Pirelli World Challenge features one of the most diverse fields of sportscars in America. The Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy (read: all wonderful Porsche Cup cars) is running this weekend, too. Patrick and I will be covering the event all weekend long, and here's why you should pay attention (even from home).
Where is it running?
This weekend, it's at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. It's a little colder than usual, but meh. Harden up. At least it's not snowing.
What are the races like?
World Challenge weekends have a series of sprint races, with one driver per car. The field is split up by class, with similar classes running in one group. GT, GTA and GT Cup run in one race group, and TC, TCA and TCB run in the other. GTS gets its own race class. The GT3 Cup Trophy has its own race full of wonderful, beautiful Porsche 911 Cup cars. (Drool.)
Who runs in this series?
Everyone. No, really. Everyone. If I ever wanted to toss a roll cage into the Lulzcer, it would probably find a nice home in TC. If you've ever wondered where the production-based race cars that have some basis in reality went, here's your answer: World Challenge.
What are the classes like?
GT features many of your standard supercars, including many GT3-spec racers. Everything from Audi R8s to the new ATS-V.R races here, along with the Acura TLX-GTs, the Bentley Continental GT3s and the Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2s. GTA is more of the same, but geared more towards gentleman drivers.
GT Cup is entirely composed of the greatest race car ever made: the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. You There are approximately eight billion series for the 911 GT3 Cup to run in, and now World Challenge gave them their own class.
GTS features 'Murica. Lots and lots of 'Murica. This is where sportscars that aren't quite at the same level of supercar wow-factor as GT, like the Mustang and Camaro. GT4 cars are eligible to run here, so cars like the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and Porsche Cayman break up the 'Murica class. Kia Optimas and Nissan 370Zs also make an appearance in this class.
TC is a delightful catch-all class with less prep needed than the GT classes. This is where you can take photos of your mom's car in race trim, watch FWD vs. AWD vs. RWD in the same class, and giggle all the way home. Nissan Altimas, Volvo C30s, and Mazda MX-5s race here in addition to more Caymans and Mustangs.
TCA is a more limited-prep class, with around 220 horsepower as the target and mainly chassis tweaks allowed. Kia Forte Koups, Honda Civics, Mazda RX-8s and a lone Scion FR-S are in this class.
TCB is perhaps the most exciting racing you'll see all year: subcompacts. It's widely hailed as the cheapest point of entry into pro racing, and includes Mini Coopers, Mazda2s, Honda Fits and similar cars. The amount of cuteness in this field is only outdone by the level of aggression of its participants. It's hilarious to watch.
The Pirelli Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy is technically a support race for this event.
Peruse the entry list here. Somewhere, a fanboy lamenting the rise of tube-frame racecars is shedding a single tear at its beauty.
Hey, I recognize [team] from somewhere else...
So, here's where things get fun. Some teams, for whatever reason, also run elsewhere. Some teams came from elsewhere to run World Challenge instead this year. A lot of the familiar names come from the TUDOR United SportsCar series, which is pretty pricey to run in its current form. Pirelli World Challenge features many similar cars and isn't quite as pricey. Endurance racing tends to be much more expensive to run than sprint racing. You can also take a GT3 car, for example, and don't have to do any special series-specific mods to it for it to run in GT. Cars like Turner Motorsports' Z4M GT3s, for example, have to modify certain parts to run TUSC this year. Not so with PWC. Oh, and TUSC is adopting the GT3 standard for next year in their GTD class, so that's about to change. If you want to run a GT3 car in America this year and get used to the spec for 2016, World Challenge is your best bet.
While fans are quick to point at teams defecting from elsewhere and going "AWW SNAP. They're butthurt!," that's not always the case. Much of it comes down to driver demand and the ability to fill seats.
Thus, running customer cars in PWC has become pretty popular. There's more manufacturer interest than ever before, with factory efforts like those from Acura and Cadillac. Overall interest in the series grows every year.
Okay, but why should I care?
Because race car. PWC is the kind of series racing fans clamor for, yet often forget exists: production-based cars that look like their real-life counterparts, a diverse and interesting field that includes many cars you wouldn't expect to see in race trim, and wonderful, close racing.
It's also the only time you get to see certain cars run in America: namely, the K-Pax McLaren 650S GT3 cars. McLarens are great, but you know what's greater-er? McLaren race cars. Duh.
What if you're not in Austin?
You should be. C'mon, it's the last peaceful weekend before SXSW turns downtown into a a gridlocked, miserable toilet full of terrible human beings and commercial awfulness. Fun! Fun! Lots of fun! And not a single awful fun. "secret show" sponsored by Doritos Gutblasters Xtreme Cooler Mountain Dew Nuggets in sight.
If for some reason you absolutely cannot be here, enjoying awesome race cars while the city itself is still worth visiting, you can watch all of the World Challenge races from home. Coverage will be live-streamed on World-ChallengeTV.com as well as on the Pirelli World Challenge YouTube channel.
Here's the schedule:
Saturday, March 7, 2015
- TC/TCA/TCB Round 1: 11:05 AM ET
- GTS Round 1: 1:40 PM ET
- GT/GTA/GT Cup Round 1: 3:50 PM ET
- TC/TCA/TCB Round 2: 5:20 PM ET
Sunday, March 8, 2015
- GTS Round 2: 11:10 AM ET
- GT/GTA/GT Cup Round 2: 2:50 PM ET
- TC/TCA/TCB Round 3: 4:25 PM ET
Seriously, it's an entire weekend of racing, and they couldn't have picked a better weekend than one where half the country is probably going to be snowed in.
If you want to wait for it to be on a regular TV, you'll have to wait a week. Upside: this means there's something awesome on TV a week for now. Look for the GT/GTS/GT Cup races on March 14 at 11:00 a.m. ET and the TC/TCA/TCB races on March 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET, all on CBS Sports.
Can I give Bunny a hug? (And where are y'all going to be?)
Please do! Patrick and I will be in and out all weekend, roaming the track and looking for interesting things and trouble to get into. If I'm around, there's a good chance Bunny's with me. Bunny loves hugs.
So far, we've got a Q&A session with K-Pax driver Kevin Estre tomorrow at 2:00 PM EST since he's been racing the 650S longer than anyone else on that team. Want to know what it's like to race a McLaren that races nowhere else in America? Ask away.
If I lick a 911 GT3 Cup Car, is it mine?
I've tried this before. Myth busted. :'(