The Pirelli World Challenge is set to kick off in a few weeks at Circuit of the Americas. Buoyed by its new-found growth, the series just announced the biggest list of entrants in its history ahead of the opener on March 6th-8th. Included in these are some defectors from Tudor United Sports Car Championship as well as new teams. They will bring to the paddock some impressive new hardware including that from the likes of Bentley, McLaren, and Ferrari. Recently, TOV Motorsports had an opportunity to speak to our favorite driver and team owner, Peter “P.D.” Cunningham of RealTime Racing about the series, the TLX-GT , as well as some general thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:
: You’ve been racing Honda products since 1987. What is it that makes them so good to compete with?
PD : Especially in the early days there were a number of key factors, one was the handling, one was the reliability, and another was the fuel mileage. They always had great engines but more often than not the cars we were racing against had better HP-weight ratios, but because of those three ingredients those cars had a tough time competing with the Hondas. Fuel mileage isn’t a factor anymore because of the sprint racing we’ve been doing in World Challenge since 1993.
: Overall, what kinds of structural and powertrain modifications were needed to make the
meet the series requirements and be competitive? For example we saw a video where the engine sits low and further back. What parts are common to a
that we might have sitting in our driveways?
PD : Compared to the stock vehicle, HPD has added twin turbos to the stock 3.5L direct injected engine that comes in the TLX . That bumps the power from 290 to 550+ and that can be changed to achieve parity with the other cars in the class. The AWD system is different because of the power and physical configuration of this car; it is designed especially for racing use. Things like the Jewel Eye headlights in the racer are 100% functioning stock headlights.
: We’ve seen the
on the track but also making the rounds on the auto show circuit with a different grille. Is the car we see at auto shows a real TLX-GT?
PD : The car traveling the auto show circuit is a show car built by RealTime. It has the makings of a real racecar, but is far from a finished product. It has a lot of the actual bodywork, but not all of it, and there’s no driveline in it.
: We see the sponsor’s logos on the car: Forgeline, Stoptech, Eibach, etc. A lot of our viewers track their own cars, are interested in modifications for the track, and are always curious what real racecars use so can you run down some systems like suspension, brakes and tell us who makes what components?
PD : The suspension is a cooperative design between RealTime and HPD . We’re using Penske shocks, Eibach springs, and StopTech brakes. The parts that we’re using are certainly of a race design compared to what someone would put on their track car, but all the same theories apply and they are key ingredients for your track car and making it perform to your liking. We shouldn’t leave out tires. The spec-Pirelli tires we use work very well, are consistent, and there are no complaints on the grid so that’s one of the things that has really helped make the series successful over the years. The tires you select for your track car can make the biggest difference in a car’s performance; they are the only part of the car that touches the ground.
has an astonishing record in
. What is your expectation for the 2015 season?
PD : We’re very eager to get the season up and going. We know the competition that we’re up against in 2015 is going to blow away what was already incredible for 2014 with 11 manufacturers and 40+ cars in GT, and the names we’re going up against are just incredible, too. We’re cautiously optimistic for COTA and we’re excited to go head-to-head with these guys. We have a good shot at being in contention for top finishes and even wins and we’re not going to say no to fighting for the championship.
: This will mark the first full season with the
. How do you feel about the car was we approach COTA?
PD : Due to a whole host of factors in 2014 we only got one car going and only for the last couple of races of the year. The program is going well it’s just that it happened on a delayed basis, unfortunately, despite all the efforts from HPD and RealTime. So we feel we won’t be at our fastest at the first round but we’re hopeful that our starting position will be whole lot better than what we had last year with 13th and 19th place finishes.
: Can you go into any detail about the type of development that was done since last season to make the
more dialed-in and competitive in the GT class?
PD : Between the final race of 2014 and COTA [now] the entire car was rebuilt. The main thing was a new front suspension design compared to what we had last year. And then just refinements in every other area made from what we learned in 2014. It’s a lot of little things put together that will give us a tenth of a second here and a tenth of a second there. No stone was left un-turned.
: You’ll be fielding two cars once again this year with Ryan Eversley in the number 43 car. Obviously your odds as a team go up with a second car on the grid but what does it mean to you strategically to have a second car out there?
PD : Especially in the development of the new car it’s great to have twice as much data coming in to sort through in order to make improvements to the car. So conceivably we could be cutting our development time in half. As a team, at times, and certainly at COTA on the long straightaways being in the draft and in qualifying is where it could help. Qualifying is very important part of the success in the series because in a sprint race you don’t have any time to waste, you need to make your race happen. But we’re definitely going to work together and not race each other like we race everyone else so that part is going to be fun.
: 103 entries on the books for the season opener at
with possibly more to be added. How do you feel about having that many cars on the grid?
PD : There are really three races running separately (GT/GT-A/GT Cup, GTS , and Touring Car group) but even so it’s going to be busier than the 405 freeway in Los Angeles at rush hour with all those cars. For the fans it’s going to be spectacular.
