Pirelli World Challenge Series – Watch THIS!
Back in late March of 2012 I got a phone call that would change my life. The phone call was from SCCA Pro driver Brian Kleeman, a veteran champion of T2 and T3 classes in Nissan 350z’s. He was putting together a new car to enter the highest level of SCCA competition, the Pirelli World Challenge Series. I hadn’t heard of this series before but he explained he’d be racing a 370z that was being prepped for track duty based off a flood damage car they bought at an auction several months prior and being a fan of Nissan’s, especially the Z cars, I thought that sounded pretty awesome. As a car enthusiast and photographer, I jumped at the opportunity to work for a professional level team and hopped in my truck for St. Petersburg, Florida. What followed has now been three seasons of spectacular racing and what I think might be one of the purist forms of professional racing available for consumption in these United States.
Brian started with a virtually bone stock 370z, just a few modifications mostly to the suspension and brakes for that first round. The car has now evolved, within the rules for the GTS class, into quite a monster. It sports a race built VQ37 motor with parts shared with somewhere near 10 different Nissan vehicles and a stratospheric 8,500 rpm red line. To give a reference, the GTS class of PWC is fairly similar to the FIA GT4 class though a few more things are legal in GTS.
Above the GTS class is the highest level of PWC, the GT class. This year saw PWC allow FIA GT3 cars to come join the fray and opened the door to customer racing teams and the GT field exploded with new entries. So much so, that World Challenge decided to splinter off a sub class called GT-A for the amateur drivers to compete against each other instead of the factory drivers at the top of the GT ranks.
The GT class now sports a wide variety of brand entries from the series mainstays Cadillac with their CTS-V coupes to Audi Customer Racing returned this year with a huge field of R8 V10’s from both GMG and CRP racing along with Ferrari 458’s, McLaren M4-12C’s, Lamborghini Gallardo’s, Aston Martin DBS’, Porsche 997 GT3R’s, and the unfathomably fast Bentley Continental GT3’s from Dyson Racing. A late entry this year was Real Time Racing, the factory Honda team, sporting the all new heavily modified Acura TLX.
GTS class is represented by a plethora of Camaro’s and Mustang’s from GM Performance and Ford Racing, respectively. Former ALMS stalwarts TRG also joined the GTS party with a trailer full of Vantage GT4 cars. Goldcrest Racing fields two insanely prepped Prosche Cayman S’, a good counter to Nissan’s Nismo 370z’s of which there are two in the field. Also showing strength in the GTS class is it’s only current front wheel drive entries, the twin Kia Optima’s. These nearly 400 hp four doors are nothing to sneeze at, winning many rounds this year and leading in driver and manufacturer championship.
Although GT/GT-A/GTS classes don’t race with them often, there are three other classes below in the TC, TC-A, and TCB spec. Comprised of mostly front wheel drive cars from a similarly wide variety of manufacturers and teams, these races are insanely fun to watch play out as the cars are more momentum focused instead of power and braking biased so they fight fender to fender for every inch at each turn.
As a diverse car enthusiast I appreciate all kinds of competitive racing involving anything with an engine and wheels, but there is something special about the Pirelli World Challenge that is hard to put into words. I spoke to a corner worker at our last race of the season a few weeks ago at Sonoma Raceway immediately after one of the rounds had completed. He said “Damn, that was awesome! I love this! Everyone looks like they are having such a great time.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I enjoy seeing such a wide variety of street-based cars furiously compete against each other at a professional level yet the commradery in the World Challenge paddock is just like club racing, mostly because the drivers and teams started there. A great group of skilled drivers, great teams that have a blast each weekend at the track, and some of the best door to door racing you can see in the US… So why aren’t you watching yet?!
More information about the teams and cars in the Pirelli World Challenge can be found at www.world-challenge.com. You can watch the live broadcast of each PWC race and even the previous rounds on www.world-challengetv.com. Please also follow our racing efforts on Brian’s athlete page www.facebook.com/screaminkleeman, Instagram @screaminkleeman07, and you can watch our GoPro videos on Youtube @screaminkleeman. You can also see all of my photos of this exciting series on my website, http://jpmcgphotography.smugmug.com.
Article and photography by Patrick McGinnis -Copyright 2014
(Photos or text not to be used without consent)