Mazda has “continued to pursue” a possible TCR project, according to Motorsports Director John Doonan, who indicated that a timeline to offer a car for the global touring car-based platform is likely dependent on the manufacturer’s production car cycle.
TCR will be introduced into the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge next year as an eventual replacement to the ST class, which the Japanese manufacturer has largely supported through customer Mazda MX-5s, and previously MazdaSpeed3s (pictured above).
Speaking on this week’s Sportscar365 Double Stint Podcast, Doonan reiterated their interest in the platform, admitting it would be “a really intriguing next step” for Mazda and particularly in growing its “Road to 24” driver program.
“We’ve had our eyes on it,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “I love those cars, personally. From all angles we’ve participated there, whether it was World Challenge over the years or the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, we like that space.
“We’ve actually leveraged that space in our driver development program and we’ve also leveraged that space to give our customers a chance to race.
“Growing from grassroots racing to MX-5 Cup to TCR, or a format like that, is a really intriguing next step for us.”
Should a TCR project get the green light, it’s likely to be based on the manufacturer’s Mazda3 model, which is due for a redesign in the 2019 model year.
The all-new Mazda3, which is set to go on sale next year, is rumored to feature revolutionary a Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engine, a sparkless ignition system aimed to increase efficiency.
Whether the new technology would be legal per TCR regulations remains unclear, although Doonan stressed that a potential new race car must have road relevance.
“What we’re doing on the race track has to tie to the road cars,” he said.
“Based on the other cars that are in TCR globally right now, the Mazda3 platform, which has been an outstanding volume model for Mazda over the globe, that would be ideal. Unfortunately we can’t commit anything yet.
“We just have to work with our R&D team, our global marketing folks and North American marketing folks, so that everything we do is aligned, engine and powertrain and the vehicle platform itself.
“We want to make sure in the cycle plan of launching a new road car that a TCR program would be aligned with that.”
Doonan said the TCR regulations, which mandates mass-produced cars from a single licensed builder per manufacturer, is another selling point, particularly on the heels of the success of its Global MX-5 Cup car.
More than 160 Global MX-5 Cup cars have been sold since its launch last year, in a manufacturing project run by Long Road Racing.
“Frankly, based on the success we’ve had with the global MX-5 Cup car, a single builder for a homologated car around the world, TCR is something we’re going to continue to pursue.
“I hope some day, relatively soon, we can either make an announcement about our plans or have a more firm grasp on what our strategy is going to be there. It’s definitely intriguing.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report