Touring Car Racing Headed For The US

If there is one thing younger American racing fans have been clamoring for, it’s a series that they can better relate to.

Yes, it’s fun to watch sports cars and tube chassis machines race around, but what about the cars we see daily? True touring cars that fit more than two people. Well, it looks like IMSA and World Sporting Consulting (WSC) have come together to make your dreams come true and bring the Touring Car Racing (TCR) International series cars to North America in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series.

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What’s the significance of this? There a couple of things. The first is that it brings a third class to a two-class series and gives some in-between from Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST). While both classes do feature production car chassis, they are still typically sports cars with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

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For example, the Aston Martin Vantage, Ford Mustang GT4, Nissan 370Z, or even the Subaru WRX STI compete in GS, while cars like the Audi S3, BMW 325, Hyundai Genesis, and Mazda MX-5 will compete in ST. TCR will bring four-door, front-wheel drive cars like the Honda Civic (in which the Si does compete in ST, but as a coupe), Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, and other cars from other manufacturers built and sold in the US that match the spec.

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The second reason is obvious from that last sentence. These are cars that many readers can surely relate to: four-door, front-wheel drive cars that are typically sold for under $38k. The engines won’t be a spec but will be required to be a 2.0-liter, turbocharged production-based unit with no more than 350hp. Furthermore, they will all use a 6-speed sequential gearbox with paddle shifting.

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While some will probably initially worry about a brand new series and the development, many of the same cars run in TCR International could potentially be brought here by manufacturers that already have a presence in the series and in the US. Even the Opel Astra could be brought over as a Chevrolet Cruze since they both are on GM’s D2XX platform, for example.

It looks like this will not only create a new class in IMSA, but there is potential for it to be a standalone series in North America. IMSA, with permission expressed by WSC, can now also create a TCR USA and TCR Canada series, and it also has the sublicense to allow other series in the USA/Canada territory to use the TCR specifications to allow further expansion beyond IMSA.

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Could this bring about a fresh wind for touring car racing here in the US? While we’ll have to wait and see, TCR International has had fast success everywhere else. Since being formed in 2015, it’s gone from 12 races under its banner to 14 regional series that spans the globe with over 200 races each year since 2016. In addition, many other series use TCR regulations including Super Taikyu and even the Pirelli World Challenge series, though TCR is not a standalone class in those series like it will be in IMSA.

We’re looking forward to this.

Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner

Photos: TCR

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34 comments

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1

Excellent news. TCR is one of the best things going on in motorsports right now. The racing is great, cars are competitive and look good, and it's relatively affordable. The cars are also capable of doing endurance races, a number of TCR cars ran in the Dubai 24hr this year.

These cars look best on old school tracks, of which there are many in the US and Canada. Can't wait to see them in action :)

2
Justin Banner

With the schedule of the CTSCC, the classic courses we'll see them at are Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Mosport (Now the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park), Lime Rock, Road America, Virginia International Raceway (my old home track), Laguna Seca, and Road Atlanta, they will also see the Circuit of Americas between Sebring and The Glen.

3
Jason mehrvarz

Which tracks? Southern California? Hopefully?

4
Justin Banner

From what I understand, the series will be a part of the CTSCC and tour most of the tracks that IMSA runs.

5
Justin Banner

To add to that, here is the 2017 schedule for the CTSCC. Haven't heard anything on schedule changes yet, but the season's still young.

Daytona, Sebring, Circuit of the Americas, Watkins Glen, Mosport (Now the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park), Lime Rock, Road America, Virginia International Raceway, Laguna Seca, and Road Atlanta. If they do end up forming their own series outside of IMSA and CTSCC, who knows where they will end up racing, but if Sonoma isn't there, I will be disappointed.

6

I'm all for the IMSA having the TCR in their lineup or race cars. My personal problem is that they are the in-between of the CTSC's 2 classes. It'd be fine if they have their own series, but I can't see it with the CTSC imo.

7
Justin Banner

That may happen since the WSC has allowed IMSA to license it.

8
Justin Banner

Also, they will be faster than Street Tuner cars but not quite as fast at Grand Sport cars according to IMSA. Those two classes are pretty heavy on the production and BOP (Balance of Power) rules, too, so it doesn't really surprise me.

