Because of the Coronavirus outbreak, the motorsports industry came to a halt. And such events require a large number of crew members and crowds, so it is only natural to worry about the current epidemic. But we cannot stay this way forever. First of all, F1 has a new plan, starting with Austria, and circle the European continent first, which is more ideal and practical. And at the WRC, which resumed its season in Estonia on September 4 for three days, Hyundai’s Ott Tanak won the race. And now it’s WTCR.
Positioned at the top of the touring car race’s pecking order, the WTCR is a global arena for race cars based on mass-produced models. In the inaugural 2018 season, BRC Racing Team’s Gabriele Tarquini took the driver championship with Hyundai’s very own i30 N TCR, while the Yvan Muller Racing Team, likewise with the i30 N TCR, took the team championship, giving Hyundai the double crown. Hyundai’s domination in the subsequent 2019 season continued. The BRC Team’s Norbert Michelisz won the driver championship, once again demonstrating Hyundai’s superior driving performance to the world.
The Revised Calendar For the Season 2020
Starting with Morocco’s Marrakesh on April 5, this season’s WTCR had 30 races scheduled for 10 rounds in Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Portugal, Spain, China, South Korea, Macau, and Malaysia. But COVID-19 changed everything. The opening race got canceled for starters, and the next couple of months became truly dark times. Many kinds of motorsports have now resumed their races, but they are still facing various difficulties, including moving, quarantine, and economic losses caused by the zero-audience races. In the case of F1 and WRC that host multiple countries had to rearrange their schedule so that they stick around Europe.
The WTCR announced a new calendar for the opening race in Salzburg, Austria, from Sept. 12-13. However, the provincial government of Salzburgring worried about the spread of the COVID-19 and they suddenly notified cancellation. Hence the Circuit Zolder in Belgium.
This season’s WTCR will start in Belgium from Sept. 12-13, followed by Germany from Sept. 24-25, Slovakia from Oct. 10-11, Hungary from Oct. 17-18, Spain from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, and Italy from Nov. 14-15. The number of 16 races in 6 rounds is nearly halved compared to last year. Nevertheless, it is a very tight schedule as all races have to be finished in nine weeks. To help reduce the budget for team management, some of the final races per round will be reduced from three to two, and there will be only one preliminary round. Instead, the length of the track for the final race will be extended a bit.
The Circuits For This Year
The Circuit Zolder, which was newly decided as the opening stage, is a traditional circuit that opened in 1963 and held the F1 Belgian Grand Prix in the 70s and 80s. The venue is also related to WTCR since it staged the Belgian WTCC in 2010 and 2011.
The two-to-four rounds of Nurburgring, Slovakia Ring, and Hungaroring remain the same as last year. Nurburgring, Germany, is a compound course of the old Nordschleife and GP with each lap exceeding 25 kilometers, so the game ends in three laps. The 24-hour Nurburgring support race was scheduled for May but was postponed to September as well.
Located near Bratislava Airport in Slovakia, Slovakia Ring is a relatively new course that was completed in 2009. One lap is 5.922 kilometers long and forms a triangle. Hungaroring, which is also the stage of the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix, is notorious for its sharp corners and dangerous braking phases, and for its difficulty to overtake. This is why it is called ‘Monaco without a Building’.
The Spanish rounds were all held in Valencia during the WTCC, which was the predecessor of the WTCR, between 2005 to 2012. But this time, the Aragon Circuit (Motorland Aragon) is staging the race. It is located in Alkaniz, Aragon, Spain, and features a 5.345km-long single-lap course made by Hermann Tilke, who is famous for designing an F1 circuit. Adria International Raceway, a compact technical course featuring a 2.702km-long circuit, where the final Italian round will be held, has staged FIA GT, DTM, and F3 Euro series before. It is also famous for hosting the World SBK, the top-notch bike race, where Hyundai Motor Company’s high-performance N model vehicle is working as safety cars.
Changes in the Season 2020
There is no significant rule change in the WTCR this year. However, there are many small ones. The COVID-19 pandemic made each team reduce their crew, which will also be helpful in terms of cost-efficiency. Crews per vehicle can only be registered for up to six people, and the actual number of workers per vehicle is limited to five. The number of turbochargers allowed in each season has also shrunk to four. Another notable part is the Rookie category, which has been revived after a long time since the 2010 WTCC. It is literally a category for rookies and is limited to those under 23 who have experiences in less than three races in one season.
Goodyear replacing Yokohama Rubber is also expected to have a significant impact on setting up race cars. For tires, 18 sets will be provided in the opening race and soon be reduced to 12 sets for the next race. A maximum of 22 sets is available for round 2 and 26 sets for round 3 (limited to 16 new tires).
The biggest change associated with racing cars is compensation weight. The WTCR applies a variety of performance compensation options to ensure fairer and more competitive races. Previously, it was based on lap time during preliminaries and games, but from this year, only preliminary records will count.
