Corvettes will make their return to the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) for the 2018 racing season, but you won’t see the familiar yellow and black livery of Corvette Racing’s C7-Rs. Instead, you’ll get to root for a pair of C7 GT3-R Corvettes prepared and campaigned by Callaway Competition USA. They’ll be driven by multiple PWC GT-class winner and defending SprintX champion Michael Cooper, along with Daniel Keilwitz who has extensive experience racing the Corvette C7 GT3-R under the Callaway Competition banner in Europe. The two full-time drivers will contest all eleven rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge GT series in 2018.
Corvette GT3 in the Pirelli World Challenge
The big news from the recent Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis, Indiana was that Callaway Corvette GT3-Rs will compete in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) in 2018. “For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” said Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”
Reeves Callaway unveiled the GT3-R Corvette and later introduced full-time drivers Michael Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz at the PWC booth. “Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long-term objective for Callaway Competition,” said Reeves. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?” The Callaway Competition USA effort in the PWC will be for one year only to establish the car’s reputation and build sales; thereafter, it will strictly be a customer effort. For 2019 and beyond, Callaway Competition USA will withdraw its factory entries and instead offer full support to its customer racing efforts across North American sports car racing.
The Pirelli World Challenge
The Pirelli World Challenge will mark its 29th year in racing in 2018, with eleven racing weekends for GT cars from over 25 manufacturers with 44 separate car models racing in 7 divisions. The racing begins on a street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida in March and crisscrosses the United States, with a visit to Canada, throughout the summer, ending in Monterey, California at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway in October. The grand finale in California will feature the Intercontinental GT Challenge, an eight-hour GT endurance race held in conjunction with the SRO Blancpain GT series.
The top GT class, in which the Callaway Corvette C7 GT3s will compete, includes two types of racing throughout the year – Sprint races of 50 minutes duration with one driver per car, and SprintX races of 60 minutes duration, which require one pit stop per race that includes a four-tire change and may allow the addition of fuel. There will be five Sprint races and five SprintX races during the year, with the total points counting toward the manufacturer’s and driver’s championships.
Michael Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz to Drive Callaway Corvette GT3s
“We are proud to have Daniel and Michael on board for our 2018 effort,” said Reeves Callaway. “Both drivers have won several championships and will be excellent brand ambassadors for the Corvette C7 GT3-R’s debut year of American Competition. Daniel brings with him a wealth of knowledge about our team and the car, and Michael has years of experience on the tracks we’ll be competing on. Together, with the team we’re assembling, this will be an excellent program to show our future customers what the Corvette C7 GT3-R is capable of.”
Michael Cooper is well-known to Pirelli World Challenge fans, having driven the last two years for Cadillac Racing in the GT class. Last year, Cooper took home the PWC SprintX championship trophy. Said Cooper, “The Corvette C7 GT3-R has already proven itself on track in Europe, and I’m eager to start testing. The team that is being assembled by Callaway is top-notch, and will no doubt put us in contention for the championship.”
While Daniel Keilwitz may be new to competition in the United States, the 28-year-old German is no stranger to sports car racing or Callaway Competition. The first of his three championship titles came in 2010, when he clinched the FIA GT3 European Championship with Callaway Competition. Keilwitz and Callaway won the 2013 championship, and have finished in the top three in the 2014, 2016, and 2017 championship standings.
Corvette’s Long History in the Pirelli World Challenge
Corvette has a long history in PWC racing, dating back to the first PWC championship in 1990 won by R.K. Smith in a C4 Corvette. In fact, Corvette holds the record for the most wins in PWC competition, although their last victory was back in 2013. When Cadillac Racing entered the Pirelli World Challenge, General Motors management decided that they didn’t want to have Corvettes competing with the Cadillacs, and the Corvettes withdrew from the PWC. The withdrawal didn’t hinder Corvette’s racing activities, since Corvette Racing was actively competing in the American Le Mans Series at the time with the object of racing in, and winning, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
When Cadillac Racing decided to move to the IMSA Weathertech Championship Prototype class for 2018 and withdrew from the PWC at the end of 2017, the PWC door was wide open again for Corvettes. The Corvette Racing C7-Rs don’t meet the GT3 regulations used by the PWC and couldn’t move over to that series. Participation in the PWC depended on a racing Corvette meeting the FIA GT3 regulations required by the Pirelli World Challenge. Reeves Callaway and Callaway Competition stepped into the PWC with their GT3 Corvettes.
