Over the past six months, there has been talk of a new Touring Car series to be launched in 2015 by former FIA World Touring Car Championship boss Marciello Lotti and in recent weeks, there is now an air of certainty to this.
The name of the series, I hear you ask?
The TC3 International Series.
Since the announcement of the series website launch in September we now have an idea of the series Regulations, Sporting Regulations and Calendar. To add to the International series, there will be a TC3 Asia series and a series run to the TC3 regulations in Portugal. So there is progress in the works.
Now before we go further, please do not think that this is in anyway linked to the FIA's current ranking of cars used in the World Touring Car Championship, The European Touring Car Cup and any domestic series still using Super 2000 TC2T/TC2 regulation cars.
TC3 is based on the idea of the GT3 catergory used in Sportscars racing where a set of regulations is in place to allow different types of cars to compete on a level playing field, using a system that balances out any advantages that different cars have using success ballast. The regulations are also designed to allow the championship to be an entry level series with the aim being that TC3 can be the next step up on the ladder from domestic Touring Car Championships to then move on to either the FIA European Touring Car Cup or the FIA World Touring Car Championship, hence its appeal.
So, what are the regulations for the cars I here you ask? Well here are the main details:
Eligible cars: WSC list for 4/5 door saloons.
Body shell: Reinforced production shell with wheel arch modifications allowed to accommodate tyres.
Minimum length: 4200 mm.
Maximum width: 1950 mm.
Engine: Turbocharged petrol or diesel engine up to 2.0 litres. Only one engine is allowed for an entire season and use of more than one engine will result in grid penalties.
Torque: Circa 410 Nm.
Power: Circa 320 bhp.
Traction: Two-wheel drive only.
(Front Wheel Drive and Rear Wheel Drive)
Gearbox: Production or TC3 International Series sequential, production paddle shift also accepted.
Front suspension: Production lay-out, parts free design.
Rear suspension: Original design of production car with reinforced components.
Front: Maximum of six-piston calipers with a maximum diameter of 380 mm. Rear: Maximum of two-piston calipers.
Front splitter: 2014 SEAT León Eurocup. Rear wing: FIA Appendix J Article 263 2014.
Ground clearance: Minimum 80 mm.
Power-to-weight ratio: Subject to the WSC Balance of Performance.
Now, with regards to this list of regulations that the cars must conform to, there is a list of cars provided by the series that are eligible to race:
The Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG.
The SEAT León Cup Racer.
The Volkswagen Golf R GTi.
The Ford Focus ST.
The Honda Civic Type-R.
The Opel Astra OPC.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV.
The Hyundai Veloster.
The Nissan Pulsar GTI-R.
The Renault Mégane R.
The Audi S3 and etc.
Now for those of you that are regular Touring Car fans, some of those cars will be familiar with the Audi, Honda and Ford models already used in NGTC guise in the BTCC whilst the UK based Volkswagen cup already sees capacity grids that include the VW Golf. So the series is designed to attract cars that can be easily modified to the regulations and allow people to go racing...on an international level.
With rising costs being cited as a major issue in motorsport at the moment, (cough *Marussia/Caterham* cough) this is a good idea. Over the winter, there were various teams and drivers who were WTCC stalwarts that just couldn't afford to buy the new TC1 cars and left the series to go elsewhere.
The TC3 International series has also confirmed its Sporting Regulations regarding race length, points scored per position etc:
The series will feature a qualifying format split into two parts. Q1 will be 20 minutes (or 30 on street circuits) open to all competitors, whilst Q2 will be 10 minutes (or 15 on street circuits) where the top twelve from Q1 are allowed to compete.
The grid for race one is based on the combined Q1 and Q2 results, whilst the grid for race two is to be determined based on the reverse order of the top ten in Q2, as the current WTCC race two grid is determined.
Each event will consist of two races of 60 km in length, both of which will feature a standing start.
Success ballast will be apportioned to the top three drivers from the previous meeting in the order of 30kg, 20kg and 10kg respectively.
Championship points will be awarded to the top ten drivers in each race in the following format:
1st: 25 points
3rd: 15 points
4th: 12 points
5th: 10 points
6th: 8 points
7th: 6 points
8th: 4 points
9th: 2 points
10th: 1 point
Points will also be given to the top five drivers after qualifying:
Pole Position: 5 points
2nd Position: 4 points
3rd Position: 3 points
4th Position: 2 points
5th Position: 1 point.
Now seasoned fans of the WTCC will recognise the FIA points system, the Qualifying points system, Qualifying format and race length from last years format, however that just speaks if the old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Which seems to be Lotti's thinking as well.
Now all this information has led to several teams declaring their intent to compete in the series next year:
Team Target Competition, who are SEAT Leon Eurocup regulars, will run several SEAT Leon Cup Racers.
Paolo Coloni has recently announced his Coloni Racing outfit will compete whilst Onyx Race Engineering will build several Ford Focus ST's after abandoning the Ford Fiesta TC1 WTCC attempt.
To add to this Scandinavian Touring Car Team WestCoast Racing announced last week that they would enter three JAS built Honda Civic Type-R's as well.
All this confirms that teams who are serious about their tintop racing see TC3 as an alternative option to the current TC1 WTCC regulations, adding in the entry level, cheap build regulations on offer to allow drivers and teams to make a start on the Touring Car ladder and progress up into other championships.
Now to throw in more detail, the 2015 TC3 International Calendar has been confirmed:
29 March: Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
19 April: Shanghai International Circuit, China
3 May: Valencia Ricardo Tormo, Spain
10 May: Portimao, Portugal
24 May: Monza, Italy
31 May: Salzburgring, Austria
21 June: Sochi, Russia
26 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina
9 August: Codegua, Chile
20 September: Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore
25 October: Buriram, Thailand
TBA November – TBA
The TBA date in November is expected to be Macau, which is due to lose its finale spot in the WTCC Calendar in 2015. Five of the venues are active Grand Prix tracks with three of those taking place on actual Grand Prix weekends, giving good exposure alongside GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup support package.
So it all seems to look quite positive so far and the TC3 International Series will be a championship I will be keeping an eye on next year as well as it blossoms and develops further. However whilst it may have reminders of the Super 2000 age of the WTCC with the Build Regulations and Sporting Regulations, thats not such a bad thing. There has always been close racing in the WTCC and theres nothing to say this wont be the same in TC3 as well.
I hope this has been helpful to you all and over the coming months I will keep you updated with all the releases from the series, regarding Teams and Drivers.
All the best!