9

Shit yeah, bitch!

Seriously, though, this is awesome. Professional drag racing, for the most part, bores the hell out of me. But when relatable, street-level cars are on the track, that straight line suddenly becomes a lot of fun - especially in person. Same feelings here; touring cars have always been the most entertaining to watch being thrashed around a circuit because most of them are cars I can afford to pick up and mod myself. Porsches and the like are great, too, but a lot of us are only realistically going to buy sub-$40k cars pre-middle age.

What we really need in America is something like Australia's Improved Production championship.

10

We do, it's called Improved Touring and it's a part of the SCCA. Get out to your local track for an SCCA event and you'll see it.

11
Justin Banner

Improved Touring is also an amateur category of racing and part of the SCCA Club Racing sanction. There is also the lack of promotion from the SCCA itself and is what World Challenge suffered from when it was under its sanction, the most likely reason it's under USAC now.

It's the same reason Trans Am doesn't get more attention than it does with the fantastic racing it has. It's the same reason SCCA Pro Rally disappeared to be taken over by Rally America (which is now under threat from the American Rally Association for totally different reasons). That's the biggest problem I have with the SCCA, they don't promote and expect everyone to just know they exist and they are happy with the lack of coverage because it's mostly a hobby for most of those guys in the regional and even in the Pro ranks. If I mentioned that there are open wheel categories along with Trans Am under the "Pro" banner, I'm willing to bet most everyone would be surprised because of the lack of promotion from the SCCA and the lack of demand of promotion from the majority of their hobbiest drivers.

12
Justin Banner

I'm excited for it myself and can't wait to see what forms.

13
Christian Clark

Fantastic. Does TCR conform to FIA touring car specs?

14
Justin Banner

In some ways they do looking at the technical regs. They follow:

- FIA App. J, Art. 251 (http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/58BA51040DDD2577C1257A22002E0CDF/$FILE/251%20(12-13)-(15.06.2012).pdf), 252 (http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/8C58C39E2F689908C12579BF0059C397/$FILE/252%20(12-13)-(12.03.2012).pdf), 253 (http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/1B58641F5BF3AF4AC1257A8A0038BF8D/$FILE/253%20(12-13)-(28.09.2012).pdf), 277 (http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/52A54F0122F64DCEC1257A8A00399E09/$FILE/277%20(12-13)-(28.09.2012).pdf)
- FIA General Prescriptions applicable to International Series (Again, 252)
The present regulations points also to the FIA App. J, Art. 255 (http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/8F0E5E61AA0B3903C1257A8A003940F0/$FILE/255%20(12-13)-(28.09.2012).pdf) and 263 (http://argent.fia.com/web/fia-public.nsf/9BA8FF3DC7B2B006C1257A8A003991BF/$FILE/263%20(12-13)-(28.09.2012).pdf).

However, they do have their own subset within their rule books but pretty much any WTCC car could potentially enter provided it fits within the TCR/IMSA specification of FWD, 2.0-liter Turbo Engine, and at least four doors. For TCR International, from what I understand by very briefly looking at the rules, does allow touring cars from other series that follow the FIA regulations. TCR International technical regulations can be found here: http://tcr-series.com/pdf/2017_TCR_International_Series_Tecnical_Regulations-2017_01_28.pdf

15

Well, the fact no one watches NASCAR outside of the US, its surely an indication there's better racing out there?

16
Justin Banner

Well, to be fair, we do have to give NASCAR credit where credit is due. It creates fast, close racing for a majority of its time and bumping isn't totally objected. Something you can't really get with open-wheel cars and a lot of touring car series don't generally allow car to car contact that isn't accidental. However, V8 Supercars, TCR International, DTM, BTCC, and many others have shown that you can have that same excitement on a road course when the "formula" is right.

The other thing is drivers in NASCAR are personal. You can approach most of them without feeling like you're beneath them. Most of the time, they will talk to you while giving you an autograph, shake your hand if you offer it, and say "thanks." I do think we can thank Richard Petty for setting that up as the norm when he was racing actively. He would take his time with a signature (even making it legible), talk to you as he was doing it, and stay until the last fan was gone and happy.

