The Pirelli World Challenge Championships open its 26th season this weekend at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, in what should be nothing short of a doozy.
The manufacturer involvement is off the charts, to begin with.
Between Audi, Cadillac, McLaren, Bentley, Aston Martin, Porsche, Nissan, Acura, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Dodge, there are 12 manufacturers just in the GT class, split into some 40 total cars. All bar the Acura are FIA GT3-spec, with the Acura built specifically for PWC competition.
GT has 17 and GTA has 23 for now, although one or two of the GTA drivers may be subject to reclassification prior to the weekend.
The highest number of GT/GTA entries last year was 24. Just two years ago, the GT class was only in the teens on a regular basis and dipped as low as six cars for the Houston season finale.
It’s fair to say the number of storylines, potential championship challengers and race winners is off the hook.
A singular focus on the GT/GTA ranks, however, would ignore the other 70-plus quality entries heading to COTA for the season opener.
The new Porsche GT Cup class presented by MOMO has 10 solid entries, and will be featured in the same race as GT/GTA.
GTS, which had some race entries pushing 30 cars last year, has a healthy field of 20 cars heading to COTA. The usual suspects up front should be the Porsche Cayman, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang Boss 302S, with Aston Martin and Nissan also represented in the class.
Touring Car has also experienced a surge in growth among the TC, TCA and TCB classes. Combined, most of those races were in the 25-28 car range last year, but for COTA, that number jumps to 44!
The TC field features entries from Nissan, Volvo, VW, Mazda, Ford, Porsche, Pontiac and Honda. Honda, Mazda, Kia and Scion are represented in TCA with Chevrolet, Honda, MINI, Mazda and Ford all featured in TCB.
The GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS divisions have two races apiece, with the TC/TCA/TCB classes having a tripleheader. The 114 cars on hand have a total of seven races over the weekend, and all should be intense.