Why You Should Be Paying Attention to the Porsche Carrera Cup North America This Year
Porsche’s full-fledged GT racing series is only in its third year in America, but it’s already serving up some seriously good action.
You can't throw a connecting rod without hitting a regional racing championship somewhere in the world, but there's only one Porsche Carrera Cup. Part of that is the cars; Porsche builds pretty much the best factory racers on the planet, and the latest 911-based GT3 Cup car is a 500-horsepower, 2,800-pound freak of nature.
The other part is the Carrera Cup, now in its 34th year, is so much more than a simple one-make customer racing series or a playground for rich dentists. These days, it's an integral link in Porsche's interconnected web of development programs, customer and factory GT racing, feeder series, and top-tier pro motorsports spanning the entire globe. And now, it's here in America.
Technically it arrived a couple of years ago, but you'd be forgiven for maybe missing the moment. There's been one-make Porsche racing in this country for a long time as sideshows at IMSA events, but never a full-fledged Cup executed with the company's full backing until it launched the Porsche Carrera Cup North America in 2021. Two and a half seasons later, and the Carrera Cup is delivering some of the sharpest racing this side of F1, IndyCar, and IMSA—all of which it's shared the stage with as a support series in 2023. Talk about exposure.
“It’s a big season this year,” Porsche Motorsport North America CEO Volker Holzmeyer told us. “We added two Formula 1 races, we raced in Long Beach [with IndyCar], that’s a highlight. And then we’ll race as the only modern racing during Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca [in September]. So that’s a huge calendar.”
Run by Porsche Motorsport North America and sanctioned by IMSA, the Carrera Cup’s format is simple: sixteen 40-minute races (two per weekend), three classes (Pro, Amateur, and Pro-Am), and one single-spec car that’s exactly the same for every team globally. Points for the driver’s championship are awarded for pole position in qualifying and finishing between 1st and 15th place. Teams can field a number of drivers, but can only select two whose performance counts towards the constructor’s championship. All the races are streamed live on Peacock and uploaded to YouTube in full afterwards. Porsche’s bet is a tight format and easy-to-follow action will grab at least some of the million-odd new racing fans minted by Drive to Survive.
“The cars are all equal and it’s just the driver that makes the difference. It’s a different sport than open-competition racing, which is much more complex with balance of power and everything,” Holzmeyer said. “In Carrera Cup, I know the drivers, I know what they are targeting to do, and if you know the person behind [the wheel], your focus is much more on the person than on the car.
“When you go to endurance racing it’s a lot about strategy calls, what’s the fuel saving strategy, who’s changing tires at what time, who’s pitting on the yellow, then it’s very complex… I think at the end [for us], it’s the competition. The emotions of race cars, the sound, the events, the excitement, the show, at the end it’s entertainment for people.”
In many ways, though, it's the changes fans don't see that are more important. The Carrera Cup is looped into what Porsche calls its motorsports pyramid; revamped in 2022, it’s an internal organizational structure tying together all its amateur and pro racing efforts into one unified career ladder that ostensibly makes it possible to go from killing a Porsche Experience Center track day to landing a spot on the factory race team as a driver at Le Mans. Expensive? Yes. Likely? No. But tantalizingly possible—if you have the skills.
That promise means a couple things: the Carrera Cup North America is pulling a lot more real racing prospects now (including a fair number of Europeans, flipping the usual script), and the rich dentist joke is getting out of date. Beyond just supporting customer teams with cars and parts, Porsche is fully invested in scouting for and nurturing talent with a rapidly-expanding junior driver development program. There are still plenty of gentlemen drivers, because racing is a ridiculously costly sport. More and more, though, the grid is looking like the two Pro-class drivers we had a chance to follow during the Miami Grand Prix—Riley Dickinson and Sabré Cook of Kellymoss Racing.
Championship points leader Dickinson is the definition of a rising star—just 21 and already in his fifth season racing Porsches, he’s taken a major leap this year with seven of his eight career victories coming in 2023. He’s exactly the kind of driver primed to climb the ladder Porsche just stood up in front of him. Meanwhile Cook—the only woman racing in the Cup—is a 28-year-old rookie making the most of a second chance after a horrible crash in the W Series knocked her career off course. She’s exactly the kind of driver Porsche hopes it can draw in with a more hands-on training and financial help via initiatives like Porsche Deluxe Female Driver Development Program.
Below is an excerpt from each profile; click the link to read the full thing. The next Porsche Carrera Cup North America race weekend is July 27-29 at Road America in Wisconsin.
Riley Dickinson slumped back into the seat of his dad’s truck defeated, exhausted, and tired of baseball. At seven years old, the little kid from New Braunfels could tell: the usual sports just weren’t for him. Texas and its Friday night lights be damned. He slipped into the seat and gazed at the ranches and sun arcing across the east Texas hill country horizon near Loop 337. Riley’s dad, Drew, had all the confidence in the world in his son. He didn’t know his son had all the confidence in himself too.
“Oddly enough, the baseball field is across the street from the go-kart track,” Dickinson says. “I was so done with baseball, and I looked at the track. I told my dad, ‘I want to do this instead.’ … Looking back at it, I wonder why he trusted me so much.”
His instincts haven’t let him down from that night on. They took him from the Hill Country Kart Club to the Porsche Carrera Cup when he was just 16, where he quickly impressed as a skinny teen holding his own against grown men. And fresh off his 21st birthday, they've taken his driving to new heights in the 2023 season as the runaway championship leader. Riley Dickinson is putting on a clinic in the #53 car for Kellymoss Racing; he's won five of eight races and podiumed in the other three. He's like the Max Verstappen of the Carrera Cup North America, if Verstappen had a more emotionally supportive father.
If Dickinson keeps it up, a performance like this can set the stage for even bigger things to come in the racing world. There's a whole second half of the season to get through first, of course. [LINK]
Sabré Cook's second season in the W Series—delayed a year by the Covid pandemic—would challenge her in ways she couldn’t have imagined. In the first race, on the first lap, in the first turn, her car was struck by two others in a horrific crash. Her vertebrae was compressed and her hip was nearly crushed. Later surgeries would uncover that her hip wasn’t correctly attached after the crash; despite the injuries, she would compete in eight more races that year.
“I was in so much pain, you could see it in my face everywhere I went,” she says. “The races [this year] in Long Beach were the first time since the beginning of 2021 that I’ve gotten into a car without pain.”
Cook took 18 months to fully recover from her surgery, working tirelessly in the gym to rehabilitate her hip and back, all while looking forward to what was coming next. During her recovery, she also reached out to Victoria Thomas at Kellymoss Racing about somehow working with the team. Thomas, who owns the team with her husband and serves and the company's CFO, told her to sit tight.
Little did Cook know Thomas was making moves of her own to find Kellymoss' next driver and do something about the woeful lack of women in racing. [LINK]