Change is constant in World Challenge says “PD,” as some call Cunningham: “Modern day, we have the upper echelon, factory-built automobiles that you buy and run on your own. Hitting the rewind button when we started (at RealTime Racing) 25 years ago, it was cars that you would build. Today, our TCR cars are factory-built, just like the GT3 (aka IMSA GTD).”
The International Motor Sports Ass’n is the other major TCR player in the U.S. Geoff Carter is an IMSA senior director.
“TCR as a platform in IMSA goes back to 2015 post-merger for what was then the Tudor SportsCar Championship,” Carter explained. “In GTD, or GT Daytona, IMSA decided to go with a global homologated platform and that was the GT3 cars. In 2015, GTD accepted a global homologated platform of GT3. What that did was it standardized the technical aspects of each car, so every Porsche, for example, was the same as every other Porsche.”
Ditto for all other makes. That same concept rolled over into TCR.
And that’s just part of the today’s touring cars.
“The complexity of taking road cars and making them race cars, the complexity and the cost kept growing just because of the way the safety systems are, the electronics, the air bags, the immobilizers,” Carter explained. “All of those things that became very difficult to make from a road application to a race application. What that meant was you had to take those out and put them back into the race car.”
That could easily add $60,000 to $80,000 in costs.
“The Continental series is now the Michelin Pilot Challenge,” Carter noted. “We have GS, which is GT4. At the end of 2018, this past season, was the end of the ST class, the Street Tuner class. Those cars were old, they were at the end of their lifecycle and the complexity of building new ones. How do you replace that class with that sort of price point and that sort of performance? TCR is a natural progression.”
Nick Galante won the last Continental Tire Challenge TCR championship. It was his second title, but his first in a BMW.
“We started out in Daytona, new car, new team,” Galante said. “Devin (Jones) and I had never driven the car. We went out and won that (a four-hour support race during the Rolex 24 At Daytona). The rest of the season was a hard-fought challenge.”
The Laguna Seca race was the high point.
“I think what turned our season around was our win at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca,” Galante added. “We had our Alzheimer’s charity (Racing to End Alzheimer’s) on the car. We were promoting the Alzheimer’s charity leading up to the race. We were collecting names from hundreds of people from all over the country (to vinyl wrap the car). When we unveiled the car and we went out and won the race with all the loved ones on the car … it was a turning point in the championship.”
Carter offers a peek into the future: “Manufacturers are getting on board. TCR is relatively new, certainly brand new in the States for us. IMSA is the North American franchise, so this is the first year for us here in North America.
“Pirelli World Challenge has implemented it as well,” Carter added. “As this concept migrates to North America and further into Asia, you’re going to see more North American manufacturers put homologated platforms together and join the current list of manufacturers.”
That’s great news and who knows, millennials could get lured away from their gaming consoles into the sunshine to watch the cars they compete at a nearby race track.