Motorsport.com spoke with the series CEO this past week.
Motorsport.com spoke with Pirelli World Challenge CEO Scott Bove following their first ever standalone season-opener. So, was it a success?
COTA a success
"I was very pleased with the fact that we sent out a team of five people a week ahead of time to Austin and managed to get local retailers, bars, car dealerships ... And I felt we did an excellent job pre-selling tickets and getting dealerships to sign up for programs. I was extremely pleased with the execution of the team during the race weekend and post-race. I felt our team did a great job," concluded Bove.
I believe the level of competition we have is the best in sports car racing right now
Scott Bove on PWC field
So the preparation worked without issue, but how about the event itself?
"From the racing standpoint, I don't think anybody would argue that it wasn't a great set of races we put on with different classes and 115 total competitors. We had very few incidents. You can't control the weather though."
"From the racing side, on a scale of one to ten, I'd have to get it an 8 1/2 to a 9. I was just very pleased with the event overall. We signed an extension for COTA next year ... There always is room for improvement but I'm just real pleased with how it all went, period."
Dealing with a 116-car field
"We've had 90+ car but I think 116 is one of the largest single series sports car event you'll ever see. It was a pretty substantial undertaking on our part."
With such a massive field, what did the series have to do differently to make sure they were prepared to handle the massive load? "We brought it about two times the normal amount of support and we segregated it through the classes," Bove told Motorsport.com. "So, touring car had its own management team, GTS, GT. I feel we it really wasn't much of an undertaking with the way we split it all up amongst the divisions."
Partnership with IndyCar working like a charm
COTA may have been their first standalone season-opener, but at St. Pete, they play as a support event o IndyCar, a partnership both series really enjoy having. "We have partnered with IndyCar for the last five years and they enjoy having us there. We've been at Long Beach for over a decade with them. But now, we've pealed off and done more standalones. starting off the season with a standalone which is something we've never done before. I project that we'll have half of our events with IndyCar moving forward and half will be standalone."
When you go to iconic tracks such as Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, COTA ... You're in a great position to have iconic events
Following that COTA entry list, how big did it get for St. Pete? Well, just about as full as you could possibly get. "We have a limit of 60 entries that we put on ourselves due to paddock space, but they've managed to be more accommodating with space there, so I think we're up to about 64."
An 'iconic' event
One thing PWC lacks is that one iconic event, but as Bove said so well to this reporter, those kind of events will create themselves over time. "Our plan is to further develop our relationship with COTA and the guests we invite to race with us will help to make it a truly spectacular event. It's going to take us a long time to develop an iconic event, it's taken races such as the 500 and Rolex years to develop their reputations."
"When you go to iconic tracks such as Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, COTA ... You're in a great position to have iconic events. I think it will happen naturally. You have 116 teams wanting to go to COTA and that says something."
"I believe the level of competition we have is the best in sports car racing right now," he said in conclusion. "We have 50 minute sprint races with no pit stops, no tire changes ... Just flat-out racing. I don't think any competitor is going to tell you any different than that this is a great format for racing."