(image credit: Ben Wedge)
The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge GTS season begins this Friday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida and the GTS class continues to evolve with the GT4 format. World Challenge added long-time racer Jack Baldwin as the class manager and with a few other back-end changes, GTS is ready to shine. With 20 cars set to take place at the opening round, let’s take a look at who’s where and what’s what.
Flying Lizard comes to the GTS class with a familiar marque to the team campaigning two Porsche Cayman GT4s for Nate Stacy and Rodrigo Baptista. Stacy finished second in the championship last season in a Mustang and looks to take that next step to the top of the podium in 2017. While still young, Stacy is one of the more experienced PWC GTS drivers on the grid and will have a great car under him and great team behind him.
Mantella Autosport returns with two KTM XBow GT4s for Anthony Mantella and Martin Barkey. Mantella and Barkey each took a win a piece in 2016 and turned into two of the toughest competitors in the class as the season went on. Needless to say, both Anthony and Martin will be fighting for podiums each and every round.
Performance Motorsports Group returns with their young guns Parker Chase and Harry Gottsacker. Chase finished an impressive 4th overall in 2016 and looks to continue to learn and improve in his second season of PWC competition. Gottsacker will be a partial-season entry as he moves over to the British GT series and takes a step up into Ginetta’s GT3 machine.
ANSA Motorsport, who won the 2016 championship with Brett Sandberg, will return with three cars. Long time competitor Bill Ziegler will field one KTM XBow at St. Pete with the other two drivers TBD at this time. Whoever fills those seats will have one of the top cars on the grid.
Racers Edge Motorsport will be bringing two SIN R1 GT4s with Jason Bell and Chris Beaufait driving. Bell has a wealth of experience racing and has set some extremely fast times while testing with the team. Racers Edge had 6 wins last season between two different drivers and both Bell and Beaufait could contend for the title.
The most experienced and successful team in the class, Blackdog Speedshop, will field two new-for-2017 Camaro GT4s for owner/driver Tony Gaples and multi-champion Lawson Aschenbach. The team struggled to keep up with their GT4 rivals in 2016, but now with an upgrade to a GT4-spec machine will be one of the favorites to claim another title.
Case-it Racing will be fielding two Porsche Cayman GT4s for Adam Merzon and Cameron Cassels. Cassels is also racing with Bodymotion racing in IMSA’s Conti series and took an impressive GS class victory at Daytona, also in a Porsche Cayman GT4. Merzon has raced in nearly every North American-based sportscar series, recently finishing second in the PC class at the 24 Hours of Daytona with BAR1 Motorsport.
Mark Klenin and KPR are trading in their Maserati for a gorgeous McLaren 570S GT4. Klenin finished 7th overall in 2016 and looks to continue to move up the grid with his new machinery.
Sticking with the McLaren theme is George Kurtz, who ran four events in 2016, will also field a 570S GT4 run by GMG.
Krugspeed will field a Porsche Cayman GT4 for Ormond Beach, Florida’s Cameron Maugeri.
A new car to the grid comes from Panoz with their Avezzano driven by Ian James. The car will start out in GTS spec during development, but move to GT4 later on after class homologation is complete.
Andrew Aquilante will run a Phoenix Performance Mustang Boss 302. Aquilante raced only once in 2016, but finished an impressive second at Laguna Seca. Aquilante has an extremely experienced racer and finished second overall in 2015 to Michael Cooper, while Phoenix took the Team title.
For partial season entries Juncos Racing announced a multi-car Maserati program and VSA Motorsports will run their Lotus Evora at select events. TRG is rumored to be running select events with their Aston Martin Vantage GT4s and KohR should have the new Mustang GT4 sometime during the season, though not appearing on the St. Pete entry list.
The green flag flies on the 2017 GTS season this Friday at 12:15pm EASTERN from the streets of St Petersburg, Florida and the race can be streamed live from MotorsportsOneDemand.com