Just days after the final round of the World Touring Car Championship took place, news about the future of the series has emerged. It is no secret that the current WTCC has been struggling with low grid numbers. Since the S2000 TC1 regulations were brought in before the 2014 season, the grid hasn’t broken the 20 car mark. The series in recent years has also favoured large manufacture outfits like Citroen and Honda. The rising costs eventually forced Lada out of the sport, while Citroen left after 2016. The other problem has been the huge cost to privateer teams. In previous years, the privateer entries have pushed the grid number up, with wild card entries at each round. However, only the well supported teams such as Sebastien Loeb Racing have been able to reach the front. Something had to be done.
While all of this was going on, the TCR International series launched, and proved a huge success. The series borrows its philosophy from GT racing, with teams buying cars directly from the manufacture. Each car has to conform to a budget cap, and there is strict ballance of performance (BoP). The series has also spawned numerous national championships, and the cars are regularly seen in endurance racing. All of this is not too dissimilar to the older S2000 cars that were replaced by TC1. There has been talk of the two series merging, but it was confirmed yesterday. The move will also see large manufacture teams bared from competing. This as a result, will loose the series its ‘World Championship’ status.
The resulting series will be known as ‘WTCR – World Touring Car Cup’. The teams running the re-branded WTCR cars will compete for 2 FIA world cups: One for drivers, and one for teams. This will spell the end of the TCR International series and the European Touring Car Cup. The latter will be replaced by the European TCR Series. The new look WTCC will have a capped grid size of 26 cars, with teams of at least 2 cars. That means up to 13 teams will be present on the grid. There should also be a huge mixture in the type of cars on the grid. Over 500 TCR cars are currently competing with 11 manufactures represented in the International series. Cars such as VW, Audi, Seat, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Subaru, Alfa Romeo, Ford, Opel and Peugeot. Not to forget the Renault Megane currently in national series. There are also rumours that Volvo is building a TCR car for the series next year.
The embargo on factory teams will be hard to police for the promoters. The Hyundai customer Racing team, is pretty much a manufacture backed effort. There are also multiple teams who recieve substantial support from the manufactures in the TCR International series. In a similar vein Cyan Racing could run a Volvo TCR car, as it is a separate company from Volvo & Polestar. The regulations prevent the manufactures from fueling an arms race. With the price of each car capped at €130,000 there is only so much a marque can do.
What ever the outcome, the future is now looking bright for the WTCC. The new cars will bring some new teams, new faces and some new life to a championship which has been struggling. We will keep you up to date as we look forward to the first race of the season.