There are also changes in the participating teams. Sebastien Loeb Racing (S:R), who was participating in Volkswagen’s Golf GTI TCR, left the WTCR. In the case of SEAT, a new Leon Competicion TCR was introduced. PWR racing, which used CUPRA last year, is out, and Hungary’s Jango Motorsports will participate with Leon.
The entry for last year’s champion team, Cyan Racing, is the same as last year’s, including Yvan Muller, Yann Ehrlacher, and Thed Bjork. In fact, they are the star players of the Hyundai Team. Other players include Vukovic Motorsports, which uses Renault Megane RS TCR, and Team Mulsanne, who uses Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Hyundai Team Became Tougher
The i30 N TCR race car, which is the strongest in the WTCR, will be selected by two teams just like last year, with a total of four units. But there is some change. Last year, the BRC Racing team formed two teams alone to manage four race cars, but this year, it downsized to two cars, and the new Engstler Motorsports team chose the i30 N TCR to join.
The BRC Hyundai N Lukoil Squadra Corse features incumbents Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz. Italy’s BRC is a strong partner in Hyundai Motor Company’s WTCR activities. Not only do they choose Hyundai’s race car to participate in the WTCR, but it is also helping them to actually develop high-performance N vehicles. Norbert Michelisz is also the defending champion, and Tarquini was the 2018 champion. And of course, both players are strong candidates for this year’s championship.
Nicky Catsburg, the driver of Engstler Hyundai’s N LIQUI MOLY, drove the i30 N TCR all season at BRC’s Luke Oil Racing last year, and Luca Engstler also had a short race in Macau for the same team. Engstler Motor Sports, which becomes the parent body, is a strong team that played for the WTCC from 2005 to 2012 and won the championship in 2011. It has also achieved outstanding performances in many parts of the world, including the 2019 TCR Asian and TCR Malaysia champion at the same time.
Before the start of the 2020 season, BRC manager Gabriele Rizzo said: “All team members want to return to the WTCR after a long break. It’s certainly hard to finish six events in such a short period of time, but we’ve prepared for them. The revised schedule includes a new circuit, and we look forward to a thrilling final match, especially in the Adria International Raceway, which will be our home race. With Hyundai’s i30 N TCR, we aim to end the season successfully again.”
Last year’s champion, Michelisz, expressed expectations for the season’s beginning. “It’s been more than eight months since the last WTCR race. I miss it so much. The test drive is good, but it’s different from the actual races. I think I’m already ready and I’m confident of a good start. Personally, I like the Belgian Circuit Zolder. You should use brakes wisely for the better balance of your car. As the defending champion, my goal is to win.
While worrying about the changes that have taken place this season, the veteran expressed his expectations for the race in Italy. “The tire supplier has changed completely, and we haven’t tested them using our enemy cars, so we don’t know how competitive we are yet. The revised schedule includes great circuits in Europe. I’m more than happy to have a home race in Adria. It’s a whole new course for us, but it’s good to see Italy again after a long time. We finished 2018 well and last year as well. We’re going to do well this year, too.”
And Their Race Cars, i30 N TCR
Hyundai Motor Company’s i30 N TCR contains various technologies and know-how for circuit races. Skirts and lip spoilers that have been pulled down as if they are about to touch the ground; and roof-high rear wings and roll-cage across the cabin tell us that they are circuit-only racing cars. The i30 N TCR began development in the fall of 2016 and developed its first test vehicle in 2017, and has been winning a series of championship titles at the WTCR since 2018.
This year, the regulations remain the same, so there is no significant technical change. The four-cylinder 1998cc turbo engine has a maximum output of 350 horsepower and a maximum torque of 450Nm. It rolls the front wheels through a six-speed sequential transmission. The suspension is a MacPherson strut in the front and a multi-link in the back and is equipped with a Brembo caliper (six pistons in the front and two in the back) in preparation for drastic braking. The i30 N TCR is manufactured by Hyundai Motorsports, located in Alzenau, Germany, with a minimum price of 128,000 euros. Only four WTCRs are allowed for entry, but there are numerous touring car series around the world that meet the TCR standards. Of course, the i30 N TCR is the strongest and most popular race car. For your information, there is a Veloster N TCR in the North American market instead of i30.
Hyundai is the strongest candidate for the championship this season. Defending champion Michelisz and 2018 champion Tarquini are alive and well. In addition, only two players get to drive for the BRC from now on, which they belong to, so this will make the team to fully utilize all of its resources for these two. The new Italian round is another good news for the BRC team. Just like the season 2018 and 2019, Hyundai’s i30 N TCR is expected to stand out at the top of the podium at every WTCR race.
By Lee Su-Jin, automobile critic
Excited about the 1991 establishment of the first domestic auto mania magazine 〈Car Vision〉, I sent a series of long letters there that led to an unexpected hire. 27 years have passed since then, the years of plowing through the writing struggles of an auto journalist. After becoming an editor for 〈Car Vision〉, I came to my current position as the Editor-in-Chief for 〈Car Life〉. My recent interests include cutting-edge techs like electric cars, connected cars, and autonomous driving, but the ‘otaku’ in me doesn’t want internal combustion engines to disappear either.