TCR in 2018: What we know about The FIA World Touring Car Cup so far….

In what is the last of my series of posts about recent changes for TCR Racing in 2018, this entry covers the change from the FIA World Touring Car Championship to the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR)…

(Warning: This is a long post with a lot of details provided. Tea and Biscuits are advised for the duration of reading this post…)

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Ever since the TC1 regulations were introduced into the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship, something the series has struggled with is entries and interest from Manufacturers, Independent teams and drivers. This was highlighted more than ever in 2017. Citroen and Lada withdrew at the end of 2016 and whilst Volvo joined the series in 2016, this left only two Manufacturers to fight for the MAC3/Manufacturers title.

Whilst Independent teams such as Campos Racing, ROAL Motorsport and Zengo Motorsport returned for 2017, two of these teams downsized to one car. SLR returned with three Citroens whilst Munnich Motorsport also downsized to one car for 2012 Champion, Rob Huff. The first race of the year started off with 15 cars racing around the streets of Marrakech (keeping in mind that a World Championship requires 16 full season entries for every round) and while there were more entries to come, the future of the series was clear.

TC1 Regulations weren’t working in WTCC and the World Championship was in danger of not running in 2018. Keep in mind that over seven different manufacturers were involved in the technical group for creating TC1 regs however there have only ever been four Manufacturers that have entered WTCC with TC1 cars. (The Chevrolet’s are a fifth car built to TC1 regs but these have never been run as manufacturer entries).

Something had to change.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

There were rumours during the year that there could be a change in the International Touring Car landscape that would involve the use of the successful TCR regulations and it soon became clear that there were talks to try to secure the future of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

There were rumours that an announcement would be released at the final meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council and we were not let down.

This is the following release announcing the changes for 2018 which affected both the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the TCR International Series:

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The FIA World Touring Car Championship will be replaced from 2018 with new technical regulations, a new format and a new name following a vote of approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 6th December.

From next season, the FIA World Touring Car Championship will be renamed the FIA World Touring Car Cup and abbreviated to WTCR. It will run to the TCR technical regulations under a two-year licensing agreement between the FIA, WTCR promoter Eurosport Events Limited (EEL) and WSC,owner of the TCR concept and trademark.

As part of the agreement, the TCR International Series will be discontinued while the FIA European Touring Car Cup will no longer run.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

In an exciting change to the existing WTCC race weekend format, each event will consist of three races – an increase from the current two. One qualifying session and one race will take place on the opening day, with the second day more in keeping with the current WTCC set-up: namely a three-phase qualifying session and two races with the first race utilising a reverse grid.

A maximum of 26 entries will be accepted with priority given to existing TCR International and WTCC teams. Two further wildcard entries will be permitted at each event at the discretion of EEL and the FIA. Entries can be lodged with the FIA from 15 December until 30 January 2018.

The new name, WTCR, has been introduced to reflect the switch from TC1 to the TCR technical regulations. Meanwhile, the change of status from world championship to world cup signals the start of an exciting new era for international touring car racing when it is hoped that more affordable technical regulations will trigger a flurry of competitor interest, while building on the existing fan and media following enjoyed by the WTCC.

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François Ribeiro (Head of Eurosport Events): “The combination of the TCR technical regulations, the expertise and neutrality of the FIA and its stringent sporting rules and procedures, plus the promotional strength of Eurosport Events gained since 2005 will deliver a highly competitive grid, exciting racing and a fan-friendly format that can only drive success.”

Marcello Lotti (Chief Executive, WSC): “We are very proud of this agreement that fully respects the very spirit of TCR. The association with such an experienced promoter as Eurosport Events together with the FIA label on the WTCR represent the ultimate recognition for the TCR concept that we launched three years ago and hasn’t stopped growing since.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Sporting Regulations
Regulated by the FIA and backed up by an experienced race management team, WTCR events will be run to the highest organisational standards possible.

