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Grand Sport Sees Tremendous Growth One Year After Adopting GT4 Specs
Posted by: ASkyler on Oct 05, 2017 - 06:19 PM
Feature Articles
Grand Sport Sees Tremendous Growth One Year After Adopting GT4 Specs


Staff Report, IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While Friday’s Fox Factory 120 at Road Atlanta marks the end of the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season, it signifies only the beginning of good things to come for the series’ Grand Sport (GS) class.

It’s been a little over one year since IMSA announced its intention to adopt GT4 technical specifications in GS and with the first year of that plan coming to a close this weekend, the results have been nothing less than remarkable and the statistics are there to prove it.

Last year saw the average GS car count per race around eight. That number is now 15.

Only three teams and six drivers visited victory lane last year in GS. So far in 2017, those numbers have risen to six teams and 13 drivers.

 


In 2016, only three manufacturers fielded cars in the class. That number is now at five manufacturers and with Automatic Racing’s win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca two weeks ago, all five – Aston Martin, Chevrolet, Ford, McLaren, and Porsche – have won a GS race in 2017.

“The idea started long before,” said Senior Technical Manager Jeff Mishtawy. “I had come up with a couple ideas and worked with (Senior Series Manager) Jeff Smallwood to look at how we can better align the GS class in the Continental series with global motorsport trends. Where was the Continental series doing well? Where was it weak? What were some of the issues and causes of issues we had?

“After looking at the issues we were having in GS and examining classes that are very similar to that, either just in the U.S. or even North America or globally, the participation in that level of class had gone to almost nothing on home-built race cars.”

As a result, the IMSA Technical Committee began to look at GT4, at the time an emerging global category. IMSA’s Competition and Marketing Departments started conducting feasibility studies based upon what brands would be accepted for competition.

This season being a transitional year, GS cars that had competed in 2016 are grandfathered for one year and will race against GT4 cars, with 2018 being exclusively GT4 specification vehicles.

With Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG announcing their own intentions to homologate a GT4 race car, the 2018 manufacturer count in GS could possibly increase to eight.

“We have several new manufacturers that are launching GT4 cars next year and there seems to be a large amount of interest from outside the current paddock to purchase cars and compete in IMSA,” said Mishtawy. “We certainly expect some teams are going to double in size. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to see yet another large gain at every race between the (three) classes in 2018.”

The Fox Factory 120 will be streamed live on IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app beginning at 1:50 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 6.

Friday’s Street Tuner Race Could Be End of an Era for CRG’s Cattaneo, Trinkler

There’s an old saying – “All good things must come to an end.”

For Sarah Cattaneo, Owen Trinkler and the No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow team, that end could be this weekend at Road Atlanta.

The No. 44 has been a staple in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner (ST) class paddock since Cattaneo’s father, Joe, bought the team in 2014, but next year raises a big question mark.

The news that the CRG wouldn’t run a full-time schedule next year was made official to the team at VIRginia International Raceway this past August, the same weekend they found victory lane for the first time since Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2016.

“I think that’s one reason that win at VIR was emotional for all of us,” Trinkler said. “You never know when the next one is going to come – not to say we can’t do it at Atlanta. I know we can and we’ve been on a great run since VIR and we did a great job at Laguna Seca. I think that was pretty emotional though to know that news was happening, to learn that the day before, then to go out and win the next day.”

The win was just one of the highlights for the team this year. Cattaneo and Trinkler have finished on the podium four times and are currently tied for fourth in the driver point standings and third in the team standings.

On a personal note, Cattaneo also celebrated her engagement at Road America in August. Her boyfriend proposed when she got out of the car during the team’s mid-race driver change.

“We have so much going on next year,” Cattaneo said. “My sister is getting married on Sebring weekend, so I wouldn’t be able to make that one anyways – which is a bummer because Owen and I love Sebring and we’ve done so well there – and then I’m getting married. It’s been an incredible nine years of my life, but things change and I’m kind of looking forward to that next chapter.”

While 2017 has been one of the more successful years for the two drivers that have been on-and-off teammates since 2008, there have been some lows as well, finishing outside the top 15 three times this season.

“We always joke that if we don’t win, we DNF type-of-thing, unfortunately,” Cattaneo said. “We always strive for consistency, but it’s been really good other than that. Last year, we were super fast at Atlanta and I think this car really loves that track. I have all the confidence in the world in Jim (Haaser, team engineer) and our guys to set this car up and give us a chance to podium for sure, if not win.”

And while most signs point to the team not rejoining the field in 2018, there may be one situation that could bring the car back on the grid.

“They want to go and do a limited schedule next year and they only want to do that if I’m available,” said Trinkler, who holds the most Continental Tire Challenge starts of any driver at 136. “But in saying that, they said ‘We don’t want to keep you tied to us because you’re worthy of being in a full-season ride somewhere else.’

“(The Continental Tire Challenge) has been a home for me since ’97 so I love being a part of it. My 2018 right now, I don’t have anything set in stone. I’m currently looking and I’m hoping to find something full season, but if I don’t, I know I’ll come back and run a limited schedule with Sarah and Joe. I think Joe has done a great job with this team and shown what you can do for a small organization and when you put a good group together.”

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