Next year’s Pirelli World Challenge season will bring some added excitement and an increased grid size thanks to the launch of a new class, GT Cup, which will compete alongside the GT and GT-A categories in the sprint race championship.
Announced last month, the single-make category, exclusively for Porsche 911 Cup cars, will help bridge the gap between its two premier classes, GT and GTS, according to Series President/CEO Scott Bove.
“I asked Jens Walther at Porsche if we could develop a new class of GT Cup cars,” Bove told Sportscar365. “I wanted them to be 2015-spec. I wanted to enhance our relationship with Porsche and wanted to find a way to attract the ‘tweener.’ We’ve got this gap to go from a GTS to a GT car.
“A GT car costs $600,000; GTS is between $100,000 to $150,000. The performance gap is also pretty significant. There’s a market for that sort of $250,000 GT car. That market and those drivers will be our future GT drivers. We wanted to find a way to create that ladder system within GT and GTS.”
Bove and his team appear to have done just that, with numerous teams already committing to the class. He said all ten of the initial entries were confirmed within the first two weeks of the announcement. The class limit has since been expanded to 15 cars due to the early demand.
Only 2015-spec 991 Cup cars will be eligible, although existing 2014 model cars, which currently compete in various championships domestically such as the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, can be run with an upgrade kit.
“The purpose of this is to have state-of-the-art technology, state-of-the-art cars running the full season in the championship,” Bove said. “We really don’t want factory involvement in the class. The purpose of the class is to have some driver who is an 18 or 25-year-old funded driver to come in and compete at that level amongst his peers.
“We are having some interest from existing GTS teams that would like to move up from an American-made muscle car and run in this next class. And we may see some migration downward from GT.”
Bove said the talent level will be limited to GT-A standards, which roughly translates into Bronze and the bottom half of Silver-rated drivers on the FIA medallion system.
“If you win a GT Cup championship in a spec class, you’ll have the eyes of Porsche Motorsport,” he said. “We want to see that aspiring first, second, third, fourth place driver have the opportunity to get the next ride with Porsche or Cadillac or whomever.
“It might mean they leave and go to another series but we need to offer that path.”
The influx of Porsches will also see an increased trackside presence from the German manufacturer, with Porsche Motorsport North America’s parts truck to be at every round next year, supporting customers in both GT and GT Cup.
Bove, meanwhile, is bullish for the category’s future. While it will be Porsche-only in 2015, he hasn’t necessarily ruled out expansion in the years to come, depending on the level of interest.
“Since that announcement, I’ve gotten approached by other manufacturers saying that they’ve got a car that is a Cup-type car,” he said.
“You see how you can create this Cup class. The manufacturers see World Challenge as providing a ‘vehicle’ for their customers to race their product.
“It’s only a vision but can you imagine having an Aston Martin GT4 Cup, an ACR-X Cup car and a Porsche Cup car competing in a GT Cup class, all together?”