While yesterday we did a general primer of the Pirelli World Challenge classes, today we’ll look more in depth at the drivers competing in the championship.
Here’s a breakdown by team:
- Cadillac Racing: Johnny O’Connell (No. 3) and Andy Pilgrim (No. 8) will share the two new Cadillac ATS-V.Rs. It remains to be seen how Cadillac’s new car handles; O’Connell is the three-time defending series champion and Pilgrim seeks a return to winning after a rare winless campaign a year ago.
- CRP Racing: Mike Skeen (No. 2) was a multiple race winner a year ago and series runner-up. Likely the best bet among the Audi R8 LMS ultra drivers.
- K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports: Kevin Estre (No. 9) is a McLaren factory standout shifting into PWC; Robert Thorne (No. 6) actually won the season finale at Miller last year. K-PAX might have new cars in the pair of McLaren 650S GT3s, but their potential and the race-winning caliber of operation assembled by Flying Lizard Motorsports should see this team as a viable title contender.
- GMG Racing: Just two years ago James Sofronas (No. 14) almost won the title. It’s a deeper field this year but either he or Madison Snow (No. 21) are top-six contenders in their Audi R8 LMS ultras. Alex Welch (No. 76) and Brent Holden (No. 44) will run partial GTA seasons.
- Bentley Team Dyson Racing: For first time since 2011 ALMS title, Dyson enters a year with realistic title hopes. Expect either or both of Chris Dyson (No. 16) and Butch Leitzinger (No. 20) as a race winner, depending on the circuit, with the Bentley Continental GT3s a formidable and more developed threat.
- Blancpain Racing: Nick Catsburg (No. 25) should surprise throughout the year in the Lamborghini Gallardo FL2; GTA drivers Maximilian Voelker (No. 37) and Marcelo Hahn (No. 0) in fellow Lamborghinis are possible class race winners.
- M1 Racing: Guy Cosmo (No. 23) a late COTA entry in an Audi R8 LMS ultra may not have the car of others in class, but certainly capable enough to surprise in the races he’s able to compete in.
- LG Motorsports: PWC veteran Lou Gigliotti (No. 28) returns in an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 but at least initially, is unlikely to return to his winning ways after a brief series hiatus.
- EFFORT Racing: Here’s two title contenders in the pair of Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, with Ryan Dalziel (No. 31) in GT and Michael Lewis (No. 41) in GTA. Lewis might need to play his cards closer to the vest, as if he finishes too high he could get bumped up to GT. Dalziel might have a weekend conflict or two but is a past race winner a year ago, and a likely one once again this year.
- AE/Replay XD/Nissan GT Academy: Two good drivers in James Davison (No. 33, GT) and Bryan Heitkotter (No. 05, GTA), a good team in AIM Autosport, good engineering from JRM and good partners in Always Evolving and Replay X D. The question, oddly, is the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 car – quick internationally, but how will it translate to the U.S.?
- RealTime Racing: Seven-time champion Peter Cunningham (No. 42) and fan favorite Ryan Eversley (No. 43) will be in the pair of Acura TLX-GTs. It’s a developmental car, but figures to improve as the year progresses.
- R. Ferri Motorsport: Simply put, Olivier Beretta (No. 61) in a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 with a team of Remo Ferri’s caliber is a title contender. The question isn’t if they’ll win races, but where and when.
- Scuderia Corsa: Besides boasting the best sideburns in racing, Duncan Ende (No. 64) is in a place where he can shine and score some podiums. Teammates Mike Hedlund (No. 65) and Martin Fuentes (No. 07) add greater depth to the Giacomo Mattioli-led team, which runs Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s.
- De La Torre Racing LLC: GTS rookie-of-the-year a year ago, Jorge De La Torre (No. 4) might struggle initially in GTA in his family-run team with an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.
- TRG-AMR North America: Kevin Buckler’s team is usually a contender and Christina Nielsen (No. 7) is a possible GTA race winner in her Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. Austin local Mark McKenzie (No. 09) joins for at least the season opener.
- DragonSpeed: Three possible GTA champs here in Elton Julian’s trio of Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s. Henrik Hedman (No. 10), Eric Lux (No. 08) and Frankie Montecalvo (No. 66) have race-winning potential and plenty of experience.
- Stephen Cameron Racing: Drew Regitz (No. 19) a sneaky candidate for GTA success in an Audi R8 LMS ultra after moving up from GTS.
- NGT Motorsport: Expect Henrique Cisneros (No. 30) to figure into some GTA podiums and/or wins in a MOMO-backed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
- Turner Motorsport: Will Turner’s team has a pair of good BMW Z4 GT3s, but it remains to be seen whether Bret Curtis (No. 32) or Bill Ziegler (No. 95) will maximize the car potential in GTA.
- Black Swan Racing: Armed with series, team and car experience, Tim Pappas (No. 54) is a definite race-winning contender in GTA, and a likely title contender in his Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.
- Risi Competizione: At least at COTA, Ricardo Perez (No. 62) is a GTA podium contender in his Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
- Lone Star Racing: In the lone Dodge Viper GT3-R in the field, Dan Knox (No. 80) is the lone ranger in the Lone Star entry. The GTA field is deeper this year than last.
- Autometrics Motorsports: Team and driver Joseph Toussaint (No. 90) are unknown quantities, but do add another Porsche 911 GT3 R to the field in GTA.
- JCR Motorsports: Series veteran Jeff Courtney (No. 99) likely will be consistent if not the outright pacesetter in GTA in his Audi R8 LMS ultra.
It’s a new class and realistically, hard to predict who will win the one-make, 991-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup class without a couple races that are completed. The COTA field includes Colin Thompson (No. 11), Lorenzo Trefethen (No. 13), Alec Udell (No. 17), Phil Fogg Jr. (No. 18), Eduardo Cisneros (No. 29), Santiago Creel (No. 60), Preston Calvert (No. 77), Victor Gomez (No. 81), Mitch Landry (No. 97) and Sloan Urry (No. 02).