The announcement by MotorSport New Zealand in awarding the New Zealand Touring Car Championship to TCR NZ is a bold and calculated decision. Some may say miss-calculated as it has given the championship status to a category that has not got off the ground.
The BNT V8s category, who have effectively lost the championship status, are crying foul! They make a good point that it has been gifted to a category which was unsuccessful in launching in New Zealand this season. They also point out that the announcement is somewhat premature.
TCR is a global Touring Car specification that was first introduced in 2014. TCR cars are based on four or five door production vehicles and powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine.
MotorSport NZ own the NZ ‘franchise’ and in 2019 appointed the Australian Racing Group (ARG) to manage the Kiwi series. ARG currently run the Australian TCR category.
A quick-fire five round 2020 calendar was announced by ARG mid-2019. The series was to have taken place alongside the very successful 2020 Toyota Racing Series five consecutive rounds that got underway at Highlands Motorsport Park in January and has just concluded with the NZ Grand Prix weekend at Circuit Chris Amon Manfeild.
However, it failed to gain enough entries to run the series and announced a postponement late last year. A calendar is still to be announced but it is understood that TCR NZ will get underway in the spring of 2020.
Hence it is a bold move by MSNZ to award the category with a national championship. At this stage it is too early for any party to know how many entries TCR NZ will field.
There is a good argument for MSNZ to wait until TCR NZ proves that it is a worthy category, mainly having the ability to field an appropriate grid of no less than 15 entries.
When the Toyota Racing Series got underway in 2005 with 17 entries, they were awarded neither the NZ Grand Prix nor the Lady Wigram Trophy. At the second round of that season, it was slightly awkward to have this premier class competing at Teretonga Park Raceway in Invercargill with drivers and teams watching the Formula Ford category competing in the NZ Grand Prix. TRS had to be patient and wait.
The BNT V8s effectively lost their championship status last spring when they decided not to venture south to the two Speed Works summer Series rounds in the South Island in January. In doing this, they effectively became a North Island series only. Coupled with this is that they have struggled to gain sufficient grids for a number of years.
Currently they are working towards a new generation of V8 powered cars and it is expected that they will showcase a new TA2 Muscle Car based on the Trans-Am series that started in the USA in the 1960s, at their next round in March at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
Both the TCR NZ and BNT V8s categories face the same problem.
There is only a limited number of teams, drivers and money within NZ. Both will be vying for entries and it may prove difficult to field two strong separate grids in the coming future.
Either the MSNZ decision is quite calculated or it may prove premature. Only time will tell.