Nearly twenty years have passed since Saleen unveiled their last mid-engined Saleen racing car. As the dedicated gearheads know well, the Saleen S7R made a a serious impact in Grand Am, ALMS, and FIA GT1 back in the mid-2000s and yet, has gone down in history as an unappreciated gem. It won 9 various GT championships and 110 wins—all through a stellar chassis, a strong V8 engine, and regular updates throughout its reign from 2001 and 2009—and it also brought the rumble of an American V8 to the European GT racing landscape. Because of all its success, it’s hard to understand why it doesn’t seem to be included in the canon of great racing cars.
After a quiet decade without any of their mid-engine cars competing in a current category, Saleen have taken their racing experience and stepped back onto the stage with their new Saleen 1 Cup. Smaller and less intimidating than the S7R but no less a racing car, this new midship is designed for its own arrive-and-drive series: the Saleen Cup.
Though the Saleen 1 has only half the number of cylinders as its forebear, it’s not wanting for power. Its 2.2-liter turbomotor sends 450 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque through a Holinger six-speed sequential to the rear wheels. A small engine in a compact, lightweight, tubeframed chassis with Ohlins dampers and TM Performance racing brakes make it able to handle technical sections and long straights equally well. What better track to prove its qualities than the varied Portland International Raceway?
A Successful Start
With twelve drivers in six cars, the first Saleen Cup race took place last weekend at Portland International Raceway during its famed Rose Cup. Though a relatively small field for its first showing, the Saleen Cup generated a great deal of attention and will likely expand through the rest of the 2019 season. Since it runs alongside the SRO World Challenge GT4 and TCR races, the buzz is sure to grow.
The twelve drivers on the grid were divided into two classes: Pro-Am and Young Drivers. The former group is aimed at gentleman drivers and professionals 29 or older, while the latter is designated for young karters and formula car drivers under that age cutoff. The Pro-Am class consisted of Martina Kwan, Brandon Davis, Paul Terry, Johan Schwartz, Zachary Lee, Bryce Miller, Molly Saleen, and Drake Kemper. The latter included Austin Riley, Cameron Lawrence, Hannah Zellers, and Carter Fartuch to test some of the most powerful cars they’d ever raced.
Results—Pro-Am Drivers Class:
•First Place–(#4) Brandon Davis (USA) / Paul Terry (USA)
•Second Place–(#2) Zachary Lee (USA) / Bryce Miller (USA)
•Third Place–(#6)Molly Saleen (USA) / Johan Schwartz (USA)
Results–Young Drivers Class:
•First Place–(#12)Austin Riley (CAN) / Carter Fartuch (USA)
•Second Place–(#71)Hanna Zellers (USA)
•Third Place–(#9)Cameron Lawrence (USA)
A Unique Product
The Saleen Cup offers a previously unseen combination of features and facets which make it unique in the world of professional motorsport. Saleen claimed it to be the first-ever professional quality “arrive-and-drive” series; the cars are prepared and transported to each race by Saleen, so it is an “arrive-and-drive” series in the truest sense of the term. However, it is the only one of its kind which offers a fast-tracked entry into motorsport with full trackside support, hospitality amenities, and an absence of logistical concerns. They even provide their drivers with the needed safety gear!
Predictably, that convenience comes at a price. At $42,000 an event, it takes deep pockets or considerable sponsorship to run. However, the Saleen Cup also features two-racer teams, which can split the cost between participants and offer more affordable racing opportunities. Additionally, the coverage through the SRO Motorsports Group—broadcast through the GT World YouTube channel—and a fully funded seat for the champions make it appealing for a driver looking to grow their career. At the conclusion of the series, category champions in the Saleen Cup will secure a factory seat driving in Saleen’s GT4 entry for the entire 2020 season. Though entry is quite steep, it could prove to be a springboard into the world of professional GT racing.
There are three remaining events for the 2019 Saleen Cup season:
•Watkins Glen, August 30–Sept.1, 2019
•Road America, Sept. 20-22, 2019
•Las Vegas, Oct 18-20, 2019