With schedules and other details for all its 2020 series having been announced at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July, at the SRO prize giving gala in Las Vegas in October and in the time since, there were few surprises to be revealed at SRO America’s annual State of the Sport conference at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis on Thursday. There were, however, some interesting facts and figures to absorb, including average car counts for SRO worldwide that included 25 GT3 cars, 29 GT4s and 40 Touring Cars.
Those Touring Car numbers are solely for SRO America, as the category exists, for now, only in America as far as SRO is concerned; that will change in 2021 as the category expands to Europe. While GT4 numbers are good compared to the global average, the GT3 numbers for SRO America show some weakness.
Car counts aside, people are watching and responding. The series claims 796 million impressions worldwide, including 478 million social media impressions and a 3000-percent increase in livestream viewers thanks to worldwide SRO integration. For 2020, there will be 200 hours of TV coverage on CBS Sports Network.
Procedurally, the series promises additional Thursday test days, simplified prize money, and the presence of the deluxe GT Paddock Club at all events. GT Sports Club America, encompassing bronze drivers in GT2 and GT3, and including allowances for older GT3 cars, will make its debut at Virginia International Raceway next season with a three-class structure in a single-driver, sprint format.
The series and competitors will get their initial taste of GT Sports Club with the first of three Winter Invitational races happening this weekend at The Thermal Club near Palm Springs, Calif. According to SRO America President and CEO Greg Gill, that series is attracting new competitors who will sample SRO America competition for the first time.
Among the things discussed on Thursday, Gill thought something that many might find trivial to be somewhat noteworthy — the method of checking drivers’ safety gear, and whether what is necessary for SRO series worldwide is both required and practical for North America.
“The takeaway is listening to our customers, adapting to the market and then bringing something to them for customer-based racing that is beneficial,” Gill says. “An example is we were requiring each driver to come in and check everything; that’s not something that’s typically done in North America but it is done globally because we deal with a lot of language gaps in different series around the world.
“When we looked at it, we had some of our our our senior management from outside note that in the States, everybody speaks English and they know what’s going on; just have them bring the HANS device and helmet in. That just saves a tremendous amount of frustration for our drivers. That’s a specific example of: ‘Listen to our customers, respond to what’s right.’ To (SRO founder) Stephane Ratel’s point, we’re a a global organization but we act locally and do what’s right for North America.”
In a separate announcement, Honda Performance Development introduced a new, ready-to-race, factory-built race car based on the Civic Type R. Honda already had a TCR car based on the Type R, and a TCA racer based on the Civic Si, but this new car fills the gap between those two categories to take on the BMW 240iR, Nissan 370Z and Hyundai Veloster in the Touring Car category.
“The successes of Honda Racing Development’s TCA Civic Si and TCR Type R in North American touring car championship series have generated a strong interest in more ready-to-race Honda Touring Cars for North America,” said Ted Klaus, president of HPD. “With the introduction of the new Type R TC-class race car, we now offer a complete line-up of turn-key, Civic-based race cars for registered racing customers in North America.”
Aside from the standard safety equipment such as roll cage and harnesses, some of the significant modification to turn the street Type R into a race car include a high-flow front grille, a J’s Racing FRP vented hood, CSF-designed radiator and oil cooler; an HPD/Borla downpipe and turbo-back exhaust; a 6-speed manual transmission with high-strength third and fourth gears; an HPD/Cusco limited slip differential; and HPD Girodisc 2-piece front brake rotors and HPD brake inlet ducts.
Part of that announcement included the fact that the car will be available to Honda Racing Line customers, but the first team to announce that it would race the car is LA Honda World Racing, which entered the Civic Type R TCR in IMSA Michelin Pilot Cup Challenge competition this past season.
The SRO America Winter Invitational at Thermal Club continues with events in January and February. The 2020 SRO America championship season begins the first weekend in March at Circuit of The Americas.