The 2018 Pirelli World Challenge schedule is “very close” to being finalized, according to President and CEO Greg Gill, who expects to continue with largely a similar calendar to this year but with “plus or minus a couple” of changes in tracks.
Gill said he’s targeting an end-of-month release for the schedule, likely on Aug. 31 during the PWC SprintX season-ending round at Circuit of The Americas.
“The schedule is very close to being released,” he told Sportscar365. “It will look very similar to what we did this year.”
Popular races with IndyCar, such as this year’s season-opener at St. Petersburg, as well as Long Beach and Mid-Ohio are all expected to continue, although Gill indicated there could be additional standalone events, potentially at the sacrifice of an exiting IndyCar/PWC double-header weekend.
He noted the struggles this year at Road America, which saw only five hours of track time for GT/GTA/GT Cup competitors over the four-day event, which was shared by IndyCar.
“Is there a venue we’ve gone to that’s been a successful IndyCar weekend that maybe should be a headliner weekend for us instead? We’ll look at those things,” Gill said.
“We’re in the conversations with the facilities now.
“We sure love [headliner events] and our customers seem to love it. However, we did come to our current growth based on our longtime partnership with the IndyCar Series, and we don’t want to turn our back on that.”
A date change will likely occur for the race at Circuit of The Americas, which has been scheduled for Labor Day weekend this year, with the fate of Utah Motorsports Campus still to be determined, with a decision whether Tooele County will put the property up for auction due next month.
Gill said they’ve also been in discussions with tracks not currently on the schedule, for a potential expansion, but stressed they will not exceed a 12-event overall season.
This year’s calendar sees ten GT/SprintX and nine GTS weekends, plus the California 8 Hours Intercontinental GT Challenge round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which will again be held in October, following the conclusion of both the GT and GTS seasons.
“It’s been regularly stated that when you’re at 12 or more race weekends, you’re really at the max at what teams could commercially afford. If you’re at eight, you’re at the minimum,” Gill explained.
“I think you’re going to see the series continue to be mindful of that, from eight to 12, what makes sense and what works.”
With IMSA having unveiled its 2018 schedule earlier this month, Gill said it will again be a priority to avoid date clashes with the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Gill said he was able to eliminate one conflict in next year’s schedule thanks in part to IMSA President Scott Atherton, who provided a confidential version of its calendar to the PWC series boss early.
“Because of getting the access, I was able to move one of our dates,” Gill said. “By getting the early communication, I was able to tell Scott, ‘I think when you make your announcement, you’ll be fine.’”