IMSA President Scott Atherton says recent team announcements that will result in the doubling of TCR manufacturers “adds to the momentum” the Michelin Pilot Challenge is enjoying heading into 2019.
The global touring car platform, which debuted in the then-named Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge this year, will see the addition of both Hyundai and Honda to the class next season, joining Audi and Volkswagen as approved models for IMSA competition.
IndyCar outfit Bryan Herta Autosport announced last week it will make its IMSA debut with Hyundai’s new Veloster N TCR car, which will also be made available to customers beginning early next year.
It came less than two weeks after longtime series entrants LAP Motorsports confirmed plans to field two Honda Civic Type-R TCRs, replacing its MINI JCW program after the sunsetting of the ST class.
With the likelihood of additional Hondas also on the grid for next year, Atherton is bullish on the future of TCR and Pilot Challenge, which returns into a two-class format for 2019.
“The announcements that came out around SEMA-time with Honda coming on board and now Hyundai, and really, the other big brand news is Bryan Herta Autosport joining, just adds to the momentum that’s already in place,” Atherton Told Sportscar365.
The new-for-2018 category largely saw involvement from teams campaigning Audi’s RS 3 LMS TCR cars which won the inaugural championship with Compass Racing’s Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long.
While car counts fluctuated throughout the season, more than a dozen TCR entries are expected in 2019, and Atherton believes additional manufacturers are also in the pipeline.
Mazda is known to be working on a TCR car, potentially for as early as 2020, while additional European-based models, including the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, could become eligible.
More than a dozen manufacturers currently offer cars to TCR specification globally.
“Kudos to Audi for being the first mover [in IMSA],” Atherton said. “Their market share in this category is undeniable.
“But there’s room for more. And I think it’s only a matter of time until there’s even more diversity, which is what everyone wants.
“Fans want it, we want it and there’s a lot of room in the TCR grid to jump in.”
IMSA Relying on WSC for TCR BoP
Atherton said IMSA plans to lean on TCR promoters World Sporting Consulting for the category’s Balance of Performance, amid the introduction of non-DSG cars to its class next year.
Both the Audi and Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR utilize direct-shift-gearboxes, which have caused BoP discrepancies with cars utilizing sequential gearboxes, such as the Honda and Hyundais.
“What’s the over-riding factor is that we’ve all agreed that we’re going to respect the TCR BoP,” Atherton said. “It’s only if there is a very significant, compelling reason to stray from that.
“The relationship we have with that organization is one of very mutually supportive. Part of that is our agreement to reflect their direction when it comes to BoP.”
IMSA introduced a more powerful engine map to the TCR cars competing in last weekend’s Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring, in anticipation of still being able to manage a performance separation to the GT4 class next year.