With Porsche once again involved in American sports car racing from development series such as Porsche Sprint Challenge and Carrera Cup through GT4, GT3 and all the way to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP class with the new 963 LMDh car, Porsche Motorsports North America (PMNA) has embarked on creating a pathway from karting to GTP. As part of that, PMNA has bestowed upon two of the stars from the 2022 season of Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands, Parker Thompson and Trenton Estep, the title of “Selected Driver” for 2023.
President and CEO Volker Holzmeyer said that PMNA will further improve the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid in the United States and Canada. The step-by-step strategy now offers a clear entry for aspiring race car drivers from high-level kart racing into entry level GT4 sports car racing, the Talent Identification Program North America in addition to the updated Porsche Selected Driver Program North America. This trio will be provided placement assistance as well as support to compete at the next level of open competition within the Porsche racing family.
“In North America we have such a huge market, we have so much talent,” said Holzmeyer. “That is why we want to show them the pathway to get to the top level with Porsche. From 2023 on, we will create something new, taking care of the whole driver development Pyramid. First, scouting for talent at the karting level, elevating the drivers to Carrera Cup and, finally, helping them get into GT and even GTP racing. The long-term goal is to find someone in karting, develop them through Sprint Challenge, Carrera Cup and GT racing, ultimately having them on the podium at Le Mans. To find the next Patrick Long.”
The objective of the Talent Identification Program is to recognize young talent at the sharp edge of kart racing and help provide a platform and tools to perform in Porsche race cars. A shootout using a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport will provide one of four chosen karters the opportunity to earn a scholarship in the Cayman class of the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by Yokohama next season. Holzmeyer and Porsche racing legend Long are on site for the 25th running of the SKUSA Supernationals at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas.
Beyond that, the Porsche Junior program was developed to provide a bridge between one-make racing and factory driver status. It provides an opportunity for exceptional talent to be trained by Porsche to maximize performance at the factory level. The Porsche Carrera Cup North America Junior Program was first introduced in 2021 and is being fine-tuned entering 2023 through increased education and financial support.
Like in Carrera Cup, drivers in the Sprint Challenge North America Junior Program will now also enjoy specialized training in areas such as tires, chassis dynamics, media and fitness as well as the same financial support as Carrera Cup. This extension of the junior program to Sprint Challenge is designed to accelerate progress through the ranks, strengthen skills earlier and maximize performance sooner.
2022 Porsche Carrera Cup North America champion Thompson (Canada) and two-time Carrera Cup race winner Estep (San Antonio, Texas) have each been named to represent the Carrera Cup one-make championship in the Porsche Selected Driver Program North America for 2023. Each driver will receive mentoring from Long, financial support and assistance in securing a seat with a Porsche customer race team at the next level as part of the position. In addition, each driver will have the honor of carrying the Porsche Selected Driver Program North America signet on their helmet and uniform for the coming season. The Selected Driver title highlights them as special talents within the Pyramid system. A Selected Driver is neither an official Porsche factory driver nor a Porsche Junior, but is highlighted for the open competition categories such as IMSA and the SRO.
“My role with this program is to help these drivers understand where I have sat and where I can help them with their learning curve,” said Long, Motorsport Driver Mentor for PMNA. “The goal is to help the mental approach as they transition from sprint to endurance racing. It isn’t about teaching them to drive faster. They know how to race, how to turn quick lap times, but if I can help them in their application and preparation, how they can work within their teams, then I have done my job.”
While Thompson is finalizing his plans within the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid for next season, the core of Estep’s 2023 plans are already set. He and MDK Motorsports will move up the Porsche Pyramid to open competition in the SRO Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS. The 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion will race a new 992 Porsche 911 GT3 R with Seth Lucas.