Callaway Competition and the Corvette GT3
In 1976 Reeves Callaway founded Callaway Cars, which became a successful engineering and specialist constructor extracting more horsepower and performance from regular production sports cars. Callaway Cars and General Motors collaborated on a twin-turbo conversion of the C4 Corvette that significantly improved the Corvette’s performance. GM was so impressed by the performance and quality of the Callaway system that it was made an official GM regular production option, RPO B2K, for the C4 Corvette. Callaway Cars has continued through the C5, C6, and C7 to offer modified Corvettes with extra get-up-and-go.
When the GT3 regulations were adopted by many racing series around the world, Reeves Callaway discussed the homologation of a GT3 Corvette with General Motors, but didn’t detect much interest. Reeves told Racer magazine that, “We were a little surprised when there was relatively little interest on the part of GM in participating in GT3. As a result, they said to us, ‘If you’re interested, why don’t you go do it? And we’ll authorize you to be the homologation holder for GT3 of the Corvette’.” Never one to pass up a great opportunity, Callaway, with his Callaway Competition GmbH operation in Germany, designed, built, and homologated the Corvette GT3. Since GM didn’t want the Corvette GT3 to compete against the Cadillac in the Pirelli World Challenge, Callaway Competition GmbH took the Corvette GT3 to the race tracks of Europe and successfully challenged the likes of GT3s from Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Lamborghini.
Pirelli World Challenge 2018 Race Schedule
St. Petersburg, FL March 9-11 SPRINT
Circuit of the Americas, TX March 23-25 SPRINTX
Long Beach, CA April 13-15 SPRINT
Virginia Int’l Raceway April 28-30 SPRINT
Mosport, Canada May 18-20 SPRINTX
Lime Rock Park, CT May 25-26 SPRINTX
Road America, WI June 22-24 SPRINT
Portland Int’l Raceway, OR July 13-15 SPRINTX
Utah Motorsport Campus August 10-12 SPRINTX
Watkins Glen, NY Aug. 31-Sept. 2 SPRINT
Laguna Seca, CA October 19-21 8-HOUR ENDURANCE
Summing up Callaway’s entry into the Pirelli World Challenge, Reeves Callaway said, “We’re incredibly proud to bring the Corvette C7 GT3-R to competition on American soil. It is going to be a very competitive season, and we are looking forward to getting started.” And expressing the wishes of all Corvette fans, in Racer magazine he added, “I’m hoping, of course, to be able to run at the front.”
We wish Callaway Competition USA and the Corvette GT3-Rs the best of luck in the Pirelli World Challenge. Our video shows the global debut of the Callaway C7 Corvette GT3-R in Germany a couple of years ago, and will give you an idea of what the U.S. version will look like. Enjoy!
All Photos: Callaway
Pirelli World Challenge-Classes – http://world-challenge.com/competition-classes/
Pirelli World Challenge-Race Format – http://world-challenge.com/latest/series-news/pirelli-world-challenge-announces-2017-class-programs/
Pirelli World Challenge-Regulations – http://world-challenge.com/latest/series-news/pwc-announces-sporting-regulations-changes-2018-series/
Pirelli World Challenge-Schedule – http://world-challenge.com/latest/series-news/pirelli-world-challenge-announces-2018-racing-schedule/
Callaway Press Release – https://www.callawaycars.com/homepage/the-company/callaway-cars/c7-gt3-r-world-debut/
Wikipedia-FIA GT3 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_GT3