Season preview: Curtain raises on a new era for TC America

Images by Richard S. James

Season preview: Curtain raises on a new era for TC America

SRO America

Season preview: Curtain raises on a new era for TC America

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TC America, the shiny new name in 2019 for what was World Challenge Touring Car, carries over the three-class format: TCR, TC and TCA. The three classes combine for 47 entries for this weekend’s opener at Circuit of The Americas, where TCR and TCA will run two combined 40-minute races, and TC will run its own pair of 40-minute races.

TCR: TCR will look very different from its 2018 inaugural season. Series champs and World Challenge fixtures for 29 years, RealTime Racing is on the sidelines and champion Ryan Eversley is back in the GT category with an NSX. Instead, the lone Honda Civic Type-R TYCR will be run by LAP Motorsports for Nelson Cheung.

Bryan Herta Autosport, which introduced Hyundai to the series last year, is also gone. Instead, Mason Filippi will represent the brand in a Veloster N TCR run by TFB Performance.

Filippi made a good showing when he ran one of RealTime’s Hondas at Watkins Glen at the end of the season, and could be a real threat for the championship.

The constant in TCR is the FCP Euro team with Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent. For the most part, these two were the best of the rest in 2018. FCP Euro has upgraded its Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs to sequential gearboxes rather than the DSG, and should be running closer to the front this season.

New is an Alfa Rome Giulietta TCR run by Risi Competizione for James Walker. Walker has run Ferrari Challenge, and it will be interesting to see how capable this new Alfa/Risi combination shapes up to be.

In 2018, the DSG gearbox-equipped cars — Volkswagens and Audis — were clearly at a disadvantage to the true sequential-gearbox cars. So the series has created a new subclass, TCR Cup. At Austin, this will be all Audi RS3 LMS cars. McCann Racing and Michael McCann are easily the most experienced of the bunch, but there are several others who have potential to star, including Bryan Putt.

TC: Touring Car carries on with a gaggle of BMW Cup cars, Nissan 370Zs and a lone Hyundai Genesis. 2018 champion Vesko Kozarov has moved on, leaving Paul Terry to represent Rearden Racing in its 370Z.

BMW rules the roost in Touring Car, but the list of driver standouts is long.

Except for Kozarov last year, the BMW M235iR Cup car has been the dominant force in Touring Car for several seasons, and there will be more than a dozen of them in Texas, including the updated M240iR, entered in 2019. Johan Schwartz and Rooster Hall Racing got stronger and more consistent as the season went on last year, and has to be considered a favorite for the title.

So does BMW stalwart and Fast Track Racing principal Toby Grahovec — if he runs the entire season. Grahovec is also running GT4 East in an M4 GT4.

Other returning standouts in BMWs include Robert Nimkoff (Auto Technic Racing) and Steve Streimer (Rooster Hall). BimmerWorld Racing returns to the series after a long absence with M240iRs for Cameron Evans and Chandler Hull.

Jeff Ricca continues to soldier on in his Hyundai Genesis Coupe, but we’ve heard rumor of a new Hyundai model being developed. Rumors abound of other makes joining the series mid-season.

TCA: The TCA category has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to the arrival of new teams representing Honda (X-Factor Racing) and Mini (Mini JCW Team/Lap Motorsports).

TechSport Racing’s Subaru contingent remains strong here, and several drivers will bring Global Mazda MX-5 Cup cars to the series.

TechSport Subarus are tops in TCA, but new challenges await from Honda, Mini and others.

Honda took the drivers’ title with Tom O’Gorman last year. O’Gorman has moved on, but X-Factor Racing has come in with a fleet of Civic Si cars, including one for its very fast team principal, Chris Haldeman. He is joined by five others, including Texas Spec Miata standout Danny Soufi and Time Attack competitor Sally McNulty.

Subaru won the TCA Manufacturers title in 2018 thanks to the big TechSport team, and the Long Island, New York-based team is back this year with some heavy hitters. PJ Groenke has a year of experience in the BRZ under his belt, and should be a contender, while Nick Wittmer will join the fray. Nick, brother to Kuno and Karl, has a pair of third-place points finishes in Touring Car.

Mini JCW joins the series and brings the Pombo name back with it. Mark Pombo leads the charge for the two-car team, with Nate Norenberg in the second car. The team won the last Contintental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner title in 2018.

Representing Mazda will be 2018 TCA Rookie of the Year Jenny Gannett and Ian Lacy Racing. Dinah Weisberg returns to the series with a Copeland Motorsports Mazda, which also brings young racer Tyler Maxson.

TC America joins Blancpain World Challenge GT and GT4 America in the new SRO America family for their season openers at COTA this weekend. CBS Sports Network will broadcast races in 2019, and some of the series will be broadcast worldwide. In addition all races will be livestream’d across a variety of platforms, including at http://www.world-challenge.com.

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