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The curtain has drawn on the fourth season of TCR Australia. Buoyed by the arrival of the TCR World Tour, it tempered the raft of changes, speculation and cynicism that had permeated across the category.

TCR’s stature within the Motorsport Australia promoted Shannon Speed Series, has quite literally plummeted from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Launched as the jewel in the newly formed Australian Racing Group (ARG) crown, the series ran just shy of twenty cars for a $250,000 prize purse in its 2019 debut year.

Grid sizes rose marginally post COVID in 2021 and 2022, as newer Gen 2 models replaced a portion of the ageing, less fancied Gen 1 pioneers.

In 2023 those numbers dropped thirty-three percent.

It was not a phenomenon isolated to just TCR. It was indeed symptomatic of many ARG managed categories, with Trans-Am, TCM and S5000 also experiencing similar declines.

During a recent category zoom meeting, Motorsport Australia announced that TCR Australia would no longer receive headline status. The honour would be distributed between TCR, Trans Am, AGT and the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge.

The Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series heads into the Christmas break sitting on the brink.

Be that the brink of a wave of World Tour inspired success, or a further grid implosion as disillusioned drivers continue to turn their backs on the TCR platform, is anyone’s guess.

TCR is akin to an Everest climber, struggling for breath on the edge of a precipice.

Given direction and due diligence, there’s plenty to suggest that it will succeed.

The task shouldn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the ARG. Motorsport Australia, as the parent rights holder and Shannons Speed Series promoter, has to take a more active, nurturing role. TCR teams also have a responsibility to protect their vested interests in capital acquisitions and business ventures.

It is quite simply a case of all or none.

Statistically, the category has great potential for a commercially viable operation.

The series is underpinned by the strong foundations laid out by World Sporting Consulting Limited (WSC), the creators and owners of TCR globally.

History shows that the 2022 Supercheap Auto TCR Series had been one of the most closely fought in Australian motorsport;

  • Eleven drivers won at least once across the twenty races.
  • Victories were distributed amongst four of the seven marques represented.
  • Audi won six times, Peugeot and Honda five, while Hyundai notched up four.
  • Just two race wins separated the top 5 drivers in the driver’s championship at the season’s end.

The TCR platform created by the WSC is a marketing goldmine for those rich in foresight, prepared to forgo the quick dollar in preference of a sustainable long-term success.

An alliance between WSC and the FIA, announced on 15 December 2023, sees the TCR World Tour and World Ranking Final aligned to the FIA World Motorsport group for the next three years.

TCR boasts no less than 22 different models across their racing stable; cars that bear a direct resemblance and relevance to road-going siblings.

Unlike Carrera Cup or GT categories, these road-going sedans and hatches are not restricted to society’s elite, they sit within the income means of the middle class masses.

In Australia, hatches and small sedans account for approximately 30% of total passenger car sales. (MarkLines Automotive Industry Portal August 2023).

TCR linked marques, including the Toyota Corolla and the Hyundai i30 topped the sales figures in the under $40,000 category, while the Volkswagen Golf and Subaru WRX sat first and third respectively in the higher priced small passenger car market (VFACTS August 2023).

Over 50% of car owners under 25 years of age own these vehicles (Budget Direct Australian Car Sales and Statistics June 2022).

The return of the CUPRA brand and impending arrival of Lynk and Co on Australian shores heralds new rivalries and increased competition for a sustainable market share in the hot hatch and small car market.

Dealership and importer relationships with teams offer bilateral benefits given proactive marketing and promotion.

The old adage of ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,’ still rings true when appropriately applied.

Marketing and promotion relies on a strong sense of identity and direction.

These two factors are essential to business success which is amiss with TCR Australia, where one struggles to identify either the market or long term plan for the local version of the category.

Is it targeted to the youth culture? The gentleman racer?  Some non-binary cohort?  Drivers with unlimited talents stymied by budget? Or perhaps former champions reaching a racing twilight zone?

It is a rather thick smog of uncertainty that has enveloped TCR Australia since season one. It pretty much summarises the range of driver who piloted a TCR car that year.

There’s no real plan in place to support the growth of TCR Australia it’s more of a leave it to see what happens approach.

You unfortunately tend to reap what you sown.

Marcello Lotti, President of WSC and the man behind TCR, is in no such quandary as to the TCR market.

Lotti recently described the category as a youth focussed pathway. Particularly those drivers who had reached a motorsport impasse where talent had outgrown their budget.

