It’s the sort of topic that comes up when you are sitting around chatting with friends. You also see it on social media. It goes something like this. If you were stranded on an island what record, food, or other possession would you want to have with you. Sometimes its one item or three. But the concept is the same.
So the other day I was thinking how could I apply this to motorsports, and this is what I came up with. You are stranded on an island with a big screen TV which receives a different auto racing series on each channel. You have to tune to one, however once you make your selection the TV can no longer be tuned to any other channel. It will pick up only the channel you choose from now on. What will it be, Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, Prototype, maybe Moto GP or MotoAmerica. You get the point.
I’ll let you ponder what your choice will be, but for me the choice was easy, GT racing, and GT3 in particular. I have had different favorite series through the years, but I always come back to GT. I wish I could say for sure why, but I believe it isn’t any one thing. The one that first comes to mind is they represent the finest in automotive engineering that is available to the public. They are not purpose built cars that are designed only to be used on track, but modified versions of street cars, albeit expensive ones. None the less they inspire dreams, and give us something special to wish for. Then there is the shear variety of cars.
– Mercedes AMG
– Aston Martin
Also the level of competition in these series around the world is hard to match. And then there is the option of cheering for a favorite driver, car make, or team. I’m sure after I am finished writing this I will think of more, but that should give you an idea of my thinking on the subject. Now you can mull it over and come up with your own favorite.
While the flat six of the Porsche made a very distinctive sound, I think the first thing I noticed about them was what sounded like a small explosion when it shifted gears. However it is a sound we will now only hear in the GT3 class.Porsches decision to pull out of IMSA’s GTLM class further reduces a field that was suffering from the loss of Ford at the end of 2019. I’m assuming that they will continue their GT3, and Porsche cup series participation.
We are left to imagine what could have been if…
– Ford had extended their contract for one more year
– Ferrari would decide to spend a dollar and field a team
– Porsche had remained
– All with the new Corvette coming on line
As far as I know this does not effect the GTE series, or other overseas racing. We have seen it before, and will see it again. Teams come and go as priorities shift. We can only hope this drought won’t last long.
In the past other teams besides the factory entries have carried the Porsche banner in IMSA’s top GT tier. So we honer them as well.
As the IMSA WeatherTech Sports car Challenge heads into the final stretch, things couldn’t be tighter. With the points standings close in all classes, now is not the time for errors.
DPI: The closes race is in the DPI class with only twenty points separating the top five contenders. While Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya in the number six Acura sit atop the driver standings, a recent surge by Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis in the Mazda has moved them into striking distance. With this small of a margin, one bad race could be disastrous.
LMP2: There is a dead heat between Matthew McMurry, Kyle Masson, and Cameron Cassels. With this being the case it truly is a case where no one can afford to make a mistake.
GTLM: There is just over a twenty point swing here with Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor of Porsche leading followed closely by their teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. However both Corvette and Ford team drivers are very close behind especially since the 67 Ford of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook just broke the Porsche two race win streak.
GTD: This is the only class with a clear gap between leaders and second place. Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher enjoy a thirty point advantage over Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley. Judging by by last weeks run this may not change any time soon.
All in all the next four races should be be quite exciting and eventful.
I have always looked up to the Pirelli World Challenge as one of the most forward thinking series in racing. Many of the changes in other series that we take for granted have come out of world challenge. Among the most important were first the adoption of the GT3 standard, then the GT4. Both of which are used in Europe and Asia. With the adoption of GT3, car counts and team participation grew enormously. It provided a competitive and cost efficient platform for teams to build on. The next year IMSA adopted the standard for it’s GT Daytona class.
When World Challenge went to the GT4 standard for it’s GTS class, not only did it produced more participation, but in it”s first season it brought cars to the series that had previously only raced in Europe and Asia. Cars such as the Sin R1, KTM XBow, and the Ginetta G55. These cars raced against Mustang, Camaro, Porsche Caymen, and Maserati. It was at the very least an interesting mix of car makes. IMSA’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (now Michelin Pilot Challenge) was suffering from plummeting car counts and team participation. However since going to GT4 they have seen a resurgence, fielding as many as 37 cars per event, and the level of competition among cars is close from green to checkered flags.