: What does it say for the series to have so many cars entered and why do you think
has seen such strong growth?
PD : The series has really come into its own. This is the 26th year for the series and it’s always been a competitive and exciting format. In 2008 and 2009 after the financial/economic issues here in the States, we saw smaller grids. That’s not to say the battling at the front wasn’t just as intense, but to have the influx of amazing cars from well established, professional teams coming in now, it’s just in a different realm. And it will be incredible for fans as well, whether they’re there live in the stands, streaming live on http://www.world-challengetv.com/ , or watching the post-produced CBS Sports shows in primetime on Saturday afternoons. I think the reason PWC has seen such strong growth is the recipe for the series has been exciting; it’s a standing start, it’s a race that’s short enough with no holds barred and no pits stops that makes it very, very exciting. I’ve probably done more endurance racing in my career, I definitely enjoy the endurance-racing format as a driver, but for the fans to have the whole thing over in less than an hour makes it easier to follow and appreciate. Another thing is the parity of the cars. You know they’re doing it right when all of the racers are complaining about how unfair it is. But at the end of the day to see all of these different cars within fractions of a second of one another is really exciting for the fans, which is another one of the reasons for the success of the series.
has always been good about leveraging technology with live streaming, etc. but many fans I’ve interacted with on social media feel it deserves a good old-fashioned live TV package. I understand
has television rights in 2015, can you comment on live broadcasts?
PD : The live broadcast for the race in Detroit is an exciting thing for everyone. We understand that having live TV is important for a series with the stature of what PWC has become but the big problem for having all of the races live is the TV time and cost. I think that any one of us in the paddock would like to push the organizers to make that happen but at the same time TV costs money and it’s not costing less money than it did five years ago or even last year. As PWC has pioneered the live Internet broadcast [several years ago], those broadcasts have continued to improve every year. So maybe broadcast television becomes less important when we can provide more of the coverage you need on a second screen.
: There are a lot of race fans in the Northeast but the closest the series gets this year is Mid Ohio, might we see New Jersey Motorsports Park, Watkins Glen, or Lime Rock on the schedule in the future?
PD : The series looks at venues every year and the good thing is that we don’t have to bang on doors to beg for track time at venues, the opposite is now true with the growth and excitement of the series. Track promoters want us to come to their venue. So it comes down to what venues make sense from a marketing perspective and which make sense from a financial point of view. An iconic track such as Lime Rock or Watkins Glen would certainly be welcomed by the competitors but it’s just a matter of economics to determine where we go.
we are awaiting the arrival of the
with great anticipation. What are the chances we’ll see one with a
livery in the future?
PD : We’ve been watching it progress as well and it was exciting to see the car launched at the Detroit Motor Show last month. RTR would definitely be interested in a race program with the NSX . I think there’s no guarantee of that but we also understand that’s on the horizon, the NSX won’t be hitting the track for quite some time so we just have to be patient, see how things evolve, and in the meantime we can dream about it.
: So maybe one day we could we see a
PD : You never know!
: From what you know of the
, how difficult would it be to modify to meet the series specs. and be competitive?
PD : What I know about the configuration is no more than any of us know by reading the ‘funny papers’ but the athleticism of the stock road-going car would slot into PWC GT quite easily.
: What was the first car you owned?
PD : My first car was a 1969 Cutlass convertible that I got when I was fifteen and a half. My second car that I ALMOST got was a 1979 CVCC 5 speed that I had on order at the local Honda store but because of the demand they just couldn’t deliver. So after waiting for quite some time without the result I wanted, I went out and got a 1979 Datsun 310 GX with a velour interior and not much else. It’s interesting that my introduction to Honda almost came seven years earlier than it ended up.
: What drew you to racing/motorsport?
PD : I guess because I learned how to drive at a very early age on the street in my dad’s Vista Cruiser and didn’t know anything about racing, wasn’t exposed to racing in any way but happened to meet someone who had a Porsche 911 that he was working on in an underground parking structure somewhere and I happened upon this guy and he told me what autocrossing was I was like, “Wow!” Because of that, as I was about to graduate from high school, I showed up at an autocross on May 4th 1980 in a SAAB 99 EMS (the car I traded the Datsun in for) and I won my first race and thought well this is kind of fun and that’s all I needed to fall off of the deep end and have a life-changing experience to pursue a career in Motorsports.
: If you’re ever in New Jersey will you drive my S2000 and show me how it’s done?
PD : I’d love to, yeah, I love the sound of a 9,000 RPM 2.0L or 2.2L Honda engine!
: On behalf of
Motorsports we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. Thank you.
PD : You bet!
Be sure to watch PWC at COTA on March 6th-8th by visiting http://www.world-challengetv.com/ where you can catch all of the action live. Otherwise tune in to CBS Sports on Saturday March 14th at 11AM EST (or again on Wednesday March 18th at 8PM EST ) to see the tape-delayed 120 minute television broadcast.