The 2018 Pirelli World Challenge GT season will kick off on the streets of St. Petersburg after all, following a reversal of its initial plan to have the venue play host to only the GTS class next year.
Both the GT Sprint and GTS seasons will open on the March 9-11 weekend, with a pair of separate 50-minute races, in a move that was largely supported by both teams and event promoter, Savoree-Green Racing Promotions, according to WC Vision President and CEO Greg Gill.
Confirmation of the change came during the release of the final 2018 schedule last month.
“When we left St. Petersburg where we’ve been very happy to kick off our season for many years, our GT3 teams came to us and said based on what they had seen with damage on the track, track time, scheduling, etc., they would prefer not to return next season,” Gill told Sportscar365.
“So as we initially planned out 2018 schedule, we did not include GT3 on it.
“As we got further into the year, the word started getting out that the series is only going to have GTS running at St. Petersburg.
“Then, you might want to say that cooler heads prevailed but it’s really more of the case of people saying, ‘What’s really important to me? It’s a great audience in St. Petersburg, am I willing to do the street course? Can I think about it?’
“And then the promoter really went to bat for us, so I want to give a real kudos to the Savoree-Green partnership because they came in and said, ‘We want GT3 to be here, and we’ll help you by keeping your schedule where you’re running Friday through Sunday.’
“That combination of the promoter working with us and the interest of people like the manufacturers of getting the GT3 cars back to St. Petersburg, that made the difference for us.”
The 2018 schedule again sees five GT Sprint and five GT SprintX weekends, with the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park round moving to GT Sprint and the new events at Portland International Raceway and Watkins Glen being GT SprintX and GT Sprint, respectively.
GTS will remain in single-driver Sprint format throughout its season, although cars are expected to remain eligible for SprintX competition as well.
2018 Pirelli World Challenge Schedule:
March 9-11 — St. Petersburg (GT Sprint, GTS)
March 23-25 — Circuit of The Americas (GT SprintX, GTS, TC)
April 13-15 — Long Beach (GT Sprint)
April 27-29 — Virginia International Raceway (GT SprintX, GTS, TC)
May 18-20 — Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (GT Sprint, GTS)
May 25-26 — Lime Rock Park (GT SprintX, GTS, TC)
June 22-24 — Road America (GT Sprint, GTS)
July 13-14 — Portland International Raceway (GT SprintX, GTS, TC)
Aug. 10-12 — Utah Motorsports Campus (GT SprintX, GTS, TC)
Aug. 21-Sept. 2 — Watkins Glen International (GT Sprint, GT, TC)
Oct. 26-28 — Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (IGTC)
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report