Jordan Michels is the third driver to confirm his spot on the TCR New Zealand grid, entering a Honda Civic TCR FK7.
Michels confirmed his entry for the winner-takes-all event at Highlands Motorsport Park to Velocity News this evening.
The Southlander drove the Team Williams Honda TCR in last year’s South Island Championship, claiming class victories at Teretonga and Ruapuna. He then teamed up with Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon in a Hyundai i30N for the national endurance finale at Highlands Motorsport Park.
Having driven both types of car, Michels is excited to see how the Honda will perform against the might of the Hyundais, which will be driven this year by Gene Rollinson and Jaden Ransley.
“It is going to be pretty cool,” Michels said.
“Those Hyundais are very fast, and I know because I have driven one. But the Honda has proven to be quite competitive. It is the perfect one-hour car and went well in the enduros.
“So, it will be interesting to see how the Balance of Performance will work. It should mean that it comes down to driver talent. But we will have to wait and see.
“Gene is the most experienced of all of us, and Jaden is a really good peddler.”
Michels identified tyres as the biggest hurdle to overcome for the weekend.
TCR New Zealand permits only the Michelin control tyre to be used. Michels last raced on Michelins when he ran with the Wall Racing team at Queensland Raceway in the 2019 Australian TCR championship.
His Honda used Yokohamas for the endurance series, while the Hyundai raced on Pirelli rubber.
“Understanding the Michelin tyres will be important. I haven’t driven on them since Queensland, so that will be interesting and something to get on top of.
“Qualifying will also be important for us. Front-wheel drive cars take a lot of effort to drag a good lap out of, and I don’t know how the Honda will go against the Hyundais in one-lap pace.
“But our race pace should be good. If you look at my times in Australia, my race pace was strong whereas my qualifying wasn’t.”
This year’s TCR Championship was initially meant to be held over three rounds. It was then reduced to just the sole winner-takes-all event after it was clear that some drivers would have trouble preparing cars in time for the first two weekends.
Michels was one of the drivers affected, with parts he ordered last year only arriving from Italy at the start of the week.
Despite having only one event for its inaugural season, Michels hopes that more teams and drivers put their name forward to help get the TCR platform up and running.
“TCR is a great platform, and I hope the weekend helps gets the series off the ground. And suppose it is appealing for ourselves beyond next year. In that case, we may even look at holding onto the car to race in the championship again.
“The formula is even there for a trans-tasman series with the Australian guys in the future. We just need to get TCR New Zealand going.”
While the national touring car title is on the line for winning driver at Highlands next month, the weekend’s victor also gets free entry into any remaining TCR Australia event.
Asked what TCR Australia round takes his fancy should he win the title, Michels says he would have troubling choosing from such an attractive list.
“It would be really hard to pick, they all look so good,” he said.
“That Bathurst round looks cool. But maybe we might choose an earlier round and then try to stay to race the full series.
“But we have to win at Highlands first.”
The TCR New Zealand winner-takes-all event at Highlands Motorsport Park will be over April 23-24.