Pirelli World Challenge President and CEO Greg Gill is expecting steady growth for the SprintX Championship, which will debut this year as an initial three-round season on existing PWC headline event weekends.
The races, which will be one hour in length and feature two drivers per car and mandatory pit stops, mirrors the format seen in the Blancpain Sprint Cup, except for the addition of GTS and single-make Cup cars joining the flagship FIA GT3-spec machinery.
Gill expects a modest grid for the season-opening round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on May 20-22, with additional cars poised to join the series in the two other events at Utah Motorsport Campus and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later in the year.
“We’ll be in the low-teens at the lowest side, and maybe as high as 18 or 19,” Gill told Sportscar365. “I think it’s going to be a nice, good field to give people a chance to try it.
“The only reason I can’t say there will be 24 cars on the grid is because it is going North of the Border. For some teams, they just don’t want to deal with that.”
While announced last May under the former President/CEO Scott Bove, Gill admitted he wasn’t an initial fan of the SprintX concept, until receiving positive feedback from competitors later in the year.
“My initial thought was just to absolutely kill it,” Gill said. “I thought it was an idea that had been constructed as sort of a knee-jerk reaction. I was not comfortable with it.
“But our customers, when we sat down in September, they made it clear to us that they purchased cars, they wanted to participate in it. As we’ve pursued it as a series, we’ve seen more and more entry interest in it.”
A handful of GT teams have already committed to the championship, including M1 GT Racing and Mills Racing, which plans to enter its Audi R8 LMS and BMW Z4 GT3 cars, respectively, while a handful of high-profile teams are understood to be evaluating it as well.
Gill said roughly half of the prospective SprintX entrants are currently not competing in PWC.
“That’s what makes me excited about the class,” he said. “I think it gives a team owner a way to offset costs.
“We’re very clear that we’re not in the endurance racing business; we’re in the sprint business. So it gives people a taste, if they like that, then they can consider other options for the future in endurance classes.
“Or they can answer the situation of splitting [the budget] between two drivers. We’ve created that opportunity for them. For us, that’s a win on two fronts and we’re excited about that.”
Gill said SprintX could be expanded into a five-round championship in 2017, should this year’s pilot season be considered a success.