Britain will have a new touring car series in 2018 with the ever popular and growing TCR championship. TCR has been expanding ever since its inception in 2015 and has championships in over 13 countries with more to join. Essaar Motorsport spoke to TCR founder Jonathan Ashman to find out more.
Ashman is no stranger to touring cars as he was President of the FIA for the category. It was in this position that he met Marcello Lotti, in fact they were introduced by a certain Bernie Ecclestone. Lotti was looking to start the European Touring Car Championship and the two worked together well as Ashman wrote the technical side and Lotti concentrated on making the commercial side work.
Ashman left the FIA and Lotti left Eurosport but it wasn’t long before the two men found themselves working together again. Lotti had the idea for an affordable touring car series, his idea was TCR and from there it has grown at a rapid pace. The idea of TCR was to avoid “technical creep” which leads to rule changes and rising costs.
“We wanted the rules to stay the same so that a team could purchase a two year old car and still be competitive” explains Ashman. “Bernie helped again, not commercially but he was keen to help us develop, Bernie likes to see success!”
Bernie’s support for the series lead to a unique start for TCR as its debut was in support of the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix. In effect TCR has done things backwards, starting at the top and gradually working their way down to national championships.
Since that start in Malaysia the TCR ball hasn’t stopped rolling. “Everyone accepts the rules, regulations and the balance of performance” says Ashman. “It’s all done on a friendly basis”.
It is not just teams who are flocking to the series as manufacturers are keen to build cars. “We now have 11 manufacturers and counting” Ashman explains. “But we have told teams they cannot enter a works team as this would put costs through the roof, a lesson learned from the Super Touring days”.
The manufacturers are still using TCR as a platform to promote current models though. Audi within a year have sold 100 TCR race cars. Manufacturers can build and sell cars and make a profit from selling spares.
Ashman was keen to use his previous touring car experience to good use and what he wants to do with TCR is “Control it ourselves and don’t change anything!” he exclaims. “All TCR branding and regulations are copyrighted to us, no one else can take it and mess with it”.
The cost effectiveness of TCR is a key selling point for the series as Ashman explains. “Because the rules are the same and unchanged you can buy a second hand TCR car for £50,000 and at the end of the year sell it on, the depreciation would be low. With most other series the depreciation of the car is greater than the running costs”.
TCR is also proving a success in endurance racing. Teams have the opportunity to race or hire their cars in endurance races as the cars do not require any changes. “The engines run at 330 bhp which can be less than the production models, the engines are under stressed which makes them incredibly reliable, parts are standard such as the rear wing and splitter”.
TCR UK have a plan A and plan B when it comes to the race format of the series. Plan A will be to run the same pattern as the TCR International Series with practice, qualifying and two races. This can only work with 34 cars though as that is the maximum Brands Hatch Indy can run at once. If numbers go above 34 then the series will introduce heats and an A and B final. “We want to make sure everyone gets the same amount of races, it must be fair” explains Ashman. “We currently have over 40 teams on our mailing list from a wide range of current race series”.
This includes current British Touring Car teams of which Ashman is keen to point out TCR UK are not going into competition with. “BTCC teams which have been in touch with us have made it clear that they want to run cars with us as well as BTCC” explains Ashman.
“They already have the infrastructure in place so it makes sense for them to run on weekends when the BTCC is not racing. We are not competing with BTCC, we are further down the ladder, it is important we don’t clash with them”. Ashman goes on to say how positive he thinks the BTCC interest is. “I think we will be good for the BTCC as it will make the teams more economically viable”.
The calendar is yet to be announced but Ashman is keen to listen to many requests from fans to visit tracks which the BTCC do not, such as Castle Combe and Pembrey. “The fans are paying customers so it is important to listen to them and they are asking for us to visit some of the lesser known circuits so they can watch some touring car racing”.
The BRSCC will run the series and Ashman is happy for them to do this. “I’ve been out of the UK racing scene for a while so we needed them as they know the ins and outs of how UK racing works”.
The enthusiasm Jonathan Ashman has for touring car racing is evident. It will certainly be interesting if the already crowded UK racing calendar can accommodate another new series, but if other TCR series are anything to go by, it will be a huge success.