Pirelli World Challenge 2016: Opening Round

Nissan GTR
The Always Evolving GTR

While I’m not a racing addict,  I’ve been to my share: two F1 races, a couple 24 Hours of Daytona’s, a few ALMS races, with other, smaller races filling in the gaps.  This weekend I had the chance to finally take in the Pirelli World Challenge, and had the best time that I’ve ever had at a track.

I first learned of the series thanks to an article posted by Speed Hunters last year. That write-up piqued my interest and I marked my calendar to be sure I caught it next time it came through.  I convinced my friend Ryan (the owner of the previously featured S30) to fly out to Austin and we spent 3 days in motorsport bliss.

kia race car
I loved to see the Kias on track. It’s great to see a marquee you don’t normally associate with racing getting involved like this.

Personally I enjoy that I can relate to the cars on the track.  The fact that there were Honda Fits and Miatas on track(both are cars I own) made this especially so.  The slowest group that raced was B-Spec Touring.  These are your economical hatchbacks which are allowed very minor modifications and then hit the track.  This is a class very dangerous to your wallet.  I challenge anyone to watch one of these races without contemplating what it would take to build their own.  It’s probably the most economical way to get into wheel to wheel racing and makes Spec Miata look like a high-dollar affair. Even though these are cars that barely break 100hp,  the competitiveness keeps the races very exciting with lots of passing.

mx5 cockpit
It’s hard for a fan to get any closer than this

Fan access at this event is second to none. Your ticket grants you access to the paddock area where you can walk right up to the garages and tents of race teams and see them working on their cars.  More than once while taking photos, a team member would invite us to come inside and give us just about all the information we could possibly want.  Cars either going to or coming from the grid drive right through the area where fans are walking around, letting you see and hear them as they pass by.  I’m sure all of this can be an annoyance to the teams who are focused on their jobs, but as far as I could tell, the fans did a great job of being respectful, and the teams were extremely gracious to them in return.  Additionally there were “Fan Marches to the Grid” where we had a few minutes to walk around the grid when all the cars were already staged.  Drivers were taking photos with fans and answering questions.  Seriously cool.

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In writing all this, it feels like I’ve forgotten to mention the competition itself.  The classing in the World Challenge keeps the grid filled with a wide variety of cars, all of which are pretty competitive.  This makes for an exciting race where one can’t really predict a winner until the last couple laps.  GTS race #2 featured a battle for 3rd place which had Scott Dollahite in a Lotus Evora attempting to pass Nate Stacy in a Boss 302 Mustang a couple times before finally succeeding towards the very end of the race.  Every single race had moments like this, which made for spectacular viewing.

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The only bad thing I have to say about the whole event is that I now have to wait a year before it comes back to Austin.  You can that bet when it does, I’ll be there.  Check out the upcoming schedule and see if there’s a race near you.

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