COLUMBIA, Md. (Oct. 11, 2017) – Two Porsche Club of America (PCA) Club Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Trophy East competitors experienced firsthand how the series provides a solid stepping stone for those looking to make the jump to professional racing following their weekend competing in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series at Road Atlanta.
Curt Swearingin – who is leading the series’ Championship class – got a taste of professional sports car racing during his exciting debut in the FOX Factory 120 that preceded the 20th running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta’s 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course in Braselton, Georgia. Swearingin drove a race prepared 2011 Porsche Cayman in the Continental Tire SportsCar series’ Street Turner (ST) class.
With the help of BGB Motorsports’ Jim Cox and John Tecce, Swearingin put together the deal to race just three weeks ahead of the Road Atlanta event weekend – just enough time to obtain his IMSA license, secure the car and team support, and all of the details that go along with it. He and his co-driver finished in 11th place out of 18 cars.
“The race went great and I was able to run clean consistent laps,” he said. “During the race, the wrecks started happening and we were able to stay clean and move up even though my pace wasn’t all the way there. I feel like we did fine considering we only had two hours of practice in a car that we had never driven.
“The Cayman has less horsepower, aero and tire than the Clubsport and it’s nearly 10 seconds slower per lap at Road Atlanta than what I would run in a Clubsport there,” Swearingin noted of the differences between the Porsche Cayman and the GT4 Clubsport. “The Cayman also had a six-speed gearbox and a clutch, which gave me some problems. I’m so used to the PDK in the Clubsport that it has ruined me over the last two years. I struggled to heel toe and get in a rhythm while driving this Cayman. It made me really appreciate the GT4 Clubsport.”
Series Pro class leader Jim Cox, who ran four IMSA races this year in the same Clubsport MR he drives in the Clubsport Trophy East series, capped off his IMSA season with a 10th-place finish in the Grand Sport (GS) class in the
Continental Tire SportsCar series.
Earlier this season, Cox finished 10th at Daytona International Speedway in a four-hour race, seventh at Sebring International Raceway in a two-hour race, and 11th at VIRginia International Raceway also in a two-hour race.
“That’s the key – we can literally take the GT4 Clubsport car we race in this series and change the stickers on the car and race professionally,” Cox said. “Our No. 38 Clubsport literally went from the PCA NOLA event to the Road Atlanta IMSA event without any changes. Porsche Motorsports has built all of us a really versatile car.”
Cox’s Clubsport MR contains a Manthey-Racing kit for the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport designed to meet the SRO GT4 standards, allowing the car to race in a variety of professional series globally.
Florida-based BGB Motorsports owner John Tecce co-drives with Cox in IMSA. The duo splits the time equally with one-hour stints with Cox qualifying and starting the race, while Tecce finishes it out.
“The Clubsport series is great,” Cox said. “It’s a single-make format, great drivers and a relaxed, but sensible, approach to penalties leads to some hard, close racing – which is fantastic preparation for when you find yourself in a pro race. Being prepared for that is really important and I think the Clubsport series starts to train your mind for closer, more competitive racing, which I found really useful over in IMSA.”
“For the longest time, there has been a lack of an intermediate, more organized step to get a driver to go from club racing to pro racing,” Tecce said. “So, the fact that I can take the MR to a PCA weekend and go home and change the tires and stickers and then roll it off the truck at an IMSA weekend is just fantastic.”
Tecce also notes that the series has a more regimented format – the layout of the PCA Club Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Trophy East event weekends begin to mimic what teams do at an IMSA event weekend – from the driver and team meetings to the organized pit stops to the enduros (which are only 40 minutes shorter than an IMSA race).
“It’s great for a team like mine to stay sharp – it’s not just the drivers who are here for practice,” he said.
Swearingin said “the big show” didn’t feel much different to him than a regular PCA event weekend, but he could most definitely feel the excitement.
“Racing is racing no matter who you are on track with,” Swearingin said. “But I did like the atmosphere and the spectators. It was also exciting to eat lunch and see famous pro drivers and teams that I watch on TV. Hopefully one day I will be able to compete at their level.
“It was also exciting to have friends, acquaintances, and fellow Tennessee PCA Region members come by and visit me in the paddock. The support was just incredible from everyone – including other drivers. Pro driver and competitor Spencer Pumpelly even came by to introduce himself and welcome us to the series. In his opening remarks to me, he looked me straight in the face and said, ‘Don’t screw this up!’ But then he began to laugh and told me he was joking and to have a good race.”
“This experience in IMSA makes me all the more excited to end the 2017 Clubsport season at Daytona later this month,” Cox said. “I’m really looking forward to some tough competition, and hopefully bringing improved abilities to the track.”