Their latest move is probably my favorite. By joining the with the BlancPain GT series they are now part of a worldwide GT racing series. Something I have wanted to see in North America for some time. For years the only option I had to see GT only races were YouTube videos from Europe. Having such a series here in the U.S. is just what the doctor ordered, for me anyway. Now billed as the BlancPain GT World Challenge North America, they compete with Europe and Asia for Driver and Manufacture championships. Another welcome change is longer races with pit stops for driver and tire changes. In the old 50 minute sprint format, due to caution and red flags, I have seen races with as little as 20 minutes of green flag action. This was very disappointing to everyone involved. While GT3 is, and will always be my personal favorite, the level of competition in GT4 is truly outstanding. It is the kind of racing that always has you looking forward to the next event.
So what next? Maybe a couple more races on the calendar, but definitely one or two more in the in the interior of the country. Whatever the future holds we can only hope that it further adds to the excitement of GT racing in the U.S.
I wrote an article previously on two teams that compet in the Road to Indy series and had moved up to the top tier IndyCar series. One of these teams was not done yet, and decided at the end of 2018 to expand into the IMSA WeatherTech Championship with an entry in the competitive Prototype DPI class.
Since their entry into American racing Juncos Racings’ mission has been to find and develop the most promising and talented new drivers for the series in which they compete. Their current crop of drives for the IMSA series consist of successful young talent just ready to make that next step to the top of the motorsports ranks.
– Kyle Kaiser: A name known from the Juncos Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Program.
– Rene Binder: A third generation racer with Extensive European Racing Experience.
– Will Owen: From USF2000 to Pro Mazda to European Le Mans, and now WeatherTech.
– Agustin Canapino: From 2014 to 2018 he has been winning championships in his native Argentina.
With this being their first year, it is only natural to look at this years results a learning experience with expectations of much better things to come.
If you attended an American Le Mans series race in 2010, the one thing you couldn’t avoid seeing was the name Tequila Patron. As series sponsor there name was everywhere. They were also team and car sponsors throughout all of the different classes. While they relinquished the series sponsorship to TUDOR in 2014, they remained a big part of the series as a team sponsor. First sponsoring the Highcroft Honda HPD ARX-01e, it would later be Extreme Speed Motorsports who would become the primary benefactor of their sponsorship dollars. In hindsight I guess you could say it was inevitable. After being acquired by the Bacardi corporation who has never shown any serious interest in U.S. motorsports it has been decided to no longer sponsor the EMS prototype team after this season.
One of the unavoidable facts of racing is that sponsors come and go as the need suits them. After all it is their money. Teams are in a constant struggle to find the dollars needed to keep going and remain competitive. We can only wish Scott Speed and his EMS team the best of luck in finding new sponsorship, as a consistently competitive and winning team, it should be possible. We hope they will return to the series in 2019.
The pace of change in most sports moves at a glacial pace taking decades for things to evolve. In Motorsports however change tends to move at light speed with change sometimes coming mid season. Sports car racing in particular undergoes constant evolution.
When the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge season begins there will be noticeable changes to the starting grid. The most noticeable will be the number of prototype entries. With the introduction of the highly successful DPI platform, car counts have gone up dramatically and will continue to do so.
The second major change will be the absence of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class. After a very successful ten year run, and with no new design or updates to the FLM09 chassis offered by manufacture ORECA, it was decided it was time to phase out the class altogether. Many pro sports car drivers of today got their first experience and possibly wins in PC. The level of competition in this was class was always close and exciting, the roar of the big block Chevy engines irresistible. Part of the increased car count in the Prototype class next year will come from some PC stalwarts such as Core Autosports and Performance Tech moving up to prototype. Looking at my archives I see where the class went from seven plus cars in 2010 to just three cars last year after it was announced they would be phased out. Since I have already seen some of these cars on the vintage circuit, I’m sure more will appear there in the coming years. This will allow some of us to enjoy them for a while longer.
