Even though TCR series’ from around the world are in full swing with their 2017 seasons, we’re still keeping an eye on what 2018 holds and sit in anticipation for new cars to debut and new series to kickoff. Here’s what we know so far for 2018:
At the beginning of June WSC and North America’s IMSA formed a partnership for IMSA to become the North American license holder for the TCR category. IMSA will run full-spec TCR machines within their Continential Tire SportsCar Challenge series along with GT4 and Street Tuner cars. IMSA also holds the rights to form a standalone “TCR North America” series if it fits their strategy, though that will not be coming in 2018. Brands that have an American presence will be allowed to run in the series, so Audi, VW, Honda, Alfa Romeo, Subaru, Kia and a few others can participate if they have the customers. A few teams have already purchased cars and while not much news has gotten out on that front we are expecting most teams to look at the Audi RS3 for IMSA’s inaugural TCR season with a couple Honda Civics sprinkled in.
Sticking to North Amerca, Pirelli World Challenge could also see some changes to their TCR entries. For 2017 the series allowed the Clubsport verion of the Audi RS3 LMS where it gets balanced down to the BMW M235iR in their TC class. While it is still not 100% decided, it’s looking like PWC will still add a full-spec TCR class to their touring car category. Having full GT3 and GT4 in both of North America’s prominent sportscar series has worked, so WC Vision (organizers of PWC) have the same thought with TCR.
Another series many are excited to see debut is TCR UK and news is looking good for that to happen next year as MSA has given their approval. The plan is for either a 6 or 7 event inaugural season to be run by the British Racing and SportsCar Club, the group who also runs the British GT series. So far Maximum Motorsport and Team Pyro have confirmed intentions to run in the series, if it kicks off, with hopefully more coming in the near future.
A lot is happening in the world of manufacturers and at least three new cars should appear. First is the STARD-built Kia Cee’d, which should take a bigger role in TCR racing next season. Zengo Motorsports with Ferenc Ficza and Istvan Bernula debuted the car at the TCR International rounds in Hungary where after a rough race 1, finished a respectable 14th and 16th in race 2. In Oschersleben the car improved and finished in 12th and 10th.
Hyundai Motorsports, along with touring car legend Gabriele Tarquini, have taken on a very intense and exhaustive development program for the new i30 N, which is set to officially debut in 2018. The car recently completed a successful endurance test at the Misano 24 Hours and lead the opening stint and set the race’s fastest lap by over .5 seconds to their nearest rival. Obviously the car is not officially homologated to TCR spec at this time, but for the car to be reliable and fast already tells you what to expect for 2018.
Mini will also be joining the TCR ranks as the USA’s LAP Motorsport, which races with Mini in IMSA’s ST class, is building a TCR-spec Mini F55 for the 2018 season. Whether the car be available worldwide or run solely for IMSA competition is still TBD, but we’re hoping to see it across the globe.
While not a new manufacturer to the cateogry, Honda is set to debut their new Civic Type R machine built by JAS Motorsport. 25 cars will be built initially for TCR competition with an endurance version of the car coming at a later date. Deliveries will begin in mid-December of this year.
EDIT (7/21/2018): One I forgot to add to the list yesterday was the Peugeot 308 TCR. The company announced in late-October, 2016 that they are developing a performance kit for the 308 Racing Cup cars to bring them up to TCR levels. While not many details have been exposed, Peugeot did announce the 2017 winner of the 308 Racing Cup Series will receive the 308 Racing Cup car and TCR Performance kit. The performance kit will be ready by the start of the 2018 season.
We know of at least one popular global brand that has built a TCR test mule, but the program appears to now be on shaky ground as the manufacturer is having second thoughts. While the program is not dead, it’s still too early to 1) tell who the manufacturer is and 2) write off the program completely.
Mazda is another company that many have looked to for a TCR program, but those wants have so far come up empty. I truly thought Mazda Motorsport was going to announce the TCR car during their press conference earlier in the week, but that news was for the Mazda/Joest DPi partnership. However, we know that the Japanese automaker is looking at TCR very seriously and it seems it would just be a matter of time before something is confirmed. Until then you can expect Mazda 3 TCR rumors to continue to swirl. Marcello Lotti, CEO of WSC, has also spoken of two other manufacturers, other than Kia and Hyundai, that will be joining TCR around May of 2018. But just who are these mystery brands? We’ll have to just wait and see.