WC Vision President and CEO Greg Gill believes this year’s Pirelli World Challenge GT field will feature the “best of the best” GT3 racing, despite the depleted field compared to recent seasons.
This weekend’s GT Sprint season-opener on the streets of St. Pete features 12 cars across GT and GTA, down from the 23 GT3-spec cars that took part in the race last year, following the withdrawals of several key teams including RealTime Racing, Wright Motorsports, Absolute Racing and Magnus Racing.
Additionally, PWC stalwarts Cadillac Racing concluded its factory program at the end of last year, while GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing also closed its doors after nearly two decades in competition.
The GT field, however, has seen a number of new additions, including the arrival of Alegra Motorsports, TruSpeed Autosport and the highly anticipated U.S. debut of the Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R.
Speaking with Ryan Myrehn in this week’s Sportscar365 “Double Stint” Podcast, Gill said the category’s off-season transformation has been largely due to economics, particularly amid increased interest in the GT4-based GTS class.
“Looking at the [GT] grid this year, it’s not half the size it was a year ago but it’s definitely reduced because you see the economics of people entering into GT4,” Gill said.
“It’s simply more economical for them to race, and you see the evolution.
“[But you also see] GTS drivers such as Parker Chase and others stepping up and saying, ‘I want to run against world-class pros. That’s where I want to be’ and have come through the GTS/GT4 camp and stepping up.
“I think that’s going to be the storyline; whether you look at 15 cars, 13 cars or 20 cars in GT3, it’s going to be the fact that this is going to be the absolute best of the best racing out there.
“The people who choose to race there, they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game.”
In addition to former series champion Alvaro Parente returning to K-PAX Racing, which has switched from McLaren 650S GT3s to Bentley Continental GT3s, additional star power has come in the form of factory drivers Toni Vilander (Ferrari) and Michael Christensen (Porsche), driving for R. Ferri Motorsport and Alegra, respectively.
Reigning IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Canada champion Scott Hargrove, meanwhile, also makes his PWC debut in a Pfaff Motorsports-entered Porsche 911 GT3 R and ADAC GT Masters front-runner Daniel Keilwitz in the lone Callaway Competition USA Corvette.
“When you look through the list of the entries… you see this great blend of globally recognized drivers, like Vilander and Parente and seeing [Rodrigo] Baptista step up out of GTS, and Parker Chase, the Callaway Corvette,” Gill said.
“It’s exciting and I’m really looking forward to how the grid lines up at St. Pete this week.”
Increased GTS Entry Proof of GT4’s Success
Gill feels that this weekend’s 28-car GTS field, featuring the series debuts of GT4 machinery from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG, is proof of the platform’s success as a cost-effective option for drivers and teams.
“At St. Pete last year, we had 13 cars on the grid and people were scratching their heads… I was getting phone calls saying, ‘Wow, what do we do next?'” he said.
“This year, we’ll have 28 cars on the grid and probably 30-31 at COTA, using the SprintX format.
“It’s a testimony to the manufacturers and the teams and what goes on in motorsports all the time… People figure out where they can get the best bang for their buck and then follow accordingly.
“Certain classes grow, certain classes drop off… You always have to be adopting and adapting to new ideas and new formats that come out and classes that are available.”