Bob Chapman/PMR photo
For the veteran Paul Miller Racing squad and other privateer ALMS GT teams, remaining in the class next year for the inaugural United SportsCar Championship could prove to be a major challenge.
Under the new USCC class structure, ALMS GT, which will be renamed GT Le Mans (GTLM), is beginning to look like it will become an exclusive playground for factory efforts from BMW, Corvette and SRT Viper. Works-affiliated programs from Ferrari and Porsche are also expected to continue, leaving those like PMR in a bind.
Gaining access to a 2014-spec factory car is all but impossible, and with the semi-works programs expected to go to bigger teams, PMR is left with the option of running its 2013 car against brand-new machinery, or searching for a new class within the USCC to call home.
As PMR team manager Mitchell Simmons revealed to RACER on Friday, a switch to the Pro-Am GT Daytona (GTD) class could be the next direction for the Georgia-based team.
“The GTD class as they're going to call it seems interesting,” said Simmons. “It's something we've certainly discussed. If we're going to have a program next year it'll probably be in that area.”
As longtime Porsche entrants, PMR would welcome the chance to field one of Porsche's new, Le Mans-winning 991 chassis, but with the factory restricting its availability, dropping down to the less costly GTD class has become a more attractive proposition.
“There's no doubt that the absence of [factory] equipment has made an incredible impact on our decision,” Simmons continued. “If we were going to have a 991, that might be something we would look into. We would just look into it. The problem now is there are so many more races. The races are much longer. The time on the engine is a lot more; the amount of tires required is much greater.
“When we go [to a 75 percent budget increase] it becomes a little harder to swallow that pill. So the costs are going to have to be managed for anyone to go into that. We could work around the budget if we knew that we could have a 991. The sponsorship is much easier to get. So if we thought we could get one of those cars then we could find the money to do that. Since that's not on the table anymore, now all of the sudden you have to go run with ‘everyone else.' So getting sponsorship money to run in [GTD] is much more difficult than getting sponsorship for GT Le Mans.”
Porsche recently unveiled its 2014 911 GT America chassis which is designed specifically for the GTD class and could be a natural fit for PMR if they commit to the class switch. In addition to his New Jersey-based Porsche dealership, team owner Paul Miller also has Audi and Bentley dealerships within his automotive group, and according to Simmons, the GT3 versions of the R8 and Continental are also under consideration.
“We have investigated all of the options,” he said. “No decision has been made as of yet but we have certainly looked at everything available and yes, we have looked at Audi and at Bentley.”
PMR driver Bryce Miller has a long history of competing in the factory-rich ALMS GT category and despite the likely move to the Pro-Am GTD class, the pool of talented teams should increase as many of the ALMS GTC entrants are expected to continue within the GTD category.
With performance balancing among the USCC classes expected to take place in late November (at Daytona and Sebring in the days leading up to and immediately after Thanksgiving) and the Roar Before the 24 set for the first week of January, the next step for PMR will be to settle on a car and class if they intent to be ready for the 2014 season.
“If you look at GTC now, which I guess is what will graduate into GTD, the driver lineup across that category is very respectable and the competition is very respectable,” said Miller. “So from that standpoint that's what keeps your interest as a driver. You want to be where the competition is and competing at a level of respectability is maintained.”