If there was any doubt that American sports car racing is seeing a resurgence in popularity, look no further than the thriving grassroots racing world, where GRIDLIFE’s Touring Cup series has taken its Midwestern roots and spread nationwide.
GRIDLIFE, whose mission statement is “motorsports inclusivity” has been hosting track days at small tracks like GingerMan Raceway since 2014, offering less expensive, more accessible track time to a younger car enthusiast audience. Since the inception of its single-class, sprint racing wheel-to-wheel series, GRIDLIFE Touring Cup (GLTC) in 2019, the sanctioning body and the entry lists have experienced explosive growth. A typical GLTC field exceeds 30 cars, and often tops 50. This series is different: it’s free to watch on YouTube and Twitch, races are short enough to watch without dedicating an entire afternoon, and the rules (and the cars built under them) create a unique experience that appeals to any motorsport fan.
North American road racing has traditionally fit one of two categories – single class sprint racing with a spec make and model, or multi-make endurance racing with several classes of cars. GRIDLIFE’s Touring Cup series strikes a balance, with home-built cars from a variety of manufacturers competing together in a single class in short, 15 to 20 minute races.
GRIDLIFE doesn’t rely on a 400-page rulebook to balance a Corvette with a Miata, but instead uses a power-to-weight figure to equalize entries. Tire width is also used to bring cars of wildly different ideologies together. The series has also made the transition from racing slicks to 200-treadwear street tires, reducing cost and opening options for a variety of builds. Front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, four, six and eight cylinder cars are all common and competitive – even a Honda Odyssey minivan mixes it up on occasion amongst a sea of sedans and coupes.
The power and weight balancing act also means drivers and teams are free to spend as much or as little as they desire on their cars, but adding complexity and cost adds weight modifiers that negate those advantages. This results in competitive builds that can be replicated for less than the cost of the average new car – under $30,000. The rules span just 14 pages, several of which are focused less on technical regulation and more about driver expectations, which series founder and GRIDLIFE Motorsports Director, Adam Jabaay, feels is the most important section.
“In the years I personally spent sprint and endurance racing prior to the GLTC launch in 2019, I saw a lot of racers burn out rapidly,” he said.
“The main cause was because they were crashed into and bodywork is so time consuming and expensive. While it’s not something we can control directly, especially in a close quarters racing environment, we stress ‘respect and racing room’ in multiple meetings per weekend. In grid, the workers and staff encourage each driver to race well, clean, and hard. ‘Be proud of your race’, ‘race for the racing, not the results, and the results will come’, and other similar phrases are repeated constantly.
“What we are trying to build is a culture of the cleanest possible racing. What we are hoping for from that effort is to build the sport of club racing, and bring new people of all backgrounds and car choices into the activity we love so much. It’s a huge effort, every weekend, but it’s paying off. The job will never be done, but the results are clearly there already.”
Written in the rules is a guiding principle that challenges the popular belief that rubbing is racing.
“The worst thing that can happen by leaving enough room for another car is that you have a great race,” Jabaay said.
Jabaay’s approach seems to be working, too. Over three seasons of competition, not a single car has been totaled from car-to-car contact, although drivers have experienced the odd doughnut or door ding every once in a while. Jabaay often jokes lightheartedly in driver’s meetings, ‘Roger Penske isn’t here to sign any contracts, so don’t crash into your friends trying to win the track day.’ This cleanliness doesn’t come at the cost of competition; the 2021 season brought 10 different winners (and four different engine layouts) in as many rounds.
GRIDLIFE’s goal is to present a racing experience that is constantly exciting, with the best parts of the race (the beginning and the end) separated by just a few very important laps. Scott Giles, the rookie driver lead who has 30 years experience in club racing, often says to win a GRIDLIFE Touring Cup race, drivers have to run record qualifying pace for an entire race – times that would place them at the front of any other club racing field in North America.
This season, GRIDLIFE Touring Cup has already visited Circuit of the Americas, Atlanta Motorsports Park, and NCM Motorsports Park, but the remaining rounds, starting with GRIDLIFE’s Midwest Festival on June 2nd, will be live streamed for free on YouTube and Twitch. Live timing and scoring, live commentary, and multiple cameras are part of a professional broadcast production rivaling that of much larger race series. This year, GRIDLIFE is set to broadcast six competition rounds, including both of its signature festival events, Midwest and Alpine Horizon, which adds large-scale music festivals to the weekend events.
6/2 – GingerMan Raceway – South Haven, MI (Midwest Festival)
6/25 – Autobahn Country Club – Joliet, IL
8/5 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Lexington, OH
8/19 – Lime Rock Park – Lakeville, CT
9/9 – Pikes Peak International Raceway – Colorado Springs, CO (Alpine Horizon Festival)
10/7 – Heartland Motorsports Park – Topeka, KS (GRIDLIFE Finals)