Sometimes I get asked what my favorite series to watch is, and after some hum-hawing around, my answer is usually the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Why? Because it’s usually two-plus hours of flat-out ruthless racing, and this week’s race at Sebring is a perfect example of why.
It may be the length: it’s just perfect. It’s still an endurance race, but more of a snack compared to the full dinner of the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship that CTSCC supports. There is no settling in for the long haul because most races are only a couple hours. Yet there’s still the need for tire changes, fuel stops and driver swaps just like the main show.
If anything, the shorter length means there’s even less room for error, as there’s less time to make it up. Cars are so good now that even the 24 Hours of Le Mans feels like one long sprint race, but there are more opportunities for yellow flags and break-downs to let those who fall behind catch up. Screw up in the CTSCC, and you don’t have that extra time. You’re either going for that gap, or you’re going to lose.
As such, it’s just a couple hours of pure, glorious stress from start to finish. Who’s absolutely dependent on a yellow flag coming out between now and the end so they don’t run out of fuel and have to make a costly late stop? Whose tires have lost all grip with 10 laps to go?
Case in point: look at this ending from Sebring. With just over three minutes to go, Eric Foss in the orange No. 56 Murillo Racing Cayman was leading the ST class and trying so hard to keep Owen Trinkler’s pink No. 44 Nissan Altima behind him.
Finally, Trinkler found space beside Foss to nose ahead coming into a corner, but Foss unsuccessfully tried cutting back across the front of the Altima, spinning himself around upon impact with Trinkler’s car.
While this was happening, Spencer Pumpelly’s No. 17 RS1 Cayman finds its way around the inside of the turn around Trinkler’s Altima to nab the lead. If there wasn’t an episode of the Dinner With Racers podcast about this, I’d swear that these kinds of moves were what really birthed the recurring joke of “Did you hear Spencer Pumpelly once killed a guy?” That move was just cold—almost enough to make me feel bad for Trinkler, except that all’s fair in love and race cars—and it’s exactly why I adore this series.
Pumpelly eventually drove home to the class win, but not without Trinkler riding his back bumper and darting back and forth looking for any space around to the lead for three solid minutes. Trinkler appears to have had some straight-line speed that the Caymans didn’t, and I’m sure he was as frustrated with second place as it gets. “Let me around!,” I imagined Trinkler screaming. “I have the power!” But then they’d come up to a corner, where the Cayman handled just a bit better.
Meanwhile, Foss—another certifiable madman—clawed his way back up to a third-place result.
That’s not even getting into the crazy dicing back and forth in the GS class. Needless to say, CTSCC races frequently go split-screen for a reason: both classes are nuts.
Because it’s a little shorter than most enduros, there’s this do-or-die attitude to the CTSCC that just makes it nonstop race car brutality. If you’re looking for a racing series to follow, start with this one. Yeah, I’ll own it: a humble support series is still my favorite.