I feel like making drivers accessible to fans is a big impact on the success of the series in the US because we expect it thanks to NASCAR. Luckily, CTSCC and IMSA isn't so bad on this but could still use some slight improvements and is where many series could learn from our elder touring series. If TCR (the class and series) can not only make the cars relatable but the drivers as well, it's going to be hit but that will only come if the drivers are open and willing to interact with fans beyond giving them a signature. A personality wouldn't hurt, either.

17

I to hate NASCAR. Being in Australia I didn't get it. Am now hooked. Good close racing. This TCR looks great and I wish it'd come to Australia to replace the V8 Supercars - a rival series to get rid of the current high strung teams and drivers would be excellent. Falcadores, V8 nissans and V8 Volvos are irrelevant.

18

Omg really? Get rid of V8 Supercars? It's the best racing series on the planet right now, bar none. As good as TCR is and as entertaining as Stephano Comini's hair/beard is, it can't hold a candle to Aussie V8s.

19

No joke, the French absolutely love NASCAR and stock car racing.

20

Ermm... I'm french and.. no. NASCAR might be broadcasted to France, yet the audiance isn't so big and it's not really that popular. Rallying and Formuka (1 especially) are way more democratised here. That being said, it's not like there's no french community for NASCAR, but it's small and slowly growing - when it is growing. There's a good reason behind that, like a lot of european countries, motorsport, in France, has always been about cornering and moving your car around like a mad man.

21
Analogue Sheep

Curious and exciting development. I'm wondering what cars we will see from the US side. I'm aware of a Mini TCR car being developed and there was rumours that Mazda were considering it. There is also that part from the press release that says "TCR cars will come from manufacturers with relevance in the North American market", so I'm guessing sadly no Opels or SEAT's.

On the plus side however I'm interested to see how this changes the international market place. Would we see one or two of the US/Canadian teams consider doing a few TCR international rounds, or even a few of the US developed cars make their way over to Europe or Asia?

22
Justin Banner

Well, we could see the Opel but as a Cruze in either the five-door or four-door variant (yes, shockingly, the Cruze five-door is for sale in the US, but you wouldn't know it from GM). As for the SEATs, yeah, we won't see those even though they do look better than the VWs they are based on. I would also be disappointed by Mazda if they didn't do a 3 or 6 in TCR USA/IMSA/Canada. If Hyundai's USA office gets it's motorsports act together again, we could see an Elantra GT based on the i30 that was recently tested: http://tcr-series.com/index.php/news/item/the-hyundai-i30-tcr-tested-in-valencia. This might also push Alfa to release a Giulietta here if they want a motorsports presence outside of the Giulia or the 4C.

Unless the US developed cars are sold in their markets, probably not except for their variants (ie: Chevy/Opel, Chrysler/Fiat, etc). Drivers or teams, probably, but that's always a budget issue. Not cheap to ship a car and team overseas for just a few rounds.

23

I own a four door Cruze and this would be super cool to see it in racing from. Hopefully could lead to some GM performance trickle down into the public market. The Cruze is no "fun" car to drive but it has so much potential to be if the suspension where a little tighter and it had more power. Still a nice grocery getter though

24

the US already has some decent touring car racing. the World challenge (i know, a funny name for a north american series) has GTS and TC classes which are full of typical cars that you can buy in the dealerships.

TC is mostly small hatches and compacts while GTS has mustangs and camaros. They also have a GT class which is the upper end of manufacturers but the best part is that there is some damn exciting races!

I am curious if they plan on this being a main series or a supporting series. If this is going to be a main series, then what supporting series will run with it to fill the track time?

25
Justin Banner

For now, it's a class within the Continental Tire SportsCar Championship with the option for IMSA to license TCR USA and/or TCR Canada as well as license it to other series as a class within (like, if World Challenge wanted to do a TCR class with full regulations and calling it TCR Class) as I understand it. World Challenge will allow TCR cars to race in TC, which I think was allowed this year but it will for sure for 2018. Just in time for teams to start building their decks and budgets for next season. More eyes means more return on investments for sponsors when it comes to marketing, but that isn't the only key to success, as I mention further down in the comments.

