a new Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Lone Star Racing – A World Challenge return is highly unlikely for Dan Knox’s team; the Texan plans at least a partial season in IMSA.