Technical Regulations
The TCR technical regulations will be licensed by WSC to EEL/FIA as the FIA WTCR regulations and frozen until the end of 2019. Only TCR cars homologated by WSC and assigned with the FIA WTCR passport issued by the FIA will be eligible. The FIA and TCR technical departments will determine the balance of performance (BOP) at each event, while success ballast will be allocated per driver. The FIA will be responsible for technical management in consultation with TCR representatives.

Promotion
WTCR promoter Eurosport Events will provide a level of promotional resource similar to that enjoyed by the WTCC to ensure that WTCR benefits from live coverage on Eurosport and more than 50 networks around the world, the expertise of Eurosport Events’ promotional and marketing personnel and a comprehensive social media campaign.

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

TCR regulations explained:
The TCR technical regulations cater for front-wheel-drive, four/five-door saloons or hatchbacks using turbocharged production engines with a capacity of between 1750-2000cc and with a maximum power output of 350bhp. No fewer than 19 TCR-based championships or series exist around the world while several manufacturers have, or are in the process, of homologating TCR cars including Alfa Romeo, Audi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, KIA, LADA, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, Subaru and Volkswagen. To date, more than 600 TCR racing cars have been built and sold to customer teams.

So, since this was released on 6th December, what do we know about the new look FIA World Touring Car Cup? Allow the Guru to educate you…

The Calendar…

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Well, we were made to wait 16 days but a provisional calendar was released on 22nd December by Eurosport Events Ltd. Whats clear is that the calendar has retained 90% of the events of the 2017 WTCC Calendar and only one event from the 2017 TCR International Series has been retained, but I’ve explained my thoughts on this in another post here.

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Calendar

7-8 April: Marrakech (Morocco)
28-29 April: Hungaroring (Hungary)
10-12 May: Nürburgring Nordschleife (Germany)
19-21 May: Zandvoort (Netherlands)
23-24 June: Vila Real (Portugal)
4-5 August: Termas de Río Hondo (Argentina)
29-30 September: Ningbo (China)
27-28 October: Suzuka (Japan)
15-18 November: Macau (Macau)

An additional event will be added on either 21-22 July or 6-7 October subject to approval.

However, this calendar clearly shows that only one event has been retained from the 2017 TCR International Series Calendar: Hungary.

Here are the list of events that have not been retained from 2017 TCR International Series:

Rustavi, Georgia
Sakhir, Bahrain
Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Monza, Italy
Salzburgring, Austria
Oschersleben, Germany
Buriram, Thailand
Zhejiang, China
Dubai, UAE.

Here are the list of events that have not been retained from 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship:

Monza, Italy
Losail, Qatar.

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This alone makes you think for a moment. Ninety percent of the events from TCR in 2017 have not been retained whilst only two have been dropped from WTCC in 2017. This is clearly due to Eurosport Events Ltd having contracts in place for 2018, however you have to feel for those circuits dropped from TCR. A lot of them had some bloody good racing on them…

The benefit of this calendar is that a lot of the drivers and teams involved in either series will already have setup knowledge of a lot of these tracks. However for those that haven’t raced on these circuits before, the fact that the Race Weekend format has changed will also help a lot.

With two Free Practice Sessions, four Qualifying sessions and Three races to compete in, that’s a lot of time to find the cars sweetspot for the weekend and improve in performance over the three races. However, it’s also a lot of points to lose of your car is damaged in Free Practice and Quali and can’t race or if its damaged heavily in race one…

The Race Weekend Format…

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One of the downfalls of the FIA World Touring Car Championship has always been the confusing nature of the Qualifying format. Back in 2005 it was easy: One Qualifying session of thirty minutes to determine the race one grid. Race two saw the top eight finishers reversed with everyone from ninth place down starting in the same position as they did in race one.

