Confirmed: TCR touring car championship coming to New Zealand
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It's true. After all the message-board debates and spit-balling, it's true — New Zealand is set to get a TCR-based touring car championship to call our own.
MotorSport New Zealand — our country's governing body for the sport — have announced that they have reached an agreement with the global rights holders of TCR to launch a home-grown TCR series in 2020. They're now currently in the process of selecting a category manager for the series who will oversee promotion.
“This is an exciting development for top-level saloon car racing in New Zealand as the TCR New Zealand series will provide our up-and-coming drivers with a direct pathway into internationally recognised competitions around the world," says MotorSport NZ President Wayne Christie.
“To have a variety of different marques contesting a top-level domestic championship is also good for the sport, good for competitors and good for sponsors. We’re looking forward to seeing which motor vehicle distributors come onboard with the concept.”
The likes of Audi, Hyundai, SEAT, Volkswagen, Honda, Citroen, and many more all produce TCR-spec racers. The hope now to give the category its best chances of being a Kiwi success is for dealerships to support it with their own pseudo-factory entries.
Much of the manufacturer presence exists because of the formula's international success. It's spread globally, with four TCR-based categories currently operating in Europe and Asia (including the World Touring Car Championship, now known as WTCR). TCR is set to launch in Australia later this year, with Aotearoa next to join the fray.
As we touched on last week, there's already a range of TCR cars in New Zealand. These include, as we understand, two FK2 Honda Civic Type Rs, a SEAT Leon Cupra, and numerous Volkswagen Golf GTis. There are also rumours of at least one Hyundai i30 N hitting the country.
“We are delighted to add the wonderful ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ to the ever-growing list of countries all over the world that have embraced the TCR concept," says WSC President Marcello Lotti.
"New Zealand has a great motorsport tradition, and gave birth to some of the strongest racing drivers ever, such as F1 super stars Bruce McLaren and Dennis Hulme. And, speaking of Touring Cars, we can’t forget Paul Radisich, the winner of two FIA Super Touring World Cups. With these premises, we don’t have the lesser doubt that the TCR New Zealand championship will be successful!”
MotorSport NZ's announcement also alluded to a review that recently took place of the rest of New Zealand's top-level tin-top championships. These include the likes of the BNT V8s, Toyota 86 Series, Central Muscle Cars, and the respective North and South–Island endurance series'. Those who were part of the review included Greg Lancaster, Mark Heimgartner (BNT V8s board member, and father of André Heimgartner), and former V8 champ and TCR Honda pilot John McIntyre.
“The review sets in place a strategic direction for top-level circuit racing for the immediate and medium future,” says Christie.
“This updated strategic plan provides for a clearly defined pathway for competitors who can easily differentiate between a single-seater or saloon car career, and how they can map their way to the top. The saloon car pathway provides for a competitor to commence their racing in career in an entry-level class such as 2KCup and progress right through to V8 Touring Cars or TCR as the pinnacle in New Zealand, and beyond to an international career.”
It's likely that, at the centre of this review, was the discussion as to whether the TCR series and BNT V8s can co-exist with each other. While the V8-based category has endured some tough years lately, they're currently in the midst of introducing a new-generation car of their own — likely to be based around two-door V8 platforms like the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. For now, it looks like MotorSport New Zealand are treating them as equals at the top of the New Zealand racing framework.