The launch of two exciting new – and very different – racing categories: TCR and S5000.
Sunday May 19, 2019 is shaping as a landmark day in Australian motorsport history. It’s when two new categories simultaneously debut, perhaps signalling a shifting of sands on the local racing landscape.
It’s the day Sydney Motorsport Park hosts the opening rounds of the inaugural championships for TCR Australia and S5000, two classes that could not be more different in terms of vehicles, yet share many similarities, including management by the Australian Racing Group, headed by former Supercars managing director Matt Braid.
If S5000 is the much-loved Formula 5000 open-wheeler class reincarnated – see separate story – its stablemate is the new-age Super Touring. Of course, many long-time tin-top racing enthusiasts raised on a diet of Ford-versus-Holden will roll their eyes and consider that two-litre tourers were tried unsuccessfully two decades ago and will likely fail again this second time around. But that ignores today’s very different operating environment and TCR’s incredible growth globally on the back of affordability – something Super Touring never possessed.
As one veteran racing journalist was heard to utter at TCR Australia’s media and competitor launch event – with four models on hand at SMP for demo and sample laps – it’s a “new, improved version of Super Touring framed from the lessons of the past. It looks like it addresses the failings of the two-litre cars 20 years ago and the failings of GT3 in keeping the manufacturers’ arms race in check.”
TCR also hits the track in Oz as the Supercars category faces road car relevancy issues and an uncertain future in the wake of the Aussie-built Commodore’s and Falcon’s extinction. In contrast, the roadgoing C-segment models that populate TCR grids continue to sell in signi cant numbers. In any case, TCR Australia is being positioned as supplementary to Supercars rather than a rival.
Thirteen models are currently homologated, 10 of which are sold locally. Eligible models are Honda Civic, VW Golf, Audi RS3, SEAT Leon, Ford Focus, Alfa Romeo Giuletta, Kia Cee’d GT, Lada Vesta, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Hyundai i30N, Subaru WRX and Opel Astra. The latter sports a Holden badge in Australia...
That list doesn’t yet include models from Japanese powerhouses Toyota, Nissan and Mazda, whose entry, Braid says, is at the feasibility study stage off the back of TCR Japan’s launch in the land of the rising sun, also in 2019.
TCR stands for ‘Touring Car Racing’ and is the brainchild of former World Touring Car Championship promoter, Marcello Lotti. The Italian created TCR’s regulations with the aim of producing a cost-effective touring car class while still involving manufacturers. He replicated successful elements of the GT3 category model that has attracted multiple manufacturers to create cars to be sold to customers and raced globally. But whereas new GT3 cars have doubled or tripled in price over the last decade – McLaren’s new 720S GT3 will cost Australians over $800,000 to purchase and put on track here – TCR cars are price-capped in the region of $200,000.
The TCR formula is based around production-based turbo-charged two litre, four-cylinder, petrol or diesel front-wheel drive hatchbacks and sedans.
While competitors are a race series’ ultimate customers, AMC also expects the class to appeal to spectators and viewers who will appreciate the retention of production bodyshell’s and production-based engines, the latter good for about 260kW and 420Nm. Suspension layout must be retained to keep costs down.
Grids will be capped at 20 in 2019, with no more than ve examples of any one model permitted in season one. The seven-round series comprises SMP, May 19; Phillip Island, June 9; The Bend, July 14; Queensland Raceway, August 4; Winton, September 1; Sandown, September 22 and The Bend, 15-17 November. Race weekends will feature three 30-minute races. The television package was not yet con rmed as this issue closed for press.
ARG features a consortium of Australian businessmen including Brian Boyd (PAYCE) and John McMellan (formerly the chief of Wilson Security).
A number of current and former Supercars identities attended the launch, including team owners Brad Jones and Garry Rogers, drivers Chaz Mostert and Jason Bright, and previous CEO James Warburton.
TCR Australia’s launch was held exactly six months before the class’s May 19 debut, with a number of team and driver announcements expected as the category – and the sport – heads to what could be a milestone day. Momentum is quickly gathering.