Callaway may be a name more familiar in North America to golf enthusiasts than to many motorsport fans. The huge golf equipment enterprise though, has strong links to a returning name in the sportscar racing arena as Reeves Callaway, whose cars were last seen in front-line competition in the USA back in 2001, brings his C7.R GT3 back to the US marketplace, the door opened by GM’s decision to cease their Cadillac GT3 programme.
It was Reeves’ father that established the golf business, at a time when his son was building a successful business developing first more powerful Corvette road cars, his dad was taking the first steps with a business that would become a huge sporting success story.
Reeves’ sporting history has about the same timeframe and in the 31 years of the business Callaway Competition has achieved many impressive feats in GT racing, winning multiple titles, with multiple teams and drivers and with many ambitious projects. That’s no different with the C7 GT3, which in its short two-year history, has won multiple ADAC GT Masters races, and notably the 2017 title against some of the toughest competition Germany has to offer.
The car is not a works-supported GM project, and instead, a totally independent GT3-spec Corvette C7 designed and manufactured by Callaway. Because of this, and an agreement with GM, it hasn’t been racing in arguably its most suited market, the USA. That though, is about to change. Cadillac departing the GT3 scene has left the door open for Callaway’s C7 GT3 to race in the USA, and Reeves Callaway, intends to take full advantage of that opportunity.
“I think there’s a real demand for it,” Callaway told DSC. “It’s been building for years, and it’s obvious because of its lack of presence. We always get asked why, which leads to a tedious explanation about our deal.
“It was expected that we would know about Cadillac’s 2018 commitments very soon. But these announcements are carefully controlled, so we learned a few hours in advance of everyone else. But that was it.”
However, due to the lateness of the decision from Cadillac, it leaves Callaway in a race against time, to get customer teams onboard, and prepare the infrastructure required to get a programme in either the Pirelli World Challenge or IMSA WeatherTech series off the ground. This has limited Callaway’s target to just two teams racing in the States next year.
Reeves believes that the allure of racing a GT3 Corvette for prospective customers isn’t enough to get a commitment, which is why a big focus is on customer support trackside from Callaway, which he says, is modelled after Porsche.
“Time is very short for next year, these are early days,” he explained. “And also, a natural good market for a GT3 car based on the Corvette is here in North America, but the question is how do we start. It’s an excellent, mature car at this point, and we don’t want to over-stretch ourselves.
“So the best plan of action is to get two teams in North America, maximum, to be selected. We’re having discussions with numerous front-runners in this but we have a lot to learn in the differences between Europe and here in America. The distances to races, and balance of performance. We need to be cautious. So we will be able to support two teams, and we model that support on Porsche. We want a truck, with spares, engineering support and new cars for sale as an American operation.”
Luckily, the cars will be manufactured in the USA, the logistics of importing and exporting cars is therefore not an issue in getting an American programme for the C7 GT3 off the ground. Cars will be available for the start of next season.
“We already have the facilities for this, they’re much bigger in the States than in Germany. The facility in Germany is essentially a race shop. But here in the States we run engine development operations out of the Connecticut facility, our headquarters, and the composite operations out of California.
One thing they won’t have to worry about is the manufacturers fee for IMSA, that’s covered off already by the other GM products in GTLM and Prototype.
We can get cars to the teams for the start of next season
“We can get cars to the teams for the start of next season. We’ve been manufacturing these cars in small quantities for the past 13 years, and are well versed in the manufacturing side, because of the cars that we build for the road for General Motors.”
The car’s debut will be later this year, at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Indiana at the end of the year. By then though, Reeves Callway expects the programme for next year to be sorted.
“The championship-winning car is going to come to the USA for a debut in the PRI show, in Indianapolis in December. That’ll be its official debut in North America. We’ll probably have teams signed before that though, as time would be too short. The battle is finding out how many cars will need to be built, and building them in time as some items have a really long lead time. We don’t want to over-promise, we’d like to under-promise and over-deliver.”
Whether or not the car will be in IMSA or PWC is up for discussion. So far the car has mainly competed in sprint races, so the IMSA calendar, which includes a slew of longer races will be uncharted territory for it.
It has taken part in VLN meetings on the Nordschliefe though, and with the extensive testing its undergone one the past 24 months, Reeves says that Ernst Wohr – who leads the GT Masters campaign for Callaway – is confident that it’s durable enough to compete in 6, 10, 12 and 24-hour races.
“There’s something special about the Corvette, it finds its way to the front of the field. The ADAC GT series is a great proving ground, and I was surprised we won races in the first year, and to win a championship in the second is remarkable. It couldn’t have worked out better.
“I don’t think longer races will be a problem for the car,” he continued. “I’ve asked Ernst specifically about it, and he has a high level of confidence for it in 24-hour races. The basic nature of the two series is what we’re having to evaluate with new teams now. Do we go for GTD or SprintX?
“The SprintX format is similar to GT Masters, short races with a driver change. We’re comfortable with that, we like the format, but I don’t know if we’ll have two cars in that or whether they’ll be in IMSA GTD, or one in each, it’s to be decided.
“We have to be open about it, and have to be ready to sell cars into both series. The (manufacturers fee to run in IMSA) will be a challenge, I’m not sure if it’s surmountable or not, as I haven’t got the clear answer whether we fall under the manufacturers fee that Chevrolet has already paid, so it’s a question mark.
We have to be open about it, and have to be ready to sell cars into both series
With this plan now in motion, the car’s European programme is still being put together. At this point, whether or not it will defend its ADAC GT title or not is un-confirmed.
“I can’t answer that at the moment, it’s Ernst’s decision. I’m trying to be the collector or interest and information stateside, to guide our competition here. They’ll decide on Europe though, and we don’t know what that will look like.”
Nevertheless, 2018 is set to be a landmark year for the C7 GT3. If it races in North America, it’ll be a big step for Callaway, and is sure to be a hit with the fans too, who have been eagerly anticipating seeing Corvette in the GT3 ranks in America’s biggest series.