NEWS
Tuesday, Dec 3 06:50pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

TCR New Zealand calendar set for shakeup?

Speculation is swirling that next year’s maiden TCR New Zealand Championship is set to get a rejig less than two months out from the opening round.

 

As the start of the championship draws closer, series organisers are said to be looking at spreading out the calendar so as to appeal to more competitors.

 

The calendar currently comprises of five successive rounds alongside the Castrol Toyota Racing Series starting in January and concluding in February. 

 

The season is currently set to get underway at Highlands Motorsport Park with rounds to follow at Teretonga Park, Pukekohe Park, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park and Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon.

 

Several sources have confirmed to velocitynews.co.nz that the series will still race at the aforementioned circuits but with alternative dates. The Castrol Toyota Racing Series and other support classes will not be affected by the changes to the TCR New Zealand schedule. 

 

TCR New Zealand Category Manager Grant Smith declined to comment when approached by velocitynews.co.nz. 

 

The opening two rounds at Highlands Motorsport Park and Teretonga Park are expected to stay to ensure the series debuts in the South Island. However, from there, the calendar is set to change with races at the three remaining circuits in the North Island up in the air. 

 

TCR New Zealand is led by the ANZ Motorsport Group, which is an arm of the Australian Racing Group that runs TCR Australia. An announcement is expected to come soon confirming the calendar change once it has been ratified.

 

Initially, it was expected a strong contingent of cars from Australia would make the trip over to contest the five rounds. It was hoped the cars would contest the quick-fire sprint series before heading home to begin their championship in March. However, velocitynews.co.nz understands that interest to bring cars across the ditch has since waned.

 

By the end of 2019, there will be 14 cars that conform to TCR regulations in New Zealand, however, only a handful have committed to the series.

 

Cromwell-based outfit Track Tec Racing has three Audi RS 3 LMS TCR cars in their stable but haven’t signed any drivers. It is understood Rowan Shepherd is keen to race with the team next year having tested with them already.

 

TCR trailblazers M Developments have run two Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR cars this year, one which is owned by Michael Driver. The team also has a first-generation SEAT León CUPRA DSG but are not believed to have signed up to the series as yet.  

 

Racer Products has so far imported two Hyundai i30 N TCR cars, one of which is owned by South Island-based driver Rhys Gould. Gene Rollinson is already confirmed to race next year. Gould will not contest the sprint series but another international driver is expected to take his place.  

 

Hayden Paddon’s Paddon Rallysport Group has also imported a Hyundai and another is on the way. Rory Callaway recently tested at Highlands Motorsport Park and is understood to be eyeing up a drive.

 

Pukekohe-based outfit Choice Performance have two Kia Cee’d TCR cars on the way. The cars utilise the same engine as the Hyundai counterparts. Two drivers are believed to have approached the team to race next year, including a well-known figure in New Zealand motor racing. 

 

There are two Honda Civic Type R TCR cars in the country of different specification. At the start of this year, Capri Racing imported an FK1 TCR. Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes indicated before the calendar announcement that he would be competing next year for Capri Racing.

 

Another young driver already confirmed to race is Formula Ford champion Jordan Michels who will compete with Team Williams Racing in their current model Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR. 

 

Initially, TCR New Zealand announced that it would only allow current TCR cars with sequential gearboxes to compete in the championship.

 

That would mean the Capri Racing owned Honda Civic Type R FK1 TCR car wouldn’t be eligible as is it a first-generation TCR car. The same applies for the SEAT León CUPRA, which runs a DSG gearbox. Series organisers have since said they will be lenient as to what they let run, meaning both could race.

 

So far just three cars have officially announced they’ll contest the inaugural five-round championship, which begins in 2020. Those include Rollinson, Michels and Paddon on a limited three-round schedule.

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