While this weekend’s inaugural SprintX round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has seen the car count in the single digits, Pirelli World Challenge series officials are expecting significantly larger grids for the remainder of the season.
PWC President and CEO Greg Gill has attributed a number of factors for the eight-car field at CTMP but said he fully intends that number to at least double for the second round at Utah Motorsports Complex in August.
“I think the big lesson learned for SprintX and why [there’s] eight [cars] this weekend, is — and we had a dozen teams tell us this unfortunately a little too late — but they said, ‘I don’t want to take a chance when I’m running my sprint race,'” Gill told Sportscar365.
“They think SprintX is great, their drivers absolutely love the idea but they only have one car. With Lime Rock being next weekend, [they] didn’t want to take a chance.
“And so that, in hindsight, it’s an absolute strategic error on our part. We should not have done that.
“If we had it… just with SprintX, I think we would have had a 20-car field, no problem. But coming in for SprintX on a sprint weekend, is really a lose-lose scenario for our teams.”
Gill said they’ve continued to receive strong interest in SprintX, which features a two-driver Pro-Am driver format with a mandatory pit stop, but admitted that it remains a work-in-progress.
“Our attitude has been very careful,” he said. “This is a beta test to build something.
“We have now a corporate partnership with the Blancpain Sprint Series. They know how to do this.
“So we’re not saying, ‘Let’s go reinvent the wheel,’ but we are saying the good news about doing SprintX this weekend is we have a clean sheet of paper. We’re not just adopting [another existing format].
“We had every option available… five different versions of SRO Sprint series that we could have put a template on. We chose not to do that so we could genuinely say that we’re doing what our customers, here in the States, want to do.”
A number of existing PWC teams have considered SprintX programs but one of the holdups has been car availability, as the majority of competitors are not willing to utilize the same car in both series on the same weekend.
One GT3 manufacturer representative told Sportscar365 that the availability of GT3-spec machinery in North America, compared to an established market such as Europe, could also be contributing to the current situation.
Gill, meanwhile, stressed that SprintX remains a long-term project but said it will adapt according to competitor feedback.
“We’ve developed it this year based on [competitor] input, and we made changes based on their input,” Gill said.
“And when we talk about 2017, we’ll all be able to say in agreement, ‘We found these things worked really well.’ I don’t know what that’s going to be yet, but it’s going to happen.”
For the short-term, Gill currently expects a minimum of 16 cars for Utah, and possibly upwards of 20 for the third and final round of the 2016 season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.
Utah will see the debut of the Cup class, reserved for Ferrari Challenge, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo machinery.