“Get local car dealerships to run their TCR brand and support young drivers in the process,” Lotti exclaimed during a media briefing at Bathurst.

Formula One is out of reach for all bar the exceptionally talented driver or ridiculously rich. That same philosophy is also increasingly applicable to the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup and our domestic Supercars championship.

TCR Racing provides the opportunity for young drivers to showcase their talent on a world stage and for a place in junior driver development program.

There is also the carrot of a pot of gold at the 2024 TCR World Ranking finale.

There is no other category where the Ben Bargwanna’s of this world can compete at Bathurst one weekend and then Macau the next.

Marcello Lotti specifically mentioned Bargwanna as the example TCR set out to achieve.

French driver Lilou Wadoux-Ducellier graduated from TCR competition to the World Endurance Championship. Will Brown claimed the inaugural TCR Australia title and has become a star in the Repco Supercars Championship.

In a world where dollars talk, it keeps the motorsport dream alive for the working class.

So where has it all gone wrong?

In many ways it all boils down to dollars and sense.

ARG were initially privy to Payce Consolidated support. That line of credit secured the category management rights, a first season prize purse and the gaggle of cars from Opel, Volkswagen, Subaru, Renault Alfa Romeo that composed most of the 2019 grid.

The anticipated influx of cashed-up drivers simply didn’t arrive.

Last minute bargain rates and ‘guest’ appearances in third party sponsored cars became the order of the day.  The ARG haggled deals to maintain consistent grid numbers and generate an income stream.

Financial stability had been the bedrock behind the ARG activity across those early years. That mantra proliferated in the post-Payce era, as they sought to feed an increasingly ravenous machine.

The move to the Stan streaming platform in 2022 provided a temporary financial respite and some joy, though competitor reaction to the change was muted at best.

Disgruntled teams labelled the decision shortsighted from their perspective, with the move to a smaller subscriber base less conducive to sponsor expectations and produced no financial benefit.

Fans who had been drawn to TCR through free-to-air coverage were reluctant to take up the pay TV option and lost touch with the category.

That scenario played out in much the same way when Supercheap Auto took over as the naming rights sponsor from

Whilst it was reportedly another multi-million dollar deal for TCR Australia there was little that filtered down to the teams.

After the 2019 winner-take-all prize package, there has been no prize money other than the pole award. Nothing for round winners, series champion or team’s champion.

It’s Just another trophy for the cabinet.

Sub section 12.1.1 of the TCR Australia Sporting Regulations mentions the provision of prizes, trophies and awards, as “Will be as determined by the Category Manager.”

Assurances had been given to teams that a revenue stream would eventually trickle down in what was reportedly the ARG’s five year plan.

That loyal patience from teams did little to support their cause and normalised the status quo.

Motorsport Australia personnel attached to TCR Australia and event staff quite rightly receive renumeration across a race weekend, as do ARG staff and commentators.

In essence, the overseers of the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia series see a financial return from a race meeting, whilst those who provide the actual racing don’t.

In reality, teams and drivers experience the opposite end of the spectrum. Costs upwards of $35,000 per round are common, especially for those seeking a turn-key drive in a race winning team.

Contrast that situation with the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series. It is clearly a youth culture market for those looking to make their mark in local motorsport, many taking their first steps in the transition from karting.

The 86 series offers national exposure through strategic placements across Repco Supercars and Shannons Speed Series rounds. Ryan Casha won the 2023 series and a $50,000 prize. Runner-up Campbell Logan took home $30,000 and third placed Cody Burcher received $15,000.

In 2024 the move to the new GR86 chassis costs around $90,000, with $10,000 per round mooted as a workable budget.

Competitors are drawn to the series through the category’s strong business plan, which targets a specific market with high exposure dovetailed to the nation’s major motorsport drawcard.

Competitors can confidently prepare marketing proposals to potential sponsors. The extensive Supercars media footprint provides a further lure for sponsors as does the relatively large spectator presence at the track.

Demand for the new GR86 has exceeded supply, with some rumours of profiteering as drivers seek to find a place on the grid in 2024.

The 2023 series ran with over thirty cars each round, while the scholarship feeder series fielded a further thirty cars at their final round.

The Supercheap Auto TCR Australia series also offers support for young drivers, a fact that is little known by most and is rarely publicised.

