Thursday, Apr 4 03:05pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Explained: Understanding the hype around TCR

The global expansion of TCR is set to continue with New Zealand getting it’s own championship by the beginning of 2020.


The production-based series continues to grow year on year with series in Australia, Japan and Malaysia all set to start soon, and little ol’ New Zealand will follow suit.


The contemporary touring car category first began in 2014 and has enjoyed huge success in the short time it’s been around. Based on four and five-door cars, the platform features a whole host of manufacturers from around the globe.


The success of small front-wheel drive ‘hot hatches’ means most of the entries are of the hatchback variety. Aesthetically, the cars looked relatively similar, though wide fenders and wings make them look more racer than road car. Sound wise, they’re obviously a lot louder, but do make plenty of popping and banging.



Currently there are 22 homologated cars from 13 different manufacturers on the market. Most popular are the Volkswagen, Audi, Honda and Hyundai models.


Alfa Romeo, CUPRA (formerly SEAT), KIA, Lada, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, Subaru, and little known Geely outfit Lynk & Co have TCR-spec race cars. MG will debut their car next year and more manufacturers like Toyota are said to have plans to launch cars.


Already interest in the TCR platform has been great enough to warrant some bringing cars into the country before a series has even got underway. At least two Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR cars reside in the South Island, a Hyundai i30 N and an Audi RS 3 LMS are on their way.




But what’s all the fuss about?


TCR has taken the world by storm with upwards of 30 affiliated series or events. It’s the only platform to truly take hold on a global scale in recent years since the likes of Group A and Super Touring.


Like the FIA GT3 and GT4 specification, all TCR cars are built to a set of regulations and equalised through balance of performance (BOP). The truth is, BOP only works some of the time. The FIA and SRO do their best to ensure cars are relatively close, but inherent differences in size, shape, aero packages and engine displacements do make a difference on various circuits.


CLICK HERE to see the latest Balance of Performance adjustments


Fortunately, almost all of the TCR cars are built with turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines with a max output of 350hp, so the differences are minimal and usually come down to DSG and sequential gearbox setups. Some cars, like the Alfa Romeo, run a smaller 1.8-litre engine and are 'BOPed' to bring them to competitive range.


In the first season of WTCR there were 15 different winners from 30 races. Gabriele Tarquini (pictured above) got the most wins with five in his Hyundai i30 N and went on to win the reincarnated World Touring Car Cup. Audi, Volkswagen, Honda, Peugeot, Alfa Romero and CUPRA were all race winners in the inaugural season.


The idea is that no matter what car you buy; you should be competitive. Ultimately it comes down to car set up and the driver.




How much does it cost?


The global formula is what makes it most attractive as well as the rule set. Once the TCR New Zealand Series gets underway teams and drivers will have to run to the global TCR rule book.


The true cost of running a car isn’t that well documented, but are said to be relatively low - around the $10,000 per weekend mark. A quick search reveals that you can buy a used TCR car from a team in Europe, Asia or North America for a little over $100,000 NZD. Buying new is obviously a lot more expensive, and puts you closer to the $200,000 - $250,000 bracket landed.


Buying direct from the manufacturer is getting easier too with CUPRA now opening up that option. As of last year, their figures for a CUPRA (picuted above) with a DSG gearbox sits around $155,000. It’ll set you back $185,000 for one with a sequential gearbox sans spares, equipment, and crew.




Will it work in New Zealand?


That’s the question everyone is asking right now and one that certainly doesn’t have a definitive answer.


What’s positive is that there’s interest and cars coming into the country, though that’s not a good gauge of whether there’ll be more than 12 cars on the grid come round one next year. It’s understandable that most who have bought cars at this stage are running them in endurance trim, but whether they’d bring their cars out for a sprint series may not be as attractive. Remembering too that a lot of the guys who currently own cars aren’t big-name outfits, but that could quickly change.


Unlike a lot of countries, New Zealand is in a privileged position where competition is relatively low. In Australia, TCR is having to battle for bragging rights while the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship dominates the headlines. GT3 and GT4 racing in the Australian GT Championship is still popular, and an LMP3 series is on its way. Here, the BNT V8s rule the roost, but there’s no reason TCR and the V8 category couldn’t coexist.


A lot of interest from pundits lies around the manufacturer support. Strickly speaking, manufacturer teams aren't allowed in any TCR series, however, manufacturer supported efforts are. Think Audi and their Audi Sport Customer Racing set up where cars aren't necessarily run as an Audi team, but teams like New Zealand's own International Motorsport are supported by Audi – get the gist? What that means is New Zealand could have pseudo factory supported teams by proxy of dealer support. 


MotorSport New Zealand obviously think it’ll succeed, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone after the TCR licence. Let’s just hope this is the catalyst for great things to come.