Simple, right? Yeah I thought so too. I won’t go into the various changes that have taken place since but to clarify, here’s the Race Weekend Format for the 2018 FIA WTCR…

Day One:
Free Practice 1 (30 minutes)
Free Practice 2 (30 minutes)
Qualifying (30 minutes)
Race 1 (top 10 classified finishers score points as follows: 27-20-17-14-12-10-8-6-4-2)

Day Two:
Qualifying Q1 (25 minutes)
Qualifying Q2 (10 minutes)
Qualifying Q3 (top-five shootout)
Race 2 (top 10 positions reversed after Q2, top 10 classified finishers score points as follows: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1)
Race 3 (grid as per combined order after Q3, top 10 classified finishers score points as follows: 30-23-19-16-13-10-7-4-2-1)

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Even my head hurts looking at this!!! Unfortunately it seems that to give the new FIA WTCR its best chance of success, the organisers have opted for two days worth of full on action…and they don’t seem to have learnt from the confusions mistakes/issues of the past.

So let me get this straight for you:

There will be three races (One on the Saturday, two on the Sunday), four lots of Qualifying (One on Saturday, three on Sunday) and finally there will be three lots of points scoring systems depending on which race takes place on which day…

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

(I can already hear Martin Haven groaning in disbelief at the point systems alone…along with everyone else who will be either following or involved with WTCR in 2018. Suddenly being a highly skilled mathematician will be part of the CV of a skilled and experienced commentator…).

Straight away this makes for a busy weekend of action and with the move from two races to three, it means that a lot more resources will be consumed by the series. This will be covered later in post where I explain the increase in entry fees. This move also means that every point scored by drivers and teams will count in all thirty races as they race to the final round in Macau to see who will be the first ever WTCR Champion.

As always, we’ll find out how this will work out as the season progresses and I’m sure any issues will be revealed.

The Potential Entry List…

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

From the start, its been made very clear that there will be a maximum grid of 26 cars only for FIA WTCR and that first priority will go to teams from the 2017 versions of both the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the TCR International Series. However this doesn’t stop other teams applying who are interested in racing in a World Cup under TCR Regulations.

As per the above earlier:

“A maximum of 26 entries will be accepted with priority given to existing TCR International and WTCC teams. Two further wildcard entries will be permitted at each event at the discretion of EEL and the FIA. Teams have to field a minimum of two cars, with an entry fee of 150,000 EUR for a two-car team.”

WTCR Series Principle Francois Ribeiro explained the reasons behind both the grid limit and the entry fee increase to TouringCarTimes here. To localise things a bit, here’s what he said about the Grid Limit…

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“We are after quality not volume, we’ve seen some TCR races with big grids, but a lot of red flags and race incidents and a big discrepancy in driving standards.

“We did not feel it was necessary for WTCR, and I was after quality, to select strong teams and strong drivers and work with them on a two-year basis, and not go opening the door to any possible team.

“If we have a grid of 26 full season cars next year, that’s already a very big grid.”

So lets look at this in a bit more detail…

Here are the teams that ran two car entries during the 2017 TCR International Series:

M1RA
Leopard Racing Team / WRT
Comtoyou Racing
Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing
WestCoast Racing
GE-Force
DG Sport Competition

Here are the Independent teams that ran entries during the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship:

Sebastien Loeb Racing
ROAL Motorsport
Munnich Motorsport
RC Motorsport
Campos Racing
Zengo Motorsport

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Now, take the assumption that all teams enter for the 2018 season and you have your 26 car grid straight away. However I’ll make it clear that this is not a list of actual entrants and I am purely making a point here. The period for entries to be lodged with the FIA for the 2018 WTCR runs from 15 December 2017 until 30 January 2018, after which we’ll know who has entered.

What you do have here though is the Quality that Ribeiro referred to. These teams are at the top of their games in International Touring Car Racing and any driver who signed with them is already a highly skilled and qualified talent behind the wheel of either a TCR car or formally a TC1 car.