How will TCR USA or TCR Canada work hasn't been discussed openly yet, but I'm definitely excited to see what's coming.

26

the United States' participation on the world stage would dictate that we don't deserve anything positive in return from the rest of the world, but this is exciting news!

27

I was looking through the teams and the cars and i was surprised by the lack of Toyota/Lexus in the field. I would have thought with the new platform of rwd cars and a more performance orientated outlook they would have some cars in the series.

28
Justin Banner

TCR International only allows FWD sedans and five-doors, but there is a Toyota Avensis touring car in BTCC. That's not to say that a Lexus RWD or AWD could enter under article 3.2:

"Eligible cars
Eligibility criteria for TCR Touring Car:
- The model of car is on the list of TCR eligible cars for 2017 published by the WSC (only front-wheel drive cars).
- The cars correspond to FIA Homologation Criteria for Touring Cars (FIA Group A).
- The model of car is produced by an OEM and belongs to a mass produced family.
- 4/5 doors
- Minimum length 4.2m
- Mono turbo charged 4-stroke petrol mass production Engines with cylinder capacity from 1750cm³ to maximum
2000cm³.
- Hybrid propulsion is not allowed.
2017, January 28th
WSC reserves the right to accept other cars, when the general characteristics match with the TCR concept. WSC reserves
also the right to approve or to refuse applications which might not be in compliance with the above criteria.
Without a WSC authorization only one Technical Form per car model will be accepted. The Technical Form Number and
the certificating manufacturer will be documented on the WSC List.
For certification the minimum race car production will be 10 units in 12 consecutive months starting with the date of the
application. After the certification the cars have to be offered on the market with maximum 3 months delivery time.
Each TCR car, identified through the chassis no., will receive individually an original Technical Form.
New race car models will be allowed to take part to the TCR International Series Races before final certification for tests
purposes without scoring points but being classified. The Draft of the Technical Form will be presented to WSC 30 days
before the 1st entry in a TCR event."

Apparently, the Subaru WRX STi is converted to FWD. I'm still researching this.

29

Heck yes! Where can I look to see if they are coming to a track near me?

30
Justin Banner

This will give you an idea but expect the 2018 schedule to be announced later in the year, probably around Petit Le Mans time.
http://sportscarchallenge.imsa.com/schedule-results/race-schedule

31

The target audience (state side) for any kind of racing is only shrinking. Gone are the days of growth. NASCAR is the only one pulling in the big bucks and even those guys at the top are scared about the lack of a younger audience. Cars today have been replaced by the smart phone. Its no longer the big new shiny object it once was like in the 1950's to 1970's time frame. Auto manufacturers are also to blame for this. Push for safety over speed or anything fun. Fuel costs keep spiraling skyward again another disconnect from mainstream masses. Baseball or hockey have far less issues and still are raking in money and fans. Autonomous cars will doom this particular sport. I have enjoy IMSA or Grand-Am as it was once know by but the lack of manufacturers and push of GT4 is disappointing, Sequential gears box have no skill.

32

I’d like to reply to each statement here.
“The target audience (state side) for any kind of racing is only shrinking. Gone are the days of growth. NASCAR is the only one pulling in the big bucks and even those guys at the top are scared about the lack of a younger audience.”
The younger audience isn’t interested in NASCAR solely because it’s their father’s sport here in the US. However, there is growth outside of NASCAR and Indy Car. The 24 Hours of Daytona saw an increase in viewership from 431,000 views in 2016 to 714,000 for this year’s running. The NHRA saw growth with 1.2-milling viewers during their opening round from 640,000 last year. Even for their Friday qualifying, ratings were above 195,000 for a 1pm show. In the Pirelli World Challenge, we’re seeing more cars with sponsorships than blank cars funded mostly by pay drivers. Honda, Audi, Chevrolet, Ford and others build cars that fit within the classes in PWC. Money is coming in but to solely focus on the audience losses in NASCAR is a narrow focus.

