Pirelli World Challenge competitors have expressed cautious optimism over the sweeping format changes for next year, although with some lingering concerns over its implementation.
The widespread changes, which includes a reduced GT season with 90-minute two-driver races with refueling, 50-minute, single-driver races for GTS and the creation of SprintX-style regional GT4 championships, comes following SRO’s majority takeover of the series, which now falls under its global GT racing umbrella.
While the 2019 schedules have yet to be released, WC Vision confirmed that the newly named GT Pirelli World Challenge will feature only seven rounds, with eight events for GTS Pirelli World Challenge and five weekends each for the newly launched GT4 America East and West series.
The TC categories, meanwhile, will see an expanded eight-event season, although with the elimination of factory teams in TCR.
A number of teams, including GTS and TC stalwarts Classic BMW, are taking a wait-and-see approach, particularly on the calendar, which is set to be confirmed later this month at Spa.
“It all really depends on what the schedule looks like when it comes out,” team owner Toby Grahovec told Sportscar365.
“It’s still too early to know how it’s going to affect us. It depends on what customers want to do regarding the GT4 East and the GT4 West [regional] championships.
“I have customers on the East Coast and customers on the West Coast, so that could make it complicated for us.
“It depends on how the schedule is laid out. If the schedule is laid out like it is now where you can do all the races, it could work out well.”
GMG Racing team owner James Sofronas also sees the GT4 East and GT4 West regional championships as potential avenues for his business, noting the cost of travel should be reduced due to the geographic restrictions of the series.
Sofronas said the preservation of the single-driver sprint format for GTS offers variety for drivers with differing experience, budgets, and priorities.
However, he stressed it could come as a logistical challenge for GT4 machinery, stressing that a well-crafted calendar is crucial for its success.
“That’s where the schedule is very important,” Sofronas told Sportscar365. “How are they going to integrate the non-sprint GT4 races into these weekends? Let’s just take a potential race at Thermal Club Raceway. Let’s say that’s a GT4 [West] and TCR weekend.
“When is that going to take place? Is that going to take place in March or February, and then you have St. Pete?
“I think they need to keep in mind some teams will do both and some teams need this to work or else they may be cannibalizing some teams that need to make a decision.”
Mixed Feelings on GT Format Changes
Both Sofronas and Darren Law, who oversees both K-PAX Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports, have mixed feelings on evolution of GT, which moves into extended 90-minute races, and exclusively for GT3 machinery.
“There’s several things I like, there’s several things I question, but overall it’s too early to give an assessment of it,” Law told Sportscar365. “There’s a lot of things we have to weigh in there.
“I do like that if we’re going to do a driver change program we have a 90 minute race. I like that aspect of it. But there’s a lot of things that I need to go through before I can give an honest opinion.
“Stephane Ratel is very successful with GT racing and he’s been able to make it a great program worldwide. They have more insight into that than I do.
“I do miss what this series really was founded on, which is sprint racing, and we’re getting away from that. There is no more sprint racing for GT3.
“I’m sad to see that go away, but it’s a wait and see.”
Sofronas admitted he’s unsure if the extended format will be able to boost GT3 car counts in the series and has suggested a Pro-Am class with a mandated Bronze-rated driver, which currently is not part of the series’ proposal.
Milner: “We Race in America”
Panoz Racing team manager Tom Milner, meanwhile, cautioned against the assumption that what has worked in Europe will yield similar results here.
“I like the format of the racing in general,” he said. “It’s short races, but even so I think we do too many things that offset the benefit of having short races.
“These are sprint races; they aren’t endurance races. There shouldn’t be any two drivers in the car. The only way that you should have two drivers in the car is if you have two amateurs.
“I know Stephane Ratel and I’ve known him for years. Is this going to be better? Obviously you want to be positive about it, but we are in America. We race in America, we don’t race in Belgium or France or wherever.”