Budget will also play a big part in entries for next year…which leads to the next subject:

The Entry Fees…

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This has been a subject much debated amongst the members of the Social Media Groups I’m in and its pretty clear to see why. Let me present you with a few figures to bear in mind.

Here are the entry fee amounts for the various Touring Car Series that are involved in the making of the WTCR:

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Entry: €150,000 Euros for Two Car Team.
2018 TCR Europe Series Entry: €19,500 per car.
2017 TCR International Series Entry: €40,000 Euros per car.
2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship Manufacturer Entry: €315,000 Euros.
2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship Independent Entry: €39,000 Euros per car.
2018 TCR UK Series full season Entry: £15,000 per car.

Now keep in mind here that with WTCR not being recognised as an official World Championship (We’ll get to that later) due to no Manufacturer involvement, this is why the entry fee for 2018 has increased.

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When you consider that WTCC had four Manufacturers involved in 2016 with at least two cars each (Citroen and Volvo had two, Honda and Lada had three) that’s over a whopping €3,000,000 at least that was paid into the running costs and resources of the championship from Manufacturer entries.

Now with WTCR running with no direct official Manufacturer involvement as per the TCR Sporting regs (TCR has been successful because of the competition between Customer Teams who purchase cars from Manufacturers who have built and tested the cars for them), this means that there has been an increase in the entry fee for former TCR International Series entrants by up to 70k for a two car team whilst a former WTCC Independent team sees a decrease of up to a 72k for a two car team.

Now I realise that costs have to be met to make sure there are adequate resources and transport and there are reasons behind this, but again I can’t help but notice that this seems to be another concession made by TCR entrants… make of that what you will. It also means that TCR entrants will need to step up to meet a larger budget to compete on the same level next year and we are all aware of how difficult that can be for any team that requires sponsors and support to compete.

WTCR Series Principle Francois Ribeiro explained the reasons behind both the grid limit and the entry fee increase to TouringCarTimes here. However here’s what he said about the increase in fees:

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

“We took the decision to announce (WTCR) to our teams on the same day. In the 24 hours afterwards, I was in contact with nearly all the TCR International teams and all the TCR manufacturers behind the TCR regulation. The response has been very positive.

“To all of the TCR International teams and manufacturers, I told them WTCR is going to be a bit more expensive than the running costs of TCR International, with no doubt. (The reason for this is) we want to do three races…and the FIA entry fees will be higher as the level of staff we have to manage the sporting and technical equity and fairness of the championship will be higher; so it’ll be more expensive, but you are going to gain a level of professionalism which will bring you to a different level of recognition and sponsor visibility.

“While the TCR teams will be hit with an increase, the running cost for the WTCC teams is set to reduce, as although the entry fee is higher than the 39,000 EUR set for the 2017 season, the running cost of a TCR car is substantially lower, with the engine lease alone for a TC1-specification engine running past 300,000 EUR, while a TCR car with engine was price capped at 130,000 EUR in 2017.

“To all of the WTCC teams I told them it’ll cost them less than WTCC, and you are going to protect your level of exposure throughout the next two years,” added Ribeiro. “So in the end I didn’t have any bad comments about next year. I told to both of them you will have priority before we speak to any teams from outside.”

Ribeiro has made it very clear here that he’s spoken with both sets of teams in regards to the reasons and decisions made here and it seems that all parties are happy. So as I’ve pointed out before, we’ll see what happens at the start of the first season of WTCR competition next year and how many cars we see lining up on the grid at Marrakech.

The Commercial Package…

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We know that there will be little change in the setup of the televised coverage for the WTCR from what was the coverage for WTCC.

Eurosport will be showing races live as part of being the promoter of the Championship, meaning that we should have live coverage of both the Saturday Quali and Race action and that there should be live coverage of the Sunday Quali and Race action.

But, consider for a moment what worked for the TCR International Series and indeed other domestic and regional TCR Series: Free, un-embargoed live coverage on YouTube. I’ve referred to this in another post related to the TCR UK Series here and the same concern should be raised again.

