Gold-rated may no longer be eligible to compete in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class next year, according to WC Vision President and CEO Greg Gill, who has reaffirmed the category’s vision for amateur drivers.
Currently, only FIA Platinum-rated drivers are prohibited in the GT4-based class, with mandatory Pro-Am pairings required for the Gold-rated drivers in the new-for-2018 SprintX races.
Gill indicated it will likely be the final year where Golds will be eligible in the class altogether, in order to move towards the SRO’s global landscape for the platform.
“The spirit of GT4 globally is an amateur class, or at the most a pro-am combination,” Gill told Sportscar365.
“I think in the long haul, the intention is to certainly be a Bronze class when we have a second Silver driver at the most. I think we’ve been very clear about that.”
Sportscar365 understands that WC Vision came close to implementing the standard for this year, although received pushback from several longstanding GTS teams.
Such a rules change would have prohibited five-time PWC champion Lawson Aschenbach, who is Gold-rated, from defending his GTS title with Blackdog Speed Shop.
“We noted this year when you have someone like Lawson… when we talked with everyone and made the rulings in December, you can’t suddenly go back on that,” Gill admitted.
“They’re there and are part of things and are welcome to run in 2018.
“But in the future this would be Silver and below drivers, that’s the goal.”
Gill said establishing GTS as a category for Bronze and Silver-rated drivers only will help re-enforce PWC’s ladder system.
“You’ve got to have a way for people to move [up],” he said. “The ultimate [place] is to be in GT3.
“In my mind, where I think the right direction for us is getting this solid Pro-Am/Am feeling to GTS and then making it very clear that GT3 is where you want to be as a pro.
“IMSA’s not doing that [with CTSC]; they’re approaching it in a different way. I don’t think that speaks to how GT4 was developed. When you look at it in Europe and Asia, it’s not Gold drivers.
“I think the spirit of that class, and what ruins motorsports in this country, is when you burn something up with too many pros or too much factory money, and then it goes away.
“One year it looks really good, then it goes away. We had that here in 2015 [with GT].
“We had people drop out because because they couldn’t run with so many factory drivers. You have to think where your future customer growth is going to come from.”
PWC to Monitor SprintX Driver Pairings
Gill said PWC’s competition department will keep a close eye on GTS SprintX driver pairings this year, in order to prevent any team from slipping through with effectively an all-pro lineup.
The class will feature Pro-Am and Am-Am pairings, as well as a provision for Bronze-rated Ams to drive solo.
Additionally, any car featuring a former pro driver that has since been re-classified as Silver or Bronze will be subject to a weight penalty equivalent to 2.5 percent of the car’s minimum weight.
“We’re going to look at the times, we have the provision, based on the 2.5 percent weight to be added, so that’s already there,” Gill said.
“We’ll also look whether ‘this is really fair that this person, should they be properly rated as a Bronze?’ That’s what we’re dealing with.”
A number of GTS competitors have argued that Blackdog’s SprintX pairing of Aschenbach and former Cadillac factory driver Andy Pilgrim, who is now rated Bronze due to his age, could produce an unfair advantage.
Gill, however, said that Blackdog and GM are working “within the constraints” of the system and PWC would act accordingly should any team exceed its guidelines.
“We have to keep the racing fair for everybody, and I think we’ve made it clear,” he said.