If you told someone the Chevy Cruze was a bad-ass race car, they may wonder what you’ve been smoking. But we’re here to tell you there’s a 380-horsepower Chevy Cruze that kicked butt in the British Touring Car Championship.
The Cruze is part of the touring car racing evolution that includes BMW, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Vauxhall, to name a few. Unfortunately, the hot rod Cruze will never appear on our shores. GM brass didn’t think such a car would be popular here, opting instead for a more “luxury” design.
Touring Car racing has been wildly popular around the world for years. The British Touring Car series has raced “tintops” since 1958 and the German DTM since 1976. The modern TCR series races worldwide and is just establishing a foothold in the United States. The cars closely resemble those on the road, but don’t be fooled by their appearance. They are not “showroom stock.” They are purpose-built race cars.
The competition is fierce. These guys play for keeps. Every lap looks like the last lap of a NASCAR race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with all the pushing and shoving that makes for an exciting race.
Ali Arsham is the managing director of the United States Touring Car Championship. He gave us some background on TCR that began in 2010.
“The guy who started it was Marcello Lotti. He was in charge of the World Touring Car Championship,” Arsham explained. “It was the biggest and the baddest touring car championship in the world.”
Racers are hard wired for “bigger, better, faster.” That, coupled with TCR’s skyrocketing popularity, created the inevitable Cubic Dollar Syndrome.
“As these series get bigger it’s like a double-edged sword, it gets more expensive, more competitive and less people can afford it. It grows, grows, grows and drops. People say. ‘I can’t afford this, I’m out,’” Arsham added.
The situation went from bad to worse when the manufacturers and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile joined the party.
“Everybody wants to have the baddest-ass car,” Arsham noted. “So the cars keep getting more expensive and more expensive. In 2011, a WTTC car would cost $500,000. By 2013, it was $750,000. It was to the point that Honda was involved and even Honda couldn’t keep up, let alone the privateers.”
After leaving the FIA, Marcello Lotti thought of the Touring Car Racing concept because SEAT (a Volkswagen European brand) had a really nice car and they were running the SEAT Cup.
“If you want a Volkswagen, you go to Volkswagen Motorsports and buy a car and the price is around $100,000,” Arsham said. “Now, it’s relatively affordable. So at the beginning (of TCR racing) it was SEAT, Volkswagen, Honda.”
The same car can race anywhere in the world. The only difference may be the tires.
The Pirelli World Challenge has the longest TCR history in this country and RealTime Racing’s Peter Cunningham leads the Honda contingent. RealTime driver Ryan Eversley won the 2018 championship, a feat of which Cunningham is very proud.
“It makes 15 World Challenge championships, 15 World Challenge drivers’ championships. I’ve won seven World Challenge championships on my own for RealTime,” Cunningham noted.