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Previously, not every country has received Live coverage of both Qualifying and the WTCC Race coverage. From a UK perspective, Qualifying has rarely been live and the WTCC races have often been scheduled later in the day so that prime air time can be given to other sports.

I’m fully aware that there is the option of Eurosport Player out there for fans to sign up and use, but remember that TCR fans have had free access to YouTube and in this day in age Online Streaming is becoming ever more popular. If WTCR uses YouTube as well as Live TV coverage for all of the action then this will grow the audience further in what will be a heavily scrutinised first year of competition.

The Alternative Option…

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Should there be the case that some teams decide that WTCR doesn’t fit the profile they want to be racing with next year, there is another alternative for them to race Internationally and still receive the same levels of competition and coverage as they did with the TCR International Series.

The 2018 TCR Europe Series.

Being run by WSC and maintaining the same live coverage on Motorsport TV and YouTube as well as offering much reduced entry fees, this presents a fallback option for those that cannot commit to a full season of WTCR with a two car team.

Already though, some teams are looking at the option of running simultaneous programmes in both WTCR and TCR Europe (Comtoyou Racing being one of the interested parties in running dual programmes). So this is a simple win-win situation for all teams involved with TCR machinery that wish to race on a larger stage, outside of Domestic TCR Series.

The Guru’s Thoughts on FIA WTCR…

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So, I’ve outlined in this very long post (apologies for that, there’s a lot of detail around WTCR) what we know so far about what will be the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR). I would normally throw in a section that explains what we don’t know…but there’s not a lot that’s been left out here for me to point out.

Now before we go further please let me make something clear: This is not a post that’s bashing or demeaning WTCR for 2018. I’m not here to do that. I’m merely presenting the facts to the interested parties and fans out there in tintop land who want to know whats happening. WSC, Eurosport Events and the FIA have been very clear on how things will proceed.

But I’m going to make one point clear that is repeated in the facts presented by all three parties when explaining about what WTCR will look like:

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

There has been a lot sacrificed by WSC. Events have not been retained from the TCR International Series Calendar and you could also argue that to make up for the lack of Manufacturer entries, the entry fee has seen an increase that former TCR entrants will need to locate extra budget for. To add further, the argument could be made that to keep a World Series in place for Touring Cars, TCR regulations were the only way forward and the only bargaining chip that Lotti held during talks that led to the creation of WTCR.

However, consider that we now have a World Cup that’s focused for the next two seasons on TCR regulated cars being driven by the best Touring Car drivers in the world. With Live Television coverage around the world (fingers crossed).

That sounds bloody awesome to me!

I see a win-win situation here for one man: Marcello Lotti, the father of TCR Regulations, the former Championship Principal of the FIA World Touring Car Championship who was in charge at a time when WTCC rivalled the likes of BTCC, DTM and V8 Supercars. This is the biggest advert yet that Lotti’s formula for Touring Cars works and this will only encourage other countries to look towards TCR as a possible national series in the future.

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Lets also not forget that whilst WTCR is in place for 2018 and 2019, this gives Eurosport Events Ltd and the FIA two years to produce a new set of regulations that work to encourage back Manufacturer teams for a potential resurrection of WTCC in 2020…

But consider another option, one that’s already been raised which could happen. What if in 2020, the WTCC returns to accommodate Manufacturer teams that run TCR cars in a World Championship? A scary thought but one that could happen and a thought that should be kept in mind as we witness the success of what could be WTCR over the next two years… We’ll all be watching the racing with as much interest an excitement as we’ll be waiting for the details of the next set of regulations for the 2020 WTCC season.

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As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the TCR Talk International Facebook Group & the TCR Talk UK Facebook Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

Please note that all images in this blog post are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series and Eurosport Events/FIA WTCC/FIA.

All excerpts/comments from Francois Ribeiro and Marcello Lotti have been used from material published by both the FIA/Eurosport Events and TouringCarTimes.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

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