Take a closer look at the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series honour roll and you will find that first three 86 series winners all progressed to TCR Australia as the next step in their motorsport career.

Jimmy Vernon ran an Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR, Tim Brook drove both the Honda Civic Type R and the CUPRA, while Will Brown won the inaugural series in the HMO Customer Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR. He then returned to TCR racing in 2022 and 2023 with the LIQUI MOLY Audi A3 TCR.

Section S12.13 of the sporting regulations covers the Kumho Rookie of the year Award. Open to drivers under the age of 21, they must be in their first full major season of competition and have participated in all seven championship rounds.

No driver met those requirements in 2023 and what that award may have been in any case was anyone’s guess.

Perhaps another trophy?

The global TCR platform offered by WSC and Marcello Lotti is a lure unrivalled in Australian motorsport; the opportunity for talent, not dollars, to shine.

With so few places available within the Supercars hierarchy, not to mention the costs, TCR Australia should be the next rung in the ladder for the budget conscious driver.

History has shown that a season of TCR provides an excellent avenue in which to sharpen race craft.

Tony D’Alberto finished on the podium at the 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000 after a season in TCR, Aaron Cameron ran amongst the Dunlop Super 2 regulars on debut, while Will Brown and Chaz Mostert’s dual campaigns in Supercars and TCR brought success for both.

Promote the Kumho TCR Australia Rookie award. Perhaps open the criteria and give out prize money representative of that given to the Toyota Gazoo Racing 86 Series. You will then have more interest in TCR Australia.

Spend a dollar wisely and make two…

Costs and revenue stream is not the only matter that has TCR Australia competitors concerned. It is where those dollars are, or more pointedly aren’t, spent.

The declining grid is not the core issue, it is symptomatic of the lack of a formulated business plan.

Technical and Sporting regulations provide the nuts and bolts of how to run the series, a business plan describes the means to meet the needs of teams, drivers and sponsors alike.

Lisa Totani, ARG’s new category manager for the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series, has already provided some forward momentum in her first weeks on the job.

Totani has spoken with teams and brought a new entrant on board for 2024. 99 Motorsport intend to enter the series with the ex-Chaz Mostert series winning Audi RS3 TCR.

On paper it sounds like a much needed upswing for the category, in reality it may change little.

At best, the Audi will cover the loss of Justin Mineeff’s similar car from 2023. Conversely, it may simply have moved the car from one workshop to another.

You see, 99 Motorsport have purchased the car to field a paying driver.

Hark back to 2019 and the gaggle of cars that arrived on our shores.

There are no shortage of TCR cars sitting in workshops along the East Coast, including some of those fore mentioned Gen 1 cars.

Marcello Lotti spoke of plans afoot to help expand local numbers for 2024 in his Bathurst media briefing.

Given global shortages for Gen 2 TCR cars, which has stymied attempts to bring additional Hyundai i30 N TCR Sedans and the Lynk and Co into Australia, the WSC has released plans for a Gen 1 Trophy Class within the 2024 Technical Regulations.

It followed an earlier announcement from the British TCR Championship of a similarly styled Gen 1 Trophy class, to run alongside the current specification cars in 2024.

Fabio Ravaioli, WSC Communications Manager cast further light on the Trophy class concept in a exclusive conversation with Velocity Motorsport magazine.

He revealed that a BOP adjustment in the TCR Technical Regulations for these earlier vehicles was imminent.

Ravaioli specifically identified the Subaru WRX TCR as well as the Volkswagen Golf GTi, Renault Megane and the Audi RS3 TCR (DSG) as some of those cars to receive a second life.

The Golf and WRX sit one and three in small car sales for the over $40,000 Australian market and enjoy a cult following amongst Gen Z and Zoomers alike.

It sounded like an excellent move from a marketing and promotion perspective.

Australia have a couple of WRXs with Milldun Motorsport.

Or at least we did.

ARG sold them.

To England…

Whilst the impending changes are too late for the Subaru, it is hoped that such a move may entice former drivers such as Mineeff, who owns both a DSG Audi and Golf GTi, to consider a return to the series.

The task for Ms Totani is difficult indeed and has already proven to beyond the expertise of those before. An old hand, a veteran with a proven record of success, would be a much welcome voice in a rookie’s ear.

And there is no better voice than Craig Denyer.

He has overseen motorsport promotions and category management for more than a quarter of a century, guiding V8 Utes to Australia’s most loved support series.

