TCR is growing, and growing fast. Expanding at a rate similar to GT4 over the past few years, the still young touring car formula is seeing a great deal of new manufacturers develop cars, and existing ones release new models as the number of eligible series for TCR grows globally.
Now, DSC may not report on TCR races, and seldom covers touring car news, but TCR cars are beginning to enter the endurance sphere more and more as part of the series like VLN and 24H Series and events like the Nurburgring 24 Hours.
Last week in Dubai, there were no brand new GT cars to track (though some of the GT4 models were making their customer debuts), but there was a new TCR car on the grid. In 2017, Audi debuted its RS 3 LMS TCR at the race, and it impressed mightily, winning its class, adding to the car’s appeal which resulted in Audi Sport Customer Racing selling over 100 models during the year.
This year, it was Honda’s turn to use the Dubai 24 as a platform to test a new bit of kit, so DSC spoke to the owner of the new Civic Type R TCR in the race, Ricky Coomber, to find out more about the effort.
For the weekend, Coomber’s (and fellow racer Tom Gannon’s) team RKC/TGM (which has run at the Dubai 24 numbers times before this year) competed with the new JAS Motorsport-built Civic, which is the replacement for the outgoing Civic TCR which debuted in 2015 (and won 13 manor titles in 2017 alone), and will be available to customers this year.
Ensuring its debut was a positive one was a big task, the team having only completed a quick shakedown with the car in Milan prior to it being airfreighted to the circuit. Nevertheless the team, supported by six engineers from Honda and JAS Motorsport pushed on and managed to gather valuable data in its first race meeting.
“It wasn’t just the car’s 24-hour debut, it was its debut full stop,” Coomber explained to DSC. “Because of that, lots of things have been last minute, so to put in in a 24 might make people think we’re crazy, but it’s all a test for the car really. For us and JAS, it was a 50-50 venture, they kept an eye on things, which is great for us.
“It’s great to have Chassis #1, we purchased a car, but it was good to selected to run the first one.
“We did a very small test, a quick shakedown, in Milan before Dubai, but the weather was cold and it was nothing like it is in the Middle East.
It wasn’t just the car’s 24-hour debut, it was its debut full stop
“And even with that and one race under its belt the car has already proven how good it is. It’s very balanced, and has a lot of potential.
“The biggest difference is that the new car runs with independent rear suspension, whereas the older car ran beam suspension. That makes a lot of difference in the handling and performance. It’s the same powertrain and gearbox, but the chassis is slightly different. It’s all-round a more refined package.”
For the meeting, due to the car not being a fully homologated TCR car (running to the 2018 regulations), RKC/TGM ran it with 40kg of extra weight and a five percent power decrease. Despite that, and the fact that the team were focused on gathering data rather than showcasing its raw pace, it was still competitive.
“Everyone else was running to 2017 regs, and therefore with that change in BoP for us, they were on 40 or 50 more brake horse power than us. But we weren’t gunning for times anyway, it was all about getting as many laps in as possible.”
In the end the car ended up qualifying 12th in the TCR class and ran as high as sixth during the race, before debris out on track caused overheating issues with the radiator. That eventually forced the team to retire from the race officially with six hours to go, after completing 260 laps of the Dubai Autodrome.
“There was pressure on us, but that’s because the Dubai 24 was an important event milestone for JAS and Honda with the new car. They wanted to do an endurance race because JAS can gather more data in a 24 hour race than they can from a whole season of touring car sprint racing.”
And with its debut out the way now, and customer cars set to race around the world during the season, RKC/TGM will begin to focus on the remainder of its season, in which it will run in the 24H TCE Series, with assistance from JAS and Honda, with the aim of helping develop the car in its endurance form and score some positive results.
JAS can gather more data in a 24 hour race than they can from a whole season of touring car sprint racing
“We bought the car because TCR looks like it’s going to grow, we used to run the A3 class which has disappeared, so we’ve moved up and make the step,” he concluded.
“We want to do the full 24H series with this, get drivers on board and run the season out. We have other cars that we run in other series, but this is our new Creventic 24H Series car. I can’t wait to see what it can do once it’s fully up to speed.”