“Cars today have been replaced by the smart phone. Its no longer the big new shiny object it once was like in the 1950's to 1970's time frame. Auto manufacturers are also to blame for this. Push for safety over speed or anything fun.”
If there is anyone to blame for this, it’s government regulations made by people who are lifetime bureaucrats and not automotive engineers. They want cars that are harder to crush, full of air bags, but also expect unrealistic fuel mileages for such heavy cars due to heavier use of metals and safety equipment.

“Fuel costs keep spiraling skyward again another disconnect from mainstream masses.”
If you’re speaking of the prices in California, the prices are artificial due to taxes and a unique fuel blend. However, due to increased hybrid and EV use as well as an increase in shale oil production, oil and fuel prices are projected to drop in the next decade. Total SA is even predicting that EVs “will constitute almost a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade.” - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-25/electric-car-boom-seen-triggering-peak-oil-demand-in-2030s

Also, if you’re worried this will derail because of expiring EV tax credits, most of the cost of an electric is in the battery and their costs have fallen a staggering thirty-five-percent. This is due to more manufacturers building EV cars and battery manufacturers increasing production due to demand. That tips the scales in favor of battery prices and EVs to the potential that an EV will be the same or rival the cost of a conventional ICE car. - http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1108199_how-much-have-electric-car-battery-costs-fallen-this-much

“Baseball or hockey have far less issues and still are raking in money and fans.”
Baseball’s audience numbers have dropped as the sport’s audience has aged. In 2015 there were 73,606,675 people watching baseball in the US. In 2016 the number was 73,159,044, a drop of 447,631 people. Now, for a television audience, their numbers have increased. However, it wasn’t major networks like ESPN that saw that growth but the local and regional broadcast stations that did. Also, you have to admit the draw of the Cubs winning the World Series and the predictions of Back to the Future didn’t help draw a bigger crowd. There was also an election to ignore.

“Autonomous cars will doom this particular sport.”
Maybe in 30 years, but we’re not that close to a full autonomous car yet. They still have trouble with turning off a highway in most cases, right now. They are coming, there is no doubt as there is a demand for it, but until cars start talking to each other, older cars outlawed (which I really don’t see happening, maybe a lane exclusion at the most like HOV lanes), and the price of autonomous cars drop to where they are affordable to everyone, these aren’t a risk to our sport yet.

“I have enjoy IMSA or Grand-Am as it was once know by but the lack of manufacturers and push of GT4 is disappointing, Sequential gears box have no skill.”
One, you’ve never driven a true, dogbox sequential transmission. There is a finesse to driving one of these cars much like riding a motorcycle. You can’t slam into gear full throttle like you can in certain “simulations”, the throttle must be rolled into just like you do on a bike. Yes, there is throttle cutting that can be done by the PCM but that’s been around with h-pattern cars, too. You still must choose your shift points, brake into the corner, turn the steering wheel – you know, drive the car at its limit.

There isn’t anything easy about that. It really bothers me when someone says “’x’ makes that easier” when, if they really have been behind the wheel at some point, knows that’s not true or is just a bench racer with a little wheel setup behind their computer or entertainment system and never experienced the real forces that makes driving any car on the edge not easy. When you drive with your whole body and not with just your eyes, come back to me about how “easy” these cars are to drive.

Two, the push for GT4 is a push to production style racing cars for coupes and some sporting sedans. Take a read - https://gt4series.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GT4_European_Series_Technical_Regulations_2016_T02.pdf but I’ll give you the TLDR. Bodywork must remain original, cars must weight over 1000kgs (2200-pounds), engine remains as originally offered in the chassis, chassis mounting points must be original and must use original design (McPherson, A-arm, etc), dampers can only be two-way adjustable and not by the driver nor have any electronic, hydraulic, or pneumatic connection between them, wheels must be no larger than 18x11, and the safety cage must be an FIA approved construction with only six-points and none of the bars pass through the firewall. On top of that, PWC allows for roll cages with eight-points, but again must not penetrate the firewall. For more on PWC rules - http://files.world-challenge.com/rules-regulations/2017-PWC-TechnicalRegulations.pdf

33

I see superpowered hatchbacks. I am content.

34

I wonder if recent touring car would have no wide body, just like race car from supertouring era, just big wheel with little aero mod, like a decent street car in ordinary people's garage, only from the visual side of course

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