Touring Car racing has never really taken off in the United States on the professional level, but that could change quickly as it was announced that IMSA and TCR joined forces to incorporate full-spec TCR machines into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series between the GS and ST classes. The most interesting part of the deal is this, however, “IMSA, in cooperation with WSC, also now holds the right to sublicense the proper use of TCR specifications to other sanctioning bodies in the territory as well.”
For the 2017 Touring Car season, Pirelli World Challenge allowed the de-tuned Audi RS3 LMS TCR Clubsport into the class with the plan to bring full-spec TCR machines into the series for 2018. The IMSA/TCR deal, which began to formulate at the Roar Before the 24 test, throws a wrench into things on the PWC side.
PWC’s top Touring Class has exploded this season seeing over 30 entries at each round. BMW, Honda, Audi, Lotus and Mazda have flooded the category knowing the plan from the series was to bring in full-spec TCR cars next season. That could still very well happen, but WC Vision will need to license the TCR name from IMSA. Per an IMSA source, what is still to be determinted is if PWC would need a license for using the “Clubsport” versions of the TCR machinery. Currently Paul Holton and his Compass 360 Racing Audi RS3 LMS Clubsport lead the championship, with JT Coupal’s BERG Racing Audi RS3 LMS Clubsport sitting third.
So, things are about to get very interesting on the Touring Car side of racing within North America and a lot of decisions will have to made by series and teams currently racing with TCR-based cars. What we know is that IMSA has full-spec TCR coming, has the rights to form standalone TCR America and TCR Canada series and now has the power to license the category in the territory. At the same time, Pirelli World Challenge planned to use full-spec TCR machines in 2018.
Are we going to get a Touring Car war within North America? Or will both sides play it cool? I lean more towards both sides playing it cool, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road. Greg Gill, Pirelli World Challenge President and CEO, was with IMSA when the series visited Circuit of the Americas last month, so I have a feeling PWC is not completely blind-sided by this and I have a sneaking suspicion they knew about the TCR/IMSA conversations that took place at Daytona in early January. That being said it will still be a very interesting situation to keep an eye on and this could be the flash Touring Car racing needed to succeed in North America.