On Thursday, IMSA announced that they have reached a deal with World Sporting Consulting (WSC) that will allow for a TCR (Touring Car Racing) class to compete in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC) starting in 2018. The CTSC will expand to three classes next year with TCR fitting in right in between the Grand Sport and Street Tuner classes.
The announcement is roughly a year in the making. Back when the 2017 IMSA schedules were announced last August, IMSA also announced that discussions were ongoing with Marcelo Lotti, the CEO of Touring Car Racing International Series (now WSC) about TCR cars entering the CTSC. 2018 was cited as the earliest time that TCR equipment could enter the CTSC.
In addition to the new cars entering the CTSC, IMSA also gains the exclusive right to create TCR USA and TCR Canada standalone series if they so choose. Currently, there are 12 TCR-branded series all over the world, nine of which race in Europe. They attract a variety of drivers. For instance, part-time XFINITY Series racer Brandon Gdovic finished second in this year’s TCR Middle East in a Volkswagen GTI.
IMSA CEO Ed Bennett is very happy that TCR will now be a part of IMSA.
“We began our due diligence process on the potential introduction of the TCR platform more than a year ago, and formally announced that we were exploring the concept last year,” Bennett said in a press release. “We engaged our automotive partners and teams throughout the discovery process and determined that TCR would be an attractive addition to the Continental Tire Challenge. We are pleased to work together with WSC CEO Marcello Lotti and Sporting and Series Director Nunzia Corvino to introduce what we believe will be a popular class to IMSA fans and participants.”
TCR cars run turbocharged 2.0-liter engines with roughly 350 horsepower. Sequential gearboxes with paddle shifters are standard.
The TCR class will be subject to IMSA’s rules requiring that all production-based cars that compete in the series come from mainstream manufacturers with a North American presence. As a result, cars that would be eligible to compete are up in the air. At the present, there would be four existing TCR cars that would be eligible to compete today. Those would be the Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport, the Volkswagen GTI, Subaru WRX-STI and Ford Focus. Alfa Romeo, Honda and Kia also have entries, but they are based on cars that are not sold in the United States.
Frontstretch reached out to IMSA to see how eligibility is going to work for the new TCR class. The answer indicates that today is just the beginning.
“The first step in the process was to formally announce our plans to include TCR in the Continental Tire [SportsCar] Challenge, so that manufacturers, teams, etc. can begin putting their plans together to compete next season,” Nate Siebens, IMSA’s Senior Manager of Communications replied. “Now that this has happened, we’ll work closely with the manufacturers on the more specific details regarding models, eligibility, etc. Stay tuned…”
Currently, the only series where TCR cars are eligible to race in the United States is Pirelli World Challenge’s TC class. Four Audi RS3 LMS Club Sports have raced in the six TC races thus far this season. C360R’s Audi driven by Paul Holton (pictured above last weekend at Lime Rock) has been the most competitive of them. Only the Audi, which is brand-new for 2017, has raced in the United States as of this point.
There is one notable differences between next year’s TCR class in the CTSC and Pirelli World Challenge’s TC class. It is the fact that TC is not exclusive to TCR equipment. The four RS3 LMS Club Sports race against an armada of non-TCR BMW M235iRs and Mazda MX-5s.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.