Level the playing field with identical cars, and in theory the spotlight will shine solely on driver talent. It’s the reasoning behind all of the spec series we’ve seen over the years, from Formula Vee back in the ’60s to today’s super-successful Spec Miata program.
What about the driver looking for something just a bit, well, sexier?
Enter the Stuttgart Cup and its sister series, the Mission Foods GT3 Cup. These two programs have risen from the ashes to offer Porsche racers another road racing venue. We’re talking late-model Porsche race cars on some of the country’s top tracks, including Sebring, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Road Atlanta and Daytona.
Porsche Cayman driver Bill Ridell has taken over both series and combined them into one, the Stuttgart Cup and Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy USA by Car Amigo. Ridell has also hired longtime HSR Competition Manager Ken Fengler to organize and run the new series as well as keep the rules package stable.
The revamped program already features eight events for 2015–its first year under new management–and organizers expect to add one more stop on the calendar. To make things easier on all involved, the series will never feature more than one event per month.
The Cayman series was conceived at a 2008 event at Watkins Glen. A group of Porsche racers, including Ken Fengler and longtime pro Jack Baldwin, got together with Ron Barnaba of Napleton Porsche, an Illinois dealership. They came to an agreement: Although they all loved vintage racing, they wanted to run modern cars–machines that needed less care and feeding. They also wanted the rules package to contain the prep costs that seemed to wildly escalate in so many other series. Thus was born the Cayman Interseries. The spec program’s star would be the then-new Cayman S, and to add some vintage spirit, each car would wear a livery borrowed from Porsche history.
At roughly the same time–but completely separate–Juan Gonzalez of Mission Foods fame decided to bring his Porsche GT3 Cup series to the United States. This series, designed for gentleman racers, used Porsche’s amazing GT3 Cup race cars in virtually as-delivered trim.
While the two series ran at the same tracks and occasionally on the same weekends, they were neither related nor promoted together. The Cayman Interseries really began to flourish, with Napelton Porsche preparing and selling some 70 Cayman race cars.
But problems surfaced. As is so typical in racing, drivers started complaining about creeping preparation levels in some of the cars. The series suffered another blow when the economy took a downturn. Sponsorship dried up, and the series went dormant.
By this time, Bill Ridell had irretrievably immersed himself in the Cayman series. He ran five cars with friends and customers out of his RaceLink shop, and he was in too deep to just let it go. And besides, until things started to go awry, he was having a lot of fun.
Luckily, the timing was right for him to save the day. He had just sold his business and was looking for a new challenge. He decided to pick up the pieces of the shattered Cayman Interseries in 2013 and attempt to resurrect it.
His first move was to hire Ken Fengler as competition director. Ken’s primary objective would be to keep the cars legal and stop rule creep. He also gave the series a new name: the Stuttgart Cup.
Ken’s next goal was to score access to the legendary tracks that drivers really wanted to run. He accomplished this by teaming up with other sanctioning bodies as well as by hosting stand-alone weekends. The Stuttgart Cup now runs with HSR, SVRA and others and visits many of the big-time tracks east of the Mississippi.
Around the same time, the GT3 Cup series was struggling, too. Founder Juan Gonzalez discovered that attracting full fields for a one-make series can be tough– even without the other projects on his plate. A meeting was held and a decision was made: Ken and Bill would run the GT3 Cup series and merge it with the Stuttgart Cup.
A GT3 Cup car turns faster lap times than a Cayman, but the two groups seem to play together nicely. A faster Cayman driver can hang with a slower GT3 Cup driver, and the end result is plenty of action–as well as the 15-to-20-car fields needed to guarantee a separate run group for just the Stuttgart Cup. The Stuttgart Cup runs both sprint and endurance races, with a separate points race for enduro teams featuring a pro driver on the roster.
The Stuttgart’s main class welcomes the American-spec Porsche Cayman S built through 2012. Rules are in place to level the playing field based on weight and horsepower, and both manual and PDK transmissions are welcome.
The rules limit intake and exhaust modifications, and we’re told that cars make about 350 horsepower at the wheels. According to the event organizers, a recent dyno testing of a dozen or so cars revealed a spread of only about 1.2 percent.
Springs, shock absorbers, anti-roll bars and some other suspension components can be upgraded but, again, limits are in place. Cars are free to sport lightweight hoods, doors and deck lids assuming the replacement pieces retain the stock looks. All cars must run an 18-inch wheel and spec Pirelli tire.
What does it cost to play? Good used cars have been advertised for about $80,000 but, remember, we’re talking about late-model Porsches.
“It’s racing against like cars with like performance, so it comes down to driver expertise which sets the tone for the good competition,” explains series driver Scott Leder. “The paddock camaraderie is strong and everyone breaks bread together at lunch, and then helmets go on and it’s competitive–every man for themselves.” Costs are less than other options, he continues: “My annual refreshing is probably a third of what it is on a Cup car.”
A subclass exists for all PCA-legal Boxsters and Caymans. Boxsters and Caymans that fall outside of those rules as well are welcome to run for exhibition.
The GT3 Cup program features four classes that welcome all versions of the 2000-and-later GT3 Cup, the factorybuilt version of Porsche’s 911. Those cars currently start in the $70,000 range, and if history is any guide, prices should not dip further. After all, there’s always demand for factory-built Porsche race cars.
Series organizers admit that the Stuttgart Cup is not for everyone. It’s not intended as a low-buck series.
Why consider this series, then?
Fast, easy-to-drive race cars on some of the country’s top tracks. The hospitality is first class, and an emphasis is placed on camaraderie. Your ride should retain a healthy resale value, too.
And don’t forget that dose of Porsche mystique.
Quite honestly, we went into this story with some skepticism. Why would anyone want to spend $100,000 on a used race car for a fledgling series?
After some wheel time at Palm Beach International Raceway, however, we were hooked. A Stuttgart Cup Porsche Cayman may be our favorite race car ever.
Sure, we’ve driven faster cars, but none of them combined ergonomics and performance this successfully. The Cayman is as predictable as it is fast. Oh, and the GT3 Cup brakes are absolutely stunning.
Palm Beach International Raceway
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