Still as always we have to look on the bright side. That is more Prototype and GTD cars on track. For a GT fanatic such as myself this is very good news. Prototype Challenge was a spec class with all car being of identical design and build. And while some will chide spec racing as not being real racing, it is this type of racing that showcases the skill of the driver as opposed to the pockets of the team owners. But that is a topic for a later day.
Motorsports economics is a very harsh task master. From the mega dollar world of the Le Mans prototypes, thru IndyCar, NASCAR, on down to the weekend club racer. The decision to field, or withdraw a factory backed team is most often a corporate marketing decision and not solely based on cost. However with individually owned teams it all comes down to having the where with all to field and maintain equipment. Sponsorship plays a big part, and the lack of it has caused the demise of many race teams through the years, and continues to do so to this day. Teams have come and gone through the years, but when popular and successful teams cease operation fans feel it most. On the bright side, it is well to remember that as some teams leave the sport, new ones often emerge to replace them.
Our first case is that of Stevenson Motorsports. It’s always sad to hear of a major race team closing their doors, but it is a trend that is sure to play out for years to come. We often receive this type of news at this time of year, the off season. I have watched Stevenson Motorsports go from strength to strength over the years in Grand-AM, IMSA and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Yet to see them leave the sport says a lot about modern sports car racing. Sometimes being consistently competitive just isn’t enough. I can look through my archives and find lots of others, yet it wasn’t any easier to see them go either. We can only wish the team members the best of luck in whatever future endeavors they pursue.
Another team that is leaving is Cadillac Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge team. However this one comes with a bit of a twist. The five time manufacturers title winning team is merely leaving World Challenge to devote their full efforts to their IMSA DPI program. World challenge will not suffer much as they will still have no shortage of exciting highly competitive teams.
The most recent announcement as of this writing is that GAINSSCO/Bob Stallings Racing will cease operations. After having competed in Grand-AM, IMSA, and most recently Pirelli World Challenge.
It is still early in what has come to be known as the silly season, so I am quite sure there are more changes yet to come before racing starts again.
One of the more interesting yet least talked about changes in the Pirelli World Challenge series was the adoption of the GT4 specifications for its GTS class last year. With the withdrawal of class champ Kia at the end of the 2015 season, it looked as if the entry list would be a bit thin for 2016. However the adoption of GT4 standards brought an increase in car counts, and some pleasant surprises. Cars which I had only seen running in Europe and Asia via the internet began to appear stateside.
Some of the more interesting being the KTM Xbow, Ginetta G55, and the Sin R1. Other familiar names are Ford Mustang Boss 302, Chevrolet Camaro GT4R, Porsche Caymen GT4 CS MR, Aston Martin Vantage GT4 & GTS and the Maserati Gran Turismo. Making a reappearance in U.S. racing is the Lotus Evora GT4 Grand AM. But far and away the most interesting news is the entry of the McLaren 570S CT4, and the Panoz Avezzano 2017.
So now what looked to be a very average year for the GTS class suddenly got quite intriguing. I am looking forward to to seeing this class more so than I have been for a couple of years.
Now if only we can get Maserati to get off of a nine year old platform and develop a new GT3 spec car all will be right with the world.
It seems that every time I have to write about the Dodge Viper it’s not good news. Last time it was regarding their decision to unceremoniously pull out of the IMSA series after having won the GT championship. The reasons given were ambiguous at best. Since then Vipers have been run by privateers in IMSA’s GTD class, as well as other series around the world.
Now comes the news that Dodge will discontinue the Viper after the 2017 model year. With sales of less than 600 units as of November of this year, the decision is no big surprise. The current model which was reintroduced in 2013 has never garnered large sales figures. This is nothing new for specialty sports models, but given the apparent popularity of the car, you would expect slightly higher numbers.
I wouldn’t expect to see racing Vipers disappear anytime soon. With a 2017 model coming, and given the fact that most cars still race two or more years after manufacturing stops, I’m sure many of the private teams running them will continue to do so for a little while yet.