IMSA President Scott Atherton said they are moving ahead with plans of integrating the TCR platform into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, with the first cars to potentially debut by as early as next year.
Atherton and other IMSA executives met with TCR International founder and CEO Marcello Lotti during last month’s Roar Before the 24 for a series of meetings, aimed to work out a licensing deal for the emerging touring car platform.
“I would put it into a similar process of what we’ve done with Stephane Ratel. We’re going to go through the front door, as far as forging a relationship,” Atherton told Sportscar365.
“He has a very attractive platform that seems to be embraced by numerous manufacturers across a broad spectrum and becoming more of interest to even domestic manufacturers as well. That’s a good thing.
“We’re not there yet in terms of finalizing our plan but the dialogue continues and I think we’re in a good place there. We got along well.
“I think they were appreciative of the experience they had with us in Daytona and just understanding the IMSA organization and I would say the same was true from our perspective on getting to know them.
“He’s quite an interesting character in a good way. I think we can work well together.”
Should a deal be finalized, Atherton said he would expect a transitional period for TCR cars to be introduced into the existing ST class, before current ST cars are completely phased out.
He said the debut of TCR cars in the class could come as early as next year.
“We’re always sensitive to not obsoleting existing equipment and being careful with teams of not putting a financial burden on top of them that is untenable,” Atherton said.
“You are witnessing that in GS, in that both existing cars to the existing IMSA technical regs, as well as GT4 cars, are eligible.
“I would assume that we would take a similar approach with ST, in not having an absolute break point but an evolutionary process.
“Nothing’s final but ultimately the vision right now would be to evolve the ST technical regs to be consistent with TCR.”
With a significant increase in GS class machinery for 2017, courtesy of the introduction of SRO GT4 regulations, Atherton is wanting to take a proactive approach to ensuring the long-term health of ST.
“As we announced last August, the ST category, we believe, is an example of, ‘Don’t fix it unless it’s broken.’ But with that said, you don’t want to be reactive,” he said.
“I’ve been very candid in our perspective that I felt like we were reactive in addressing the GS situation.
“Ideally you’d like to be out in front if there is an evolution to come in the ST regs, to have a nice sensible transition so there’s not a peak and a valley but a continuation of car counts and team involvement.
“I think the grid we [had at Daytona], while some would say the numbers are off, we’re more focused in quality than quantity, and if you walked through the Continental Tire Challenge paddock, it’s a pretty impressive place.”