After consecutive years finishing runner-up in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS championship, Jack Baldwin is optimistic the third year will be the charm in 2015.
Baldwin and the GTSport Racing team have consistently shown well in their Porsche Cayman S, fighting eventual champion Lawson Aschenbach of Blackdog Racing and Mark Wilkins of Kia Racing both years, but despite some high peaks there have also been some low valleys.
The 2014 season was arguably the toughest since Baldwin’s entry into the series in 2012. There were several setbacks, notably a full car rebuild prior to Barber after an accident with Aschenbach at Long Beach.
But the final two weekends of the year in Sonoma and Miller saw Baldwin win twice and finish second the other two races, to leap from outside the top-five to second in points.
“I’ll tell you that the ’14 season was probably one of the toughest seasons as a whole that I’ve ever endured, as both a driver and a team principal,” Baldwin told Sportscar365. “We couldn’t seem to get the monkey off our back. I’d have to think about how many all-nighters we’ve had.
“But at Sonoma, we thought going there, ‘We can’t have three years of bad luck.’ We put the season behind us; went there totally focused and just said we’re going to get the job done. We followed it up at Miller, and it was so nice to end that type of tough season with a good, strong ending.”
Baldwin ended second to Aschenbach this past season with three wins, eight podiums and a GTS class-high six pole positions.
As World Challenge moves into 2015, GTS is set to undergo several changes. The series’ car count growth has meant the class will run separate races from GT, and will also have separate TV broadcasts.
The schedule sets up favorably for the Cayman, as well, with only one street course on the schedule in St. Petersburg. Still, that’s a track where Baldwin swept the races in 2013 and came third this past year.
“The split races, having our own races and our own TV package is great,” Baldwin said. “It’s one of the motivating factors that kept me in GTS. I’m OK with it.
“I don’t look at GTS as second class. It’s not a lesser class. The competition is just as difficult if not more so, challenging, arguably, than GT.”
The offseason will see Baldwin continue preparation and training much the same way as he has in the past. The GTSport crew will stay intact, led by crew chief Bob Sanderson and engineer Steve Ruiz, who Baldwin praised.
Technical partners StopTech and Motul return while other commercial partners are being finalized; this year is also expected to be the last year Baldwin runs the current second generation Cayman. A third generation Cayman is on the horizon for 2016.
But in taking what he’s learned and done the last two years, Baldwin is only more motivated to improve even more to capture what’s been an elusive GTS title in 2015.
“What we’ve learned about GTS is that you take nothing for granted and don’t give an inch,” Baldwin said. “Hopefully three’s a charm. I know we’re a championship team. We’re really enjoying running in this series, we love the competition, and right now it’s good and glad we’re here.”