The Pirelli World Challenge GTS class is expected to see considerable growth, according to series President and CEO Greg Gill, who confirmed that selected not-yet GT4-homologated cars will continue to be eligible for next year.
The sprint race championship, which has largely adopted SRO GT4 regulations, is set to see an influx of new cars from BMW, Audi, Mercedes-AMG, alongside the full customer rollouts of both the Ford Mustang GT4 and Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.
While current grids have dipped into the high-teens, Gill is confident of increased numbers, and more diversity heading into the 2018 season.
“I think both Touring Car and GTS/GT4 have seen what we would call record-type growth, and particularly more potential in the case of GTS/GT4,” Gill told Sportscar365.
“It’s so clear there when you look at the manufacturers and you see the sales orders and what teams are showing you, ‘I’ve just ordered this car.’
“We’re not even worried about where the growth will be in GTS/GT4 next year.”
While not being drawn on an exact number, Gill said he’d be pleased with a field of at least two-dozen entries.
A number of teams have already announced intentions of joining the class with new machinery, including Turner Motorsport with up to two BMW M4 GT4s, as well as multiple teams with the Mercedes-AMG GT4.
“If you add six cars to a 17 or 18-car [current] grid, then it would be 24 cars, I think that would be pretty safe to say,” Gill said.
“People say the sales orders are there and I could even estimate higher.”
Gill also confirmed that selected non-GT4 cars will continue to be eligible beyond this year.
It is expected to include the Panoz Avezzano GT, which currently runs to GTS rules as it seeks GT4 homologation at a to-be-determined date.
“There’s still development of cars, and it allowed us, as an example, to work with the development of the GT4 Mustang and get it on the grid [before its final homologation],” Gill said.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to. Having that really helps us that way.
“Working closely with the SRO, they are trying very hard to develop global platforms, but there’s a cycle to do a global platform and a manufacturer may say they’ll have that in two years, but meanwhile will have ‘car x.'”
There could also be possible changes to the race format, which currently utilizes the series’ traditional 50-minute, single-driver format.
PWC officials met with GTS team owners for a stakeholders meeting during last weekend’s event at Utah Motorsports Campus to gain feedback on potential changes for 2018 and beyond.
Among the topics included the introduction of a possible SprintX format into the standalone class.
“Now that SprintX has run for a full season, now the GTS guys are asking what their place is in that. How do we fit?” Gill said.
“I don’t think they’ve successfully fit well within GT3 SprintX. So how do we address that?”
With the GT class set to continue with split Sprint and SprintX seasons, Gill said he sees a movement of gentleman drivers heading to the GT4 formula in the years to come, amid the increased costs associated with GT3 machinery.
“It’s what always happens when you have what was once a relatively affordable class suddenly not as affordable, both from parts costs and the initial investment,” he said of GT3.
“Is it still the best sports car racing on the planet? Absolutely. GT3 will continue to come out that way and we’ll continue to keep it at the forefront.
“But when we look at customer-driven business, our focus goes to where the customers are and where their interests are.
“We always want to be a little bit in front of that and make sure, like we did with SprintX, develop new things for them to be part of and grow with and see how it develops with them.”