Richard James – Racer.com
After making its debut in Pirelli World Challenge GT racing in 2016, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is switching to the Porsche 911 GT3 R for 2017.
Jon Fogarty piloted the “Red Dragon” McLaren 650S to a 12th-place finish in GT in the team’s first full year of PWC racing. But the team that won two championships in Grand-Am Daytona Prototypes is making the switch after many years of “what if.”
“I have known the leadership of Porsche Motorsport for several years, having competed against them in the Rolex Series and more recently at PWC,” team principal Bob Stallings said. “We have had many discussions over the years about joining forces on the racetrack, but never could find the right opportunity to complete a relationship. Porsche has been a leader in motorsports for many years throughout the world racing scene. I have held them in high regard and always thought we might decide to race together eventually, and the opportunity to get it done now was very compelling.”
“We did have a handle on [the McLaren]” Stallings said of the switch. “Both John Ward, our engineer, and Jon Fogarty felt very comfortable with the car the last couple of races. The switch had very little to do with the McLaren and more of a long-term strategy to hook up with Porsche. We just think for the longer term, we’d be better of with Porsche.”
The 911 GT3 R scored five wins between Patrick Long and Michael Lewis in 2016, and eight GTA victories with Michael Schein.
“Customer racing is the foundation of Porsche Motorsport,” said Jens Walther, president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America. “We are always delighted when an organization as successful as GAINSCO chooses to race with us, and we welcome Bob Stallings and the entire team to the Porsche family.”
Fogarty will return for his ninth year of competition with the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team. In his first full season of PWC racing, he managed three top-five finishes. Prior to joining Bob Stallings and his GAINSCO team full-time in 2006, Fogarty drove a Porsche 911 for Flying Lizard Motorsport.
The GAINSCO team will compete in the full Sprint series in 2017.
“I like PWC. They’ve really got something going,” says Stallings. “I think the popularity with car owners, drivers and fans is on the upswing. I know the factories are pretty interested in PWC and it gives them a nice opportunity to display the cars to the retail public in the U.S. My expectation is that their interest in the series is going to grow.
“I think the series has done an excellent job keeping up with their popularity. They’ve got a good management team in place, and I really like the sprint format. We live in the digital age and in order to attract new fans to the sport, the sprint format is an excellent program to attract new fans. Younger people don’t have the attention span to watch a race for three hours, and I think the manufacturers understand that too.”
Stallings is taking a wait-and-see approach to SprintX, which will make up about half the races in 2017. The team will run its home SprintX race at COTA, but has no plans to contest further SprintX events.
“This will be an interesting year to see how [SprintX] goes, who the competition is and how that develops. I think 2017 will be an experimental year. It wouldn’t surprise me if their experience leads them to have a slightly different format in 2018,” Stallings said.
The GAINSCO team, led by veteran team manager Terry Wilbert, will take residence at the new Porsche Motorsport North America headquarters in Carson, California through December and will test with Fogarty at Buttonwillow Raceway just before Christmas.
The Pirelli World Challenge season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set for March 10-12.