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TCR – What we know so far

SEAT León Eurocup

When Marcello Lotti took to the stage at Birmingham’s Autosport International Show in January to announce that five manufacturers – Ford, Honda, SEAT, Volkswagen and Opel – had all been confirmed for 2015, with a further three (Alfa Romeo anybody?) in the pipelines, it was the clearest sign yet that the TCR International Series is set for big things.

It’s been a long time in coming since the first announcements back in July, with only the odd press release and mocked-up graphic to keep our mouths watering, but the wait is almost over, with just two months to go before the first race in support of the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 29th.

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Before that, group testing will commence in February to work out the Balance of Performance (BoP) and equalise the machinery, where the cast-list will no doubt become clearer. German veteran Franz Engstler is the only driver to have been announced having switched from the WTCC (although Pepe Oriola is also rumoured to be making the switch), but the roll-call of customer teams is certainly impressive.

Regarding BoP, Lotti is clear that this is one of the most important aspects of keeping the costs under control for the new series. “We are not proposing to make a car to win the manufacturers title that doesn’t exist,” said Lotti to TouringCars.Net. “[The goal] is to win the market. To win the market if your car costs €40,000 more, with the balance of performance, you won’t sell one. Even if you had a Ferrari touring car!

“The fact that there is a competition in the market [escalates costs]. The balance of performance will make all the cars similar, so if your car costs more than the others, I tell you how difficult it will be.”

Customer teams are thus a crucial part of Lotti’s philosophy, with a host of well-known names already having pledged allegiance to the series. Multiple Swedish Touring Car champions WestCoast Racing, stalwart WTCC privateers Liqui Moly Team Engstler, Mike Earle’s Onyx outfit, the reformed Paolo Coloni Racing, and Target Competition, running the SEAT León Racer – the only TCR-spec car to have previously competed in the one-make Eurocup series – are the five teams to have been announced so far, with Lotti confirming that 20 of the 24 available spaces have been filled.

Lotti, the former WTCC boss no less, clearly intends for his new initiative to challenge his former employers and has set forth ambitious plans for a homogenised, cost-effective platform to run across various national championships, much the same as GT3 has done in sportscar racing.

With priority given to developing touring-car racing in new markets, Lotti has no plans to go up against the behemoth that is the British Touring Car Championship, but has already announced an Italian, Portuguese and BeNeLux championship due in 2016 to join TCR USA – which will run as a sub-class in the US Touring Car Championship (USTCC) in 2015 – and TCR Asia, to be ran by experienced promoter David Sonenscher.

Further announcements are expected regarding expansion into Thailand, China, Russia, Spain and the Dominican Republic, a mightily impressive achievement even before a wheel has been turned.

Personal disappointment that the TCR International Series won’t be visiting Britain aside, the calendar is mightily impressive, comprising five Grand Prix circuits, including Monza, Sochi and Singapore, with a rumoured end-of-season trip to Macau thrown in for good measure. It’s far too early to make any predictions, but if the jigsaw pieces can come together, then there’s no reason why Lotti’s vision won’t materialise.

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