WTCR boss François Riberio says he is ‘very confident’ ahead of the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) season, where a capacity entry features 25 drivers and seven different brands of car.
Speaking at the official season launch event in Barcelona, Ribeiro admits that only half of the work has been done, with the rest to materialise once the racing season kicks off in Morocco on the 6 – 8 April.
In particular, he emphasised the need for continued close cooperation between the WTCR promoter Eurosport Events, the FIA and the TCR rights holder, WSC Ltd.
“It’s too early to assess the success of what we are doing,” said Ribeiro. “I think we only have half of the answers, and for the moment it’s very positive.
“When you see the grid, the driver line-up, the reaction from the fans and so on, it’s super positive, but it’s only half of the answer because the championship has not started.
“After Marrakech, the Hungaroring and the Nürburgring, we will be in a much better position to assess what the three parties [Eurosport, the FIA and WSC] are doing together, and if it is really making sense for all of us and if we really have to change things.
“I’m very positive and very confident, and we have all of the ingredients to do something really good, but today we are only halfway.”
Ribeiro also stressed the need for the series to avoid direct manufacturer involvement, predicting that the championship would quickly fall apart if the rules were relaxed on direct entries from car brands.
But he welcomed the car brands recruiting top talent to race their cars in the new series, which has resulted in an impressive driver line-up with seven WTCC champions and numerous national touring car champions being represented on the grid.
“There is a desire [for manufacturers to get involved] but it won’t be in [the TCR] category,” added Ribeiro. “If we let them in, we destroy that category and by 2019 that category and the championship would be dead.
“If you let manufacturers get completely involved with a factory means, with factory resources, the cost will go completely out of control. You would kill the nature of that category, which is about private teams racing against any other team and if they have a good driver they can win.
“We will be monitoring [manufacturer involvement] very carefully – we want them to support their teams and we want them to provide factory drivers. More than half of the grid are factory drivers paid by the manufacturers, and that’s good. But that does not make the teams completely financially dependent from factory money.
“I have no problem that the manufacturers pay factory drivers and give them to private teams – this is what Honda, Hyundai, Audi and Volkswagen have done. I have no problem with that.
“If next year we get even more professional drivers I would be even happier, because in the end they deliver the quality of racing that we need.
“But the day that you start to see engineers from manufacturers, and we know them, coming and pushing staff from private teams away and making a ‘fake factory team’ then we would have a problem, and our answer would be through the sporting regulations.
“You need to restrict staff and testing, and to prevent staff changing in the middle of the season and so on. We already have staff restrictions and we have testing restrictions, but currently the testing restrictions are the same as the WTCC. Next year there will be no waivers at all.”