PWC: 2017 race, class schedule formats revealed

Photo: PWC

Pirelli World Challenge has formally revealed the outline of its class structure and race formats for the 2017 season.

You can see more via the release below:

WC Vision, producers of the Pirelli World Challenge, today unveiled its class programs in alignment with the earlier-announced 2017 Pirelli World Challenge schedule for North America’s biggest GT Production-based road racing campaign.

WC Vision announced the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge dates and locations last month.

This year, the PWC series featured over 22 auto manufacturers and 38 separate models in its seven racing divisions – GT, GTA, GT Cup, GTS, Touring Car, TCA, TCB – and its 27th year produced one of the world’s most competitive GT production racing series.

The newly-created SprintX division saw some of the most exciting racing in 2016 sports car competition with last-lap passes for victories by Michael Lewis at Utah Motorsports Campus and Kyle Marcelli at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In the SprintX inaugural season, Michael Mills of Houston, Tex., won the GT SprintX Sportsman point championship.

In 2017, the GT/GTA/GT Cup classes will feature five traditional Sprint weekends (50-minute single driver events) and five SprintX doubleheader contests (60-minute, two-driver events).  The GT Cup will have four sprint weekends in 2017.

The GT/GTA/GT Cup champions will be determined in three separate point categories with Sprint and SprintX Champions. Drivers, teams and manufacturers competing in all 19 GT/GTA and 18 GT Cup races will be named the Overall Pirelli World Challenge champions.

With the 60-minute, two-driver format, the 2017 SprintX series has been expanded to the five PWC Headliner weekends set for VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) April 28-30, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) May 19-21, Lime Rock Park May 26-27, Utah Motorsports Campus August 11-13 and Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Sept. 1-3.

Pirelli World Challenge’s sprint format for the GT/GTA/GT Cup events will include the five weekends with the Verizon IndyCar Series at the streets of St. Petersburg (March 10-12) and Long Beach (April 7-9, no GT Cup race), Road America (June 23-25), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 28-30) and Sonoma Raceway (Sept. 13-15).  All except Long Beach (GT single race) will be doubleheader weekends.

Four of the five GT/GTA/GT Cup sprint weekends will be same-day television coverage on the CBS Sports Network. A complete 2017 Pirelli World Challenge CBS Sports Network schedule will be announced in the near future.

In GTS/GT4, all 18 races (9 weekends) will be Sprint format with 50-minute, single-driver contests. GTS/GT4 also will be allowed to compete in SprintX in 2017. The Touring Car classes – TC, TCA and TCB – will continue their traditional sprint races (40-minute, single-driver) at six PWC weekends (12 races).

“Building on the highly-competitive battles across all classes in 2016 and, with the expansion of the SprintX format to five racing weekends, we believe our drivers, teams and fans will enjoy our most exciting season ever in 2017,” said Greg Gill, WC Vision President and CEO.

According to Marcus Haselgrove, WC Vision Vice-President of Competition, PWC expanding the GT3 base has allowed for more competitors in 2017 and Haselgrove believes more teams and manufacturers will expand the fields in the upcoming years. Look for expansion in the GT Cup division with additional manufacturers.

“GT3 customers now have increased opportunities to run for a single-driver or a two-driver championship or compete in all events for an overall title,” said Haselgrove. “This exciting expansion is in response to our customer feedback with the new GT production-based equipment entering our series.”

The Pirelli World Challenge season finale for the Touring Car categories is again set for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 13-15 with a the SRO Motorsports Group Intercontinental GT Challenge eight-hour endurance event along with a complete Touring Car (TC,TCA and TCB) doubleheader weekend. The PWC season finale for GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS divisions will take place at Sonoma Raceway in September.

2017 Pirelli World Challenge Schedule with Classes


Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”