November 17th 2017. This day in particular will probably go down in motorsport history as one of great change. World Series Formula V8 3.5 (also known as Formula Renualt 3.5, but several years after Renault’s backing departed) was announced that their two races in Bahrain will be their last, whilst just a few meters further into the paddock, the FIA World Endurance Championship declared the results of their Global Fan Survey – with nearly 55 thousand replies. Furthermore, with Gordon Shedden taking pole position at the TCR International Series in his TCR debut, we could be seeing a lot more of the ever-growing touring car class, as it was suggested that TCR International Series and the struggling WTCC could merge, bringing Marcello Lotti full circle back to Eurosport’s series.
Whilst I’ll come back to the WEC’s survey in the next few days, it’s a shame that its single seater feeder series, World Series Formula V8 3.5, took the chequered flag for the final time this weekend. Starting out as
the World Series by Nissan, before spending time as the ever-popular Formula Renault 3.5 series before being rebranded in 2016, the series became famous for producing some of the best Formula 1 and other high-profile racing drivers of this generation. However, having seen the reaction from most of the motorsport community, it almost all said how good the series USED to be. Renault’s time with the series was fantastic, but in recent seasons, the championship has been a shadow of its former self. Even before it was announced that it’d be partnering the WEC the championship wasn’t in good health, and to be honest, the motor racing landscape has changed massively since Renault departed the scene. Where before it was one of a very few places that could provide a driver with the experience in a high downforce car, nowerdays drivers who would traditional take to a series like 3.5 have migrated over to LMP2/3, or even GT3, focusing on value-for-money, exposure, and drive availability. With a myriad of single seater series available now, before concatenating in the next few years, it’s unsurprising but a shame nonetheless. Let it rest in piece.
Speaking of a myriad of series concatenating, it’s as good a time as any to talk about the potential WTCC/TCR International Series merger. It’s ironic that the potential WTCC/TCR merger comes (literally) at a crossroads. Whilst the Workd Touring Cars thread their way through an ever tightening maze, TCR’s race in the (somewhat) middle of nowhere seems to highlight the biggest problems in the series. TCR, despite it’s growing popularity, is nothing on the international stage, whereas the WTCC has been taking wrong turns and crashing unexpectidely for nearly 8 years now. I’ve been re-watching the season review DVDs from 2006 to 2008, and one of the things that struck out to me was was the number of works cars! 6 SEATs, 6 BMWs, 2 or 3 Alfas, 3 Chevrolets and a couple of works Peugeots/Honda/Volvos in for good measure, along with a handful of privateer cars, it was fantastically close racing! Furthermore, that helped drive the renewal in the BTCC from 2006 onwards, as well as a few other series worldwide as ex-Works cars were easily and cheaply available. However, as we often see from Touring Car regulations, come the time that the regulations came to change, no-one agreed! WTCC went down the way of 1.6l turbo ‘global’ engines in S2000 chassis, BTCC ultimately went to the NGTC regulations with 2.0l turbo engines based off a road car block and common parts, other series were trying their ‘own thing’, so a need for consistency was in order. Enter TCR. Inspired by the success of GT3, TCR’s success has come from the fact the cars are cost-effective, and also re-usable across the world. Whilst the WTCC’s latest TC1 regulations are unsuitable for privateers due to their high cost, NGTC can also be deemed similarly unsuitable for world championship racing due to their lower tech specification, but TCR hits the sweet spot of privateer lead touring car racing. TCR International needs a bigger profile to really hit the limelight, and the WTCC needs a new ruleset. Could this be the way to go? Only one way to find out…
Photo c/o Antonin Vincent / DPPI / fiawtcc.com