When you first walk into the open paddock of the Pirelli World Challenge you are struck by two things. One, how open and inviting all of the teams big and small are. Two, that it almost has the variety of your local track day. Teams are either giant, almost factory efforts, or a small rag tag group running a B-spec Mazda 2 or two. That’s where the magic in this race series happens: when you have so many different teams you get close, magic racing, that is fan friendly. It’s magic and it’s what sportscar racing should be in this country.
Upon walking into the PWC paddock, the atmosphere was different than any race I had ever been to. It had the same sports car sights and sounds of a World Endurance race, but with less pomp and circumstance. And I mean that in the best way possible. Even in the most opening WEC teams there is still a whiff of global importance. The air is dense with the importance of the engineering work that the LMP1 teams go through and the GTLM cars take in battling one another. The cars run longer, take harder beatings, and have to be shipped halfway across the globe. The cars that run in PWC however, are run on lower budgets, aren’t factory backed (for the most part), and they all run flat out all the time.
There are still all the big names you come to expect from sports car racing, like TRG, Pratt and Miller, and Flying Lizard. But they are leaner, more focused here. TRG races just one car in the main GT class, the full GT3 V12 beast, and two cars in the GT4 focused category. Flying Lizard is partnered with K-Pax racing to run three GT3 spec McLaren 650s’. And Pratt and Miller ditch their usual yellow Corvettes for two very fast ATS-V GT3 spec cars. These great names in racing battling all over America is great for us, the fans who love watching street derived cars battle it out.
On the other end of the spectrum we get some honest to goodness touring car racing in the states in the form of the B-Spec series from Civics to MINIs to the lovable little Mazda 2. The cars have no power, are almost always still street legal, and give new meaning to the phrase “Rubbin is racin'” I have never seen cars race this closely before. Since the cars have no power, the only way for them to get down the back straight at any reasonable speed is hilarious bump drafting trains all along the track. Contact is made often and without malice as it just has to be for the love of the race. There was a MINI in the paddock that had an entire rear fender made out of tape. That is the essence of touring car racing, and it makes me want to jump in one and race it hard every weekend. And you could. I heard that the budget for a B spec team is often less for a year than the catering budget of a larger team.
That sort of spirit is why PWC seems so special to me. From being a bed for new talent to mature and grow, from old hats like Patrick Long joining in to help a new program for Porsche, everyone loves to be there. The love of the sport runs deep through the paddock and the management seems to have finally realized what a special series they have. PWC is also embracing streaming and online coverage with open arms, trying to get every session streamed live and making sure old races are always available on youtube or the like. Granted they are going through some teething pains right now. The event press kit was a 203 page document that they printed out and handed out to journalists. Which is odd for two reasons. One, as more places strive to be eco friendly printing out that much paper is just a flagrant waste. Two, they were handing out USB driver anyways. There is no reason why they shouldn’t have just put that PDF on the drive as well. Back to streaming, the stream went down several times through the weekend leaving people at home with nothing but an official Periscope stream.
So I implore you, please follow the series this year, and marvel that we have this level of racing in the United States, with battles that are world class, drivers on the top of their game, and a welcoming open environment.