Procar, Nations Cup and the Bathurst 24 Hours have also had the Denyer ‘Midas touch’ applied, finding the right balance between participant and profit.

To Denyer, drivers, teams, spectators and sponsors are the customers of his trade. Serve them well and you have a business that stands the test of time.

It is a mantra that would well serve the ARG and Motorsport Australia

TCR Australia’s future existence is dependent upon increases in both interest and participation.

That means a greater awareness of the TCR product, more cars, more followers and more sponsors.

A return to the Seven Network is a positive move by Motorsport Australia for all categories across the Shannons Speed Series.

It also needs the input from successful business people, not just those with success within the sport.

Barry Morcom’s HMO Customer Racing is a case in point.

Morcom has created a multi-million dollar empire with his Direct Plaster Outlets (DPO). Having started in the building trade, Morcom realised an opportunity, took a calculated gamble and exceeded all expectation.

He applied that same business sense in the establishment of HMO Customer Racing. Run by Rob Benson and Scott Fulcher, it has been the most successful entity in TCR Australia to date, having collected two driver championships and a treble of team titles.

Morcom took a punt on Will Brown and won both the driver and teams championship in 2019. That led a previously reticent Hyundai Australia to take notice.

Over the ensuing three years that relationship has strengthened through sponsorship and cross promotional activations.

Displays at the 2023 Yokohama World Time attack with both TCR and road going Hyundai examples and the highly successful N Experience were just two such activities.

The N Experience brought 120 cars and many novice motorsport fans to the race track. It provided a marketing opportunity that that money alone couldn’t buy. It benefitted Hyundai Australia, HMO Customer Racing, Shannons Speed Series and Motorsport Australia.

It is this type of brand activation that is now sorely missed from TCR meetings.

And it is here where the teams themselves need to act.

The promotion of TCR Australia has been a constant source of irritation.

That din of discontent has grown, ringing alarm bells that can no longer be ignored.

When team owners met with ARG’s Liam Curkpatrick and Ben McMellan at Phillip Island in May, it was reported that the pair best described the TCR promotional activities of 2023 as ‘slack’.

The TCR World Tour had been seen as the priority and the potential catalyst for change.

That ‘steady as she goes’ approach from ARG, did little to appease disgruntled team owners, who feared that their substantial investment in Gen 2 TCR cars and new sponsors would go to waste.

An Entrant’s Group had purportedly been formed at that meeting, offering a collective representation to the ARG and input into the future direction of TCR Australia.

Yet none of the major teams; Wall Racing, MPC or HMO Customer Racing knew the names of those involved.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “ A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

A united Entrants Group can bring positive changes to seemingly impassable situations.

Every team has their own thoughts on what is needed for the promotion of TCR Australia.

New car dealership displays, Show and Shine competitions, merchandise alleys with after market accessories, apparel and collectables are just some of the suggestions that have been put forward.

They would create a hive of activity across the paddock and much needed colour for a free-to-air broadcaster.

The Yokohama World Time Attack, as pointed out recently by Roland Dane, is the marketing model that TCR Australia needs to consider.

A race meeting planned around one-off specials, steered by a range of drivers from Supercar stars to weekend warriors, somehow managed to attract 35,000 spectators over two and a half days at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Get it right and people will come.

Crowd filled events like the WTA spruik success across television screens and becomes a magnet for future sponsors.

A Motorsport Australia initiative for a female driver, or an all-girl team under the FIA Girl’s On Track program would be another marketing gem, given the prevalence of women in the small vehicles market.

Chelsea Angelo in TCR Australia

Add a proactive school program with classroom resources, school visits and free student passes to local rounds fosters the new generation of supporters.

The key word here is free.

You can’t saddle a colt and expect it to perform. It needs time to develop before it can handle the load.

And this is where Motorsport Australia, the ARG and the teams need to pull together. Create a business plan that finances and puts the best ideas into action.

Free tickets through school based programs, free tickets to entrants in the show and shine, free space for dealer and importer displays, free space for merchandisers to display their products.

Create a living, breathing environment where the cracked bitumen resides across a race weekend.

A space teeming with people, a market of trading, selling and establishing new links.

Most importantly, you will create an environment where people and businesses will come to relate to and appreciate TCR Australia.

Do that and businesses will want to be a part of a flourishing TCR. Once the value of the product is established you can start talking about dollars and sense.

Quite frankly, it is all part of Lotti’s vision.


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