L&T Motorsport

A Georgian policeman, world domination AND….That Audi: Why TCR will get your heart racing in 2017

As the TCR touring car rules set enters it’s third season in 2017 the International Series will surely grow and produce even better racing than in the two previous years and former World Touring Car Championship boss Marcello Lotti’s concept will surely prove to be the right way to go and should continue to grow in future seasons.

Here are 6 reasons why TCR is a must watch this year-

6-A Geogrian policeman:

Davit Kajaia is no stranger to racing cars, having made his debut in Georgian racing way back in 2004 at the age of 20. He continued to race on the national scene until 2015 when he went on to race in the European Touring Car Cup, then joining the TCR grid for a full assault with Engstler Motorsport in 2016.

All this plus holding down a ‘normal’ job as a policeman in his native Georgia, not to mention obviously becoming some kind of national hero as all the cars on last season’s International Series grid ran with the ‘Visit Georgia’ sunstrip, culminating in the series’ first visit to the tiny country in 2017.

The opening round of the season on April 1/2 will be held at Rustavi International Motorpark near Tblisi. You’d be forgiven if you never knew there was a race track in Georgia as it has mainly been used for national racing and was not used for 20 years between 1989 and 2009 despite originally opening in 1978.

5-Revised European Trophy:

In 2016 the European Trophy was awarded to experienced touring car racer Pierre-Yves Corthals in his Opel Astra with selected rounds from each of the national championships going towards the overall European Trophy, follow? No me neither.

For this year the TCR organisation will run a standalone event at Adria in Italy on October 29th. Full time entries from any of the European national championships can enter with the Baltic, Benelux, German, Iberico, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Scandinavian, Spanish, 24hr series and VLN all counting.

With those eleven championships and a low entry fee of just 4000 euros per car the entry list should be huge, the organisers stating that there is the potential for qualifying races and a final, with the format set to be similar to the International Series, with contenders from the main series also allowed to enter providing they have competed in at least four of the European rounds.

This should bring back memories for older readers of the of the Touring Car World Cup which ran to Super Touring regulations between 1993 and 1995 and maybe could have some of the same names competing, which brings me to my next point………..

4-The legends:

Some of the drivers on the TCR grids in the past couple of seasons have been household touring car names for a number of years, proving the strength of the regulations.

Although no drivers have been confirmed for the 2017 International series as yet it is promising to realise that such legends as Alain Menu, former F1 driver Gianni Morbidelli, Jordi Gene, TCR Italy champion Roberto Colciago, Matt Neal and European Trophy winner Pierre-Yves corthals all hail from the super touring era, not to mention James Nash, Rob Huff, Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and Tom Coronel all trying their hand at the discipline.

Double International Series champion Stefano Comini is also becoming a legend in his own right.

3-That Audi……..:

As with a new season brings new cars and new manufacturers. None have had more hype over the winter months than the brand new Audi RS3 LMS which made it’s debut in the opening round of the inaugural TCR Middle East Series in Dubai earlier this month in the hands of BTCC veteran James Kaye.

They nearly had a win too, with Kaye making a small mistake on the final lap, however receiving a penalty afterwards for an incident earlier in the race. The new Audi didn’t need to wait long for its first win though as the very next day they won their class at the same track in the 24hr series.

Although the Audi is more expensive than the regular TCR cars at 130000 euros that hasn’t stopped teams forking out for the best they can get. There are at least five present on the TCR Germany grid, four run by Target Competition, and two in TCR Scandinavia, not to mention the Dubai 24hr class winning CadSpeed squad who are already looking at adding a second car.

Audi of course aren’t the only new TCR manufacturer with Kia building the new Cee’d and Peugeot with the 308 they raced for a couple of rounds last year as a development programme.

The little Alfa Romeo Guilietta should also be more competitive this year when they get their new 2.0 engine and the Top Run Subaru WRX STI has also made some strides in the development process. Hopefully Opel and Ford can get back on track for 2017 too, after troubles in the last two seasons with development of the Astra and Focus respectively.

2-World domination:

If Marcello Lotti was a Bond villain looking to take over the world there is a very high chance he is the only man who 007 himself could not stop and end the long running film franchise.

The former World Touring Car Championship boss who first developed the WTCC’s S2000 way back in 2002 for the European championship which rapidly grew to be the World championship from 2005 seems to have stumbled on something with TCR which attracts teams, manufacturers and drivers alike all at a fraction of the cost for the WTCC.

Since the Inaugural International Series in 2015 TCR has exploded across the world quicker than the fantastic super touring era. Last year national and regional series started with the likes of TCR Asia, TCR Germany, Benelux, Spain and Portugal to name but a few and 2017 is no different.

The Scandinavian Touring Car Championship has now adopted the TCR regulations with new championships for TCR Middle East and TCR China. TCR Asia will now also be a standalone championship and TCR Germany have a full 32 car grid announced.

This also seems to have come full circle after the European Touring Car Cup last year also adopted the rules set for their main class (named FIA TCN2) and now the WTCC is adding TCR/TCN2 as a second class due to the loss of Citroen and Lada as manufacturer squads cutting the grid size down.

The reason Lada left the WTCC-To build a TCR Vesta for Russian circuit racing. I rest my case! At my last count including the TCR USA and TCR Las Americas I make that now 18 TCR championships across the world. There may be some I have missed but even so that’s pretty good for a set of regulations where no manufacturer involvement is allowed directly.

There are also attempts to create a TCR UK Series in the future, hopefully for 2018, but don’t worry BTCC fans, this will have no direct impact on the BTCC. Remember we had two car championships before and Germany currently has three series.

1-Heart stopping racing:

Touring cars have always been applauded for being worlds apart from Formula 1 and Sportscars, providing door handle to door handle racing constantly and consistently.

Despite some glitches early on our man Lotti seems to have got the balance of performance weights just about right, as well as the compensation weights for the title contenders. These put everybody on a relatively level playing field and means that the racing is closer than ever imagined.

To but it bluntly, the International Series races at Chang International circuit in Burriram in 2016, where they were joined by the TCR Thailand regulars, were two of the best touring car races I have ever witnessed (second only to the 2 APTCC races in Fuji in 1994).

Click on the link below for the highlights and you will see exactly what I mean. It will also give you your TCR fix if you’ve been missing the incredible action over the nervous winter months.

Wherever you are in the world there will be no escaping TCR this year so don’t try and fight it………just enjoy it!!

James Bourke

TCR correspondent

Photos/video link:TCR media

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