MEDIA RELEASE/TCR Australia - Photos: Velocity Magazine THE SUPERCHEAP Auto TCR Australia Series has confirmed…
Amidst the usual post-round stories following the second round of the Shannons Speed Series at Phillip Island emerged a small thread of opinion pieces on the small grids.
Three stories in particular cast aspersions on the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia series marquee status in Motorsport Australia Shannons Speed Series amid perceptions on declining interest for the category.
“Another significant decision highlighted by the release of the Winton track schedule is that SpeedSeries organisers have resisted temptation to hand the surging Trans Am category the coveted end-of-day slot. While the TCR field has been limited to 13 cars so far this year, Trans Am has put on a superb show filled with high-quality racing,” one media outlet reported.*
Correct in reporting a 13 car grid in the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia field, one would be hard pressed to call the additional four Trans Am entries truly indicative of a ‘surging’ category.
Yes, the Trans Am races were action packed, though in all fairness, the vast majority of races across the Phillip Island weekend were also enthralling in their own right.
The S5000, Fanatec Australian GT, Trans Am and Supercheap Auto TCR Australia series had different race winners and podium finishers across the weekend.
Five different drivers stood on the podium in Trans Am, whilst there were 6 different faces that graced the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia podium.Reduced grid numbers are another point common across the Shannons Speed Series categories not just the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series.
17 Trans Am cars were entered for Phillip Island in 2023, whilst 27 cars appeared at the corresponding round twelve months prior. 21 TCR cars also competed at Phillip Island in 2022, compared to 13 in 2023.
This equates to a 39% reduction in TCR entries and 38% drop for Trans Am.
Reports that purport the rosiness and gloom of the categories achieves little more than sensationalism and risks pivoting an unnecessary instability within Australian motorsport as the industry continues the climb back to pre-COVID days.
Such stories also threaten the significant investments teams and sponsors have committed to the choice of racing and undermines attempts to draw further investment and sponsor opportunities into the sport.
They also demonstrate little regard to facts based on historical evidence.
Payce Consolidated’s CEO Brian Boyd’s provided the initial bankrolling for TCR and ARG, which secured Australia’s rights to a domestic TCR Series. Over proceeding years teams have moved towards independence with self-funded operations now the backbone of TCR Australia.
2023 has seen a change in the TCR landscape of a magnitude perhaps second only to the Repco Supercars Championship and their move into the Gen 3 era.
GRM, HMO Customer Racing, ASM, Wall Racing, MPC and Kelly Racing were tasked with the preparation on running of those first season cars. HMO, Customer Racing, MPC, GRM, ASM and Wall Racing still remain, while the rest of the field has become a wider mix of independent teams and customer operations.
17 cars embarked on the TCR Australia journey in 2019 at Sydney Motorsport Park and the series has hovered around that mark in each proceeding season.
The drop at the beginning of 2023 is as much about a change in the complexion of the TCR in Australia as opposed to a decline in relevance.
GRM shifted focus towards the Peugeot 308, winning the rights to develop the next generation of Peugeot TCR cars.
Their Renault Meganes have sat silent, while James Moffat moved into the Valvoline Trans Am Mustang seat vacated by Nathan Herne.
A trio or more of Alfa Romeo Giulettas also sit waiting in anticipation of sponsors as does a Hyundai i30 N TCR and a Honda Civic Type R or two.
APC’s Jay Hanson stepped up to the Dunlop Super 2 Series and Luke King followed the path of Brad Shiels from Hyundai i30 N TCR into the Porsche Paynter Dixon Porsche Carrera Cup.
These driver moves don’t undermine TCR, if anything it highlights the excellent grounding and exposure that the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series offers to aspiring professional drivers and teams.
Further signs of growth include a new marque and the return of another which epitomises the changing landscape of TCR.
Michael Clemente, Zac Soutar and Lachlan Mineeff are amongst those who have staked their motorsport futures on the success of the local TCR series. For Soutar and Clemente that stake has included the six figure costs in the purchase and importation of brand new cars for 2023.
Ashley Seward Motorsport has brought the Lynx and Co TCR 03 to Australia. The car, which has been at the forefront of TCR racing across the globe made its Australian debut ahead of the brand’s introduction to the Australian market in 2025.
Michael Clemente has brought the Cupra name back to Australia through his new partnership with the internationally based Carl Cox Motorsport.
Velocity Motorsport Magazine has heard that the TCR grid is set to grow by at least two cars at the upcoming Winton round, with more drivers expressing a desire to make their debut in the category at some point in 2023.
Another marque is also slated to enter the fray with the new Toyota Corolla GRS TCR, which made its racing debut in 2023, likely to find a home down under.
Finally there is the inaugural TCR World Tour, which is scheduled to run at Sydney Motorsport Park and the Bathurst International in November this year.
TCR teams met up during the Phillip Island Round where the category was discussed in detail, with series promotion a major point on the agenda.
Velocity Motorsport Magazine understands that management changes within the ARG network had caused some delays going into 2023, with the late release of the series calendar a case in point.
The TCR World Tour is viewed as ‘a jewel in the crown’ for TCR Australia, with 14 of the 17 permanent places on the tour now locked in. The local target is for a further 19 entries for the two rounds, with substantial television coverage, international teams and larger grids giving the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series a stronger footprint for 2024 and beyond.
It is theoretically possible that some of the international cars may remain on locally for 2024, while Australian drivers have the opportunity to race in international TCR competition.
Ben Bargwanna has already done that in 2023 and Will Brown has expressed an interest in following suit. The 2019 champion had been offered a drive as part of the Hyundai Customer Racing Young Driver initiative, mere months before the outbreak of Covid 19 scuttled those plans.
At least one other driver has been approached for international opportunities.
New cars, more entries, an international World Tour on our shores and international driver opportunities across the globe. The facts speak for themselves, TCR Australia is more incline than decline.
*(S5000 dropped from Winton free-to-air coverage – V8 Sleuth 18 May 2023).
All photos: Velocity Magazine
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