TCR Guru at the 2018 Autosport International Show…

During my recent visit to the 2018 Autosport International Show in Birmingham, I was finally able to get up close to some amazing TCR machinery and I also had the chance to speak to Mark James, who is part of the TCR Media Team.

Whilst at #ASI18 I enjoyed having a closer look at several TCR cars which included the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic TCR, SEAT Leon TCR, Opel Astra TCR. I have to say that having watched the TCR International Series on TV/Online for the past three seasons it was eye-opening to see these cars up close as I did.

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I have to say, first of all that the cars are bigger than they on TV. Obviously!

I was very impressed with the various cars, the technology used in them and also the various bodykits that have been developed by the Manufacturers to get every last piece of aero possible…and the fact that they all seem very similar as well.

Being a life long Vauxhall Touring Car fan, I have to say that the Japo Motorsport Astra was my favourite car to visit, however both the SWR Honda Civic and the Motorbase VW Golf are tied for second as they are both good looking cars. Apparently there were seven cars at the show so I seemed to have missed one somewhere…

Interview with Mark James…

Whilst at the 2018 Autosport International Show in Birmingham, I had the chance to speak to Mark James, who is part of the TCR Media Team and has commentated on the TCR International Series as well as working in the Pits/Paddock. I asked Mark about his thoughts on recent developments in the world of TCR.

How excited are you about the first season of TCR UK Series which starts in March?

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“So I have two answers for this question, First, Professionally: I think its great, with the UK being a very big and important Marketplace for Motorsport and its also a very big marketplace for many of the brands that you have in TCR. The fact that the likes of Audi, SEAT, Volkswagen and Hyundai to name a few are interested is great and its also the fact that the cars look very similar to what you see on the road every day.”

“As well as this the UK has a long history of Touring Car racing with the BTCC celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year as an example.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

“Secondly, Personally: I’m a Brit! I grew up spectating on the BTCC and working in Motorsport so I’m delighted to see a TCR Series come to the UK. However that said, it was never a priority 4 years ago to have a TCR Series in the UK. Marcello Lotti explained at the 2015 ASI that the priority was to bring TCR to countries that were struggling to establish a Touring Car Championship.”

“That’s definitely not the case in the UK and it was Jonathan Ashman (TCR UK Promoter and former FIA Touring Car President) who approached Marcello Lotti and explained that 2018 was the right year to have a TCR UK Series. Judging by the reaction and interest we’ve had, he was spot on with that thinking.”

There seems to be a lot of disagreement about where TCR UK fits in the UK Motorsport hierarchy, where would you say many should see this series in that hierarchy?

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“Quite simply we are a level below the BTCC. The TCR regulations fit in nicely under the NGTC regulations but are also an ideal next step for those drivers and teams who have competed in single make tintop categories as well.”

“We are in no way a threat to the BTCC, in effect we are a feeder series for it with budgets that are lower than its costs to run tin the BTCC. The cars are cheaper and slightly slower but this does allow for exciting racing.”

Are there any plans in place for TV Coverage and or Online Streaming for the TCR UK Series this year? TCR Racing is well known for its Online Streaming which has set it out from other Touring Car series around the world.

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“From the very first meeting I had with Jonathan Ashman last year in Monza, we’ve always said that the number one priority for this series is to have Live Streaming. It’s worked so well for TCR that its built the awareness for the various series around the world from zero to being an expectation of any TCR Series that Live Streaming is in place.”

“For example I can sit at home and watch TCR Russia, TCR Scandinavia, TCR China, TCR Asia or any number of TCR series. These series are being streamed either through the TCR Portal or on any number of Social Media Streaming sites such as YouTube or Facebook Live. In contrast to that, where Series have not embraced this type of coverage, there has been a negative response from fans and the like.”

With this in mind, have you been approached by interested parties to show TCR UK coverage online or on TV?

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“Fans expect to be able to have access to TCR Racing whether its online or through a Free to air TV Channel, but they also expect to have Free Access to the racing and that’s where the TCR UK Series wants to be as well. TCR UK will have the likes of Facebook, YouTube etc and we also talking about having TV Coverage in place as well. We have been approached by several interested parties who want to offer both Live coverage and Highlights coverage.”

“With the Tyre Partner announcement and the Suspension Partner announcement made at ASI, the last part of the jigsaw is the Coverage and this is the highest priority for myself as part of the TCR UK Series.”

Since the announcement of the creation of the TCR UK Series, what has been your reaction as a part of the WSC/TCR Team to the opinions and reactions from fans/drivers/teams on Social Media?

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“Its been quite an interesting actually. I have worked as a journalist and a broadcaster for many years in my career which has covered series like the FIA World Rally Championship and the FIA World Touring Car Championship and I’ve seen a lot as you might imagine.”

