Pirelli World Challenge is set to feature a number of new elements, both visible on the track and behind the scenes this year, in what marks the latest evolution for the sprint race championship.
Sportscar365 caught up with PWC President and CEO Greg Gill to get his thoughts on the new USAC partnership, revised points structure and a grid projection for the 2017 season.
What does the new relationship with USAC involve?
“A good way to put it is that you’re going to see similar faces from a staffing standpoint on a race weekend and you’re going to see new faces because of that same goal: how do we give better service to our customers?
“You’ll see some people that have traditionally worked with the series that will be there, and they will just be wearing a new shirt with the same goal.
“It really is a case of support areas. There shouldn’t be, and this is by design, any noticeable difference except efficiency improvements and quality improvements, because that’s what drove our decision making.”
What areas are USAC going to be focused on?
“The backbone of the relationship is an online registration system as opposed to the more paperwork-intensive system that had been in place in the SCCA. USAC has an in-house system.
“Their relationship with us is a support relationship. They’re not having an active field staff or engagement with us at all. It will be the backroom support areas just as they’ve done for GRC and other relationships that they have.
“We’re providing the technical support, we’re providing the office and accounting support, all of that is supported by WC Vision.”
Does USAC’s re-entry into road racing with F2000/F1600, etc provide further confidence?
“The recent history has been dirt and specialty markets; that’s what they have done. But obviously their heritage was the Indy 500 and they’re located in Indianapolis. We’re very confident.
“The relationship is really just registration and insurance services. Everything else falls to WC Vision.
“Not unlike what you see in other areas with IndyCar or IMSA where you have staff that are there that may have some kind of club affiliation be it NASA, USAC, SCCA, etc. You clearly see them that they’re there as an IMSA representative or an IndyCar representative.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing in the same case. We’re taking that responsibility in house, and USAC acts as a backbone provider, but there really shouldn’t be anything other than a seamless improvement. That’s the goal in what we’re doing.”
What was the reason for a change in the points structure and scoring system?
“A lot of the scoring aspects… that was the big driver for the exit from the relationship with the SCCA. For as long as I had been affiliated with WC Vision, we’ve had issues with how timing, and scoring specifically points, were being given and tracked.
“The most recent one on memory was [at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca], two hours before a race, having to tell someone that, ‘Whoops, your championship points are not correct.’ We had to make a change.
“[SCCA’s] position was, ‘Hey, it’s just fine. It works for everyone else’. It didn’t work for us.
“It was time for us to move on then if they could not fulfill the needs we had. We had moved away from the traditional club-like MyLaps system and gone to TSL, which is an international system.
“Coincidently it is a system that the SRO and other organizations have used, but that wasn’t the driver. In fact I think Stephane [Ratel] was pleasantly surprised that we ended up with them.
“We looked at several different measures and we think TSL is a great choice and it should be something that is seamless and not ever a subject matter that we have to discuss.”
What are the current entry projections for 2017?
“We [currently] have 24 cars registered for the first Sprint race, which is a combination of GT and GTA. And we have eight cars in GT Cup.
“As we look at [SprintX] entries, we’re up 20 percent from a year ago. We have 22 for the first race. That’s nearly triple what we had last year for the first race.
“We’ve seen good gains with new teams coming over, I think it’s a good format. We’re very excited.”