Manufacturers Show Early Interest in World Challenge Title
Photo: Blancpain GT
Bentley and Porsche have both expressed early interest in the new World Challenge title, which will link three of SRO Motorsport Group’s continental series into a global manufacturer-based GT3 championship beginning next year.
Announced last month, registered manufacturers will score points based on nominated drivers from the newly renamed Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe (Blancpain GT Sprint Cup), America (Pirelli World Challenge GT) and Asia, totaling 36 sprint races over 18 weekends.
Manufacturers must nominate four drivers: one Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze-rated driver from each continent, with points multiplied by the number of starters in each class.
The concept, which is aimed to award the best manufacturer in global customer GT3 racing, has been bet with early enthusiasm, although some are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“It’s interesting and we need to evaluate it,” Bentley Motorsport director Brian Gush told Sportscar365. “Some of it is just a name change but other things, like the cup sound quite interesting.
“We’ll have to evaluate it and see what it means for us.”
With four drivers, each of different rating, needing to be nominated for each of the three series, it’s believed the concept will likely benefit large-scale GT3 manufacturers that have established customer entries in the Pro-Am and Am classes.
Bentley, for instance, does not currently compete in Blancpain GT Sprint Cup, and its entries in America and Asia lack Bronze-rated drivers altogether.
While also not currently featuring in the European sprint championship, Porsche lacks a Platinum-rated driver in Blancpain GT Series Asia and did not have any full-time Bronze or Silver drivers competing in PWC this year.
Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, however, said that World Challenge is something the German manufacturer “could be” interested in entering.
“We now have to figure out now what the final rules are,” he told Sportscar365. “But I think it’s a good effort to have this strategic plan to expand.
“We now have a worldwide network where we’re racing with the same cars, same BoP and same set of rules. It’s very positive.”
Gush, meanwhile, indicated the factory M-Sport squad will likely continue its focus on Blancpain GT Endurance Cup and Intercontinental GT Challenge next year, two championships that will not count towards the World Challenge.
However, it will not preclude customer teams entering Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, for instance.
“We’re pretty committed to endurance [racing], with Blancpain Endurance and Intercontinental,” Gush said. “We’d like to continue with that, we’re still in our discussions. It’s early days.
“At the moment, we’re concentrating on building the cars and getting them out to customers.”
Bentley Confident to Reach 20-Car Minimum by 2019
Gush said the British manufacturer is “on target” to hit the FIA’s newly established production requirements for GT3 cars, which mandates at least ten cars built by the end of the first year of homologation and a total of 20 by Year Two.
Two new-generation Bentley Continental GT3s have already been delivered to Phoenix Racing Asia, with K-PAX Racing set to receive its two new cars following this month’s IGTC season-ending California 8 Hours.
Additionally, Team Parker Racing is close to confirming a program, with the British squad “very interested” according to Gush.
“We’ve also sold another car to Hong Kong,” he said. “We’re not exactly sure what series they’re going to go to but we’ll support them.
“We’re confident that we’ve got enough interest to cover us. Obviously, we’re talking to everybody, but there is strong interest in the new car.”
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report