“However its been interesting to see the various reactions about the TCR UK Series since it was announced. I read on a Forum this week that the series was dead for example.”

(At this point Mark points towards the Motorbase VW Golf GTI TCR car parked on the BRSCC stand…)

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“Thats interesting news to myself and the organisers who are working so hard to get the final pieces in place as well as fielding the huge amount of interest we’ve had from drivers teams etc. We stand beside the Motorbase VW Golf GTI TCR car whcih is one of seven TCR cars at the show, so to read things like that is quite alarming.”

“Most people have been quite welcoming of there being a TCR UK Series and this includes race fans in the UK who on the whole, have welcomed another race series to the UK. There are those who are staunch supporters of their favourite series and that their right to support that series.”

Mark then goes on to talk about how much interest was received about the TCR UK Series at the BRSCC Stand at the Autosport International Show with various enquiries about how to join and also where to watch the series.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

“Generally speaking we have found that people have been very welcoming and very curious about the series. Certainly the conversation we have had at ASI with interested parties have been centred around how can they get involved and take part, where can they watch it, and its been a real eye opener.”

“As a series, we’ve decided that we won’t drip feed information about entries, however if the teams and drivers want to announce this themselves then that’s we’re happy to share and promote this news. The time for that is on Media Day on 6th March, having said that if Teams wish to contact us at TCR UK, we are happy to give an off the record account of whats happening but we won’t go public with any announcements until Media Day”

The recent change in the International Touring Car scene has seen the announcement that the TCR Europe Trophy has become a seven round series which is now TCR Europe Series and that the WTCC has changed to become the FIA World Touring Car Cup or WTCR. How do you feel that these changes will affect the TCR UK Series, if at all?

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“To be honest, all of the recent news could have an effect, however the teams that we have spoken with are very happy that they can use the cars in a business sense in more than one championship at the same time and that there are always other series that they can be raced in.”

“People are getting into TCR now because they realise that this type of car can be raced in more than one series, its not series specific machinery and it makes good business sense as you can make money with the car in almost all 12 months of the year.”

One of the benefits of having a TCR Regulation Touring car is that it can be raced anywhere in the world and there is a marketplace for them to end up racing anywhere with any team.

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The former Boutsen-Ginion Honda now run by SWR. Credit: Sean Walkinshaw Racing

“So a TCR car can end up having several owners whilst staying in competition. A TCR Car obviously has a used value and several teams for this season have purchased used TCR Cars from different series. So the cars are already on their second owners and they have the option of selling on the car to another team who could look at TCR Racing when they have completed their programme or time with that car.”

“Its also good business sense not only to have a Used TCR Car market but also the fact that these cars can be used in over 30 different TCR Championships around the world and also in Endurance racing as well. The Dubai 24 hours is taking place as we speak and there are up to 15 TCR Cars taking part there.”

To help promote the TCR UK Series, you’ve had the recent Test day at Brands Hatch and a lot of exposure of on Social Media. With the Entry/Registration period open for Teams and drivers to apply, do you feel that there is anything more that can be done to grow the Brand and awareness of the TCR Brands in the UK?

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“I’ll be honest, TCR has grown so staggeringly fast, I’m not sure what more we can do that hasn’t already spoken for itself. For some context, I wrote the first ever TC3 Press Release announcing the creation of the regulations.”

“When Marcello Lotti announced the TCR concept, that there was going to be a pyramid system of national series that led to Regional series and then led to The International Series, that we were going to race on the F1 support bill at three venues., there was a lot of scepticism and disbelief that he could pull it off.”

TCR International Series Malaysia, Sepang 27 - 29 March 2015

“Yet our first two races were at Sepang in Malaysia and Shanghai in China on the F1 Support Bill. What that proved is, if Marcello Lotti says its going to happen, he delivers on making that goal a reality.”

“To back this up, we are in the fourth year of the regulations and we have around 30 TCR Series around the world. We have 14 Car Brands represented around the world with more to come and we have several more TCR Series that are taking shape that have yet to be announced so we’re not stopping the expansion.”

“We’re getting the message out there and people who understand racing are giving us a chance and seeing TCR racing as a part of the bigger picture within the Domestic and International Touring Car scene. Watch the racing and give us a chance to show off what a great product we have.”

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As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the TCR Talk International Facebook Group & the TCR Talk UK Facebook Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Regional & Domestic TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

Please note that all images in this blog post are used courtesy of WSC / TCR International Series / TCR Middle East Series / TCR Europe Series / ADAC TCR Germany Series / TCR UK / FIA WTCC / Eurosport Events / BTCC.net

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

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