With IMSA planning to introduce TCR into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge by as early as 2018, a number of current series manufacturers, including Mazda, have begun initial investigations into building cars for the emerging touring car platform.
The Japanese manufacturer, which is currently represented in the series with the Mazda MX-5 in ST, could opt for a new direction with a five-door hatchback model in support of IMSA’s proposed new class, according to Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan.
“We haven’t ever done TCR but we are definitely researching it and seeing what it would take,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “But I think it would be a pretty expensive venture to start at ground zero and develop a car.
“I haven’t crawled around one of those cars yet. IMSA said they may have one of them on display at Petit Le Mans. I think we’ll do our due diligence and see.”
The platform, created by former WTCC boss Marcello Lotti, has grown in popularity since its debut last year, with championships around the world, including in Europe, Asia and a new series in Central America that’s set to launch this fall.
Doonan said his initial findings point towards using a Mazda3 hatchback, should they decide to go the TCR route.
“That’s the car we have in play,” he said. “The Mazda2 is too small and we don’t bring that to U.S. any more. So the Mazda3 would the sweet spot.
“It’s a big volume car, so from a marketing perspective, we could leverage that for sure.”
Should a green light be given on a Mazda3 TCR car, it wouldn’t be the first four/five-door model the manufacturer has raced professionally in North America, as MazdaSpeed3s previously competed in the Continental Tire Challenge ST class.
However, the MazdaSpeed3 (pictured above), was largely a production car, modified by individual teams to race, a concept that would be eliminated with the mass-produced, purpose-built TCR platform.
“The foundation of our program is grassroots and what TCR does is take away the chance for a guy or a gal and a team to build their own race car,” Doonan said. “It’s tough. I understand the wish to keep rules easy to administer.
“[TCR] pretty neat but we have some research to do. We’ll do that over the next few months and decide. And it would take a year of development to do it right so that’s why the cost goes up.”
Doonan said there are other options also on the table for the series, although a final direction has not yet been determined.
“Our current program, we love the MX-5,” he said. “The cars we run now are obviously the previous generation. We’re in a funny position right now not knowing what we will run in CTSC going forward.
“The fourth-generation MX-5, just based on horsepower and weight… you don’t just pop a hard-top on it and go because it’s not going to be able to compete, especially at long circuits. So that’s a tough one.
“We’d maybe have to beg for a powertrain change and that’s not something we’d necessarily want to do from a marketing perspective.”
Mazda’s experience with mass-producing its new-for-2016 Global MX-5 Cup car, which more than 100 have already been built so far, could help provide the confidence and infrastructure to ramp up a potential TCR project, Doonan said.
“With the Global MX-5 Cup car, we have built a system of delivering a turn-key race car,” he said. “We’ve proven that we can now do that.
“But all of a sudden, the dollar figures go up and I suspect the volume of car sales may not be as much as MX-5 Cup because of the price point.”