PREVIEW: 2020 SRO TC America

Image by Gavin Baker/LAT

PREVIEW: 2020 SRO TC America

SRO America

PREVIEW: 2020 SRO TC America

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TC America’s trio of touring car series – TCR, Touring Car, and TCA – are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. While the overall numbers might not be huge, they are certainly healthy, with 34 cars among the three classes entered for the season opener at Circuit of The Americas this weekend. But it’s not so much the number of cars, but the number of manufacturers, with new cars in a couple of the classes, and where the drivers are coming from that are notable.

“The diversity in every single way is what I find exciting for 2020,” says TC America Series Manager Jim Jordan. “We have diversity of brands, diversity of ages of drivers, we have an influx of Central Americans coming, which probably has me most excited. We have a young driver Juan Diego who is coming from Guatemala and we have more drivers coming from Puerto Rico. Where I’m most excited about Central American influences is that they’ve been paying attention to the racing, and with Victor Gonzalez’s success last year, he’s managed to put together a great program to hep these Central American drivers find out they’re welcome and the racing is accessible for them.”

Another interesting development for 2020 is the first Touring Car Festival that will be held at Lime Rock Park on May 8-9. That event, at a track which has been host to the full slate of SRO America series in years past, will be Touring Car-centric; Jordan jokes that Pirelli GT4 America will be a support series for the TC America classes at the event.

“The TC Festival at Lime Rock is a very exciting step for me. Part of the rationale behind it is we see the audience for Touring Car racing in the U.S. tends to be a little bit younger, a little bit more diverse. We also, in the SRO world, realize that track time is at such a premium and with GT Sports Club growing and the rest, we need to explore the potential for growing stand-alone events for Touring Car, and a little bit GT4.

“We looked at the demographics and looked at the schedule and targeted Lime Rock as being in the right area, the center of a huge, diverse population, The other thing is Lime Rock was willing to work with us and we’re going to do really inexpensive tickets there. Lots of grassroots promotions. And one of our partners, FCP Euro, is based in Connecticut, so the stars just aligned for us that Lime Rock could be a good place to try Touring Cars as a focus for the weekend,” explains Jordan.

Jordan adds that he expects most fo the fields to grow as the season goes on, which is the opposite of how most race series go. Let’s break down the classes.

TCR

The TCR field grows slightly for 2020, with eight cars slated for the season opener – as many drivers as competed in the entire season in 2019. Last year’s champ, Michael Hurczyn, is back with FCP Euro teammate Nate Vincent in their Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR cars. The FCP Euro team upgraded its Golfs to sequential transmissions to compete for overall wins in 2019 – the TCR Cup class for cars with DSG transmissions ceases to exist for 2020 – and found them, with Hurczyn taking three victories and Vincent adding two.

FCP Euro’s Hurczyn and Vincent dominated TCR last year, but the competition looks tougher for 2020. Image by Richard S. James

“My goal all season was consistent finishes,” says Hurczyn, who is the Brand and Partnerships director for FCP Euro. “I was going for the long run, making sure I stayed out of trouble and finishing as high up in the order in every single race as possible. Up until the last round of the season, I was able to podium in every single race. Then the last round we had some mechanical issues. So consistency and mechanical preparation was also important, and we were able to do both of those things.”

The FCP Euro team is making some big changes for 2020, taking its program that was previously run by Heinlein Racing Development in-house. Hurczyn admits there will be some challenges with that, but is looking forward to the team’s third year in TCR.

“We really appreciate TCR and what it brings in the sprint racing format. We think that’s what the cars were designed to do, and we prefer that type of racing. At Portland, the top five cars were all within two tenths of each other … having a huge field of cars that are really similar makes for great racing,” he says.

“We certainly have more experience as far the as the VW platform is concerned. It’s not the fastest in a straight line, but it’s good in braking and corners and it’s certainly proven to be very reliable. So we’re leaning on our experience and the reliability of the car to be up front when the checkered flag falls,” Hurczyn adds.

Hurczyn and Vincent are likely to have a tougher time than they did in 2019. For one thing, Victor Gonzalez Jr., who didn’t join the series until Round 5 but scored two wins in the Honda Civic Type R, is expected to run the full season. Joining him with Hondas is DXDT Racing, which has been competing in the GT World Challenge for several years. DXDT is bringing two cars for Scott Smithson and CJ Moses, who has a lot of experience in GT4 machinery.

Copeland Motorsports is bringing Hyundai Veloster Ns for two young guns, Tyler Maxson and Nikko Reger. Maxson, age 15, won the TCA championship in his rookie season of car racing last year. Reger, 21, is the 2018 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup champion. Copeland ran Mason Fillippi for a partial season in 2019, where he scored six wins, so the team is clearly up to the task of winning if it can get its young drivers up to speed in a TCR car.

Touring Car

The good news for Touring Car is that its defending champion, Johan Schwartz, will be back to race for another title. Unfortunately his former team, Rooster Hall, will not be. Instead, Schwartz will be in a Hard Motorsports BMW M240iR Cup car. The BMWs have made up most of the field in recent years, and 2020 will be no different; and some of Schwartz’s strongest competition will be in similar cars. That includes former champ Toby Grahovec in a Fast Track Racing/Classic BMW entry and, returning to the series, Bimmerworld’s James Clay.

There will be several new models in Touring Car this year, though, after having been primarily the BMWs with a few Nissan 370Zs and a Hyundai Genesis in recent seasons. That includes the new Touring Car version of the Honda Civic Type R. One of those will be run by Gonzalez’s VGMC Racing, which is expanding across the board, for Puerto Rican Ruben Iglesias. Another will be fielded by Team HMA — Honda Manufacturing of Alabama — for Karl Hertel, a New Model Engineering Associate with HMA.

Then there’s Jeff Ricca, campaigner of the aforementioned Genesis, back with a new TC car based on the Hyundai Veloster N. Ricca has been knocking on the door for big success in TC, and perhaps the new model will help him burst through it. There’s also a possibility that a Mazda3 will make an appearance before season’s end.

TCA

Speaking of Velosters, a bunch of them are slated to join the TCA field. Introduced last year by Bryan Herta Autosport, the TCA Veloster joins the Honda Civic Si, Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car, Subaru BRZ and Mini Cooper John Cooper Works. Among the new Velosters, Tyler Gonzalez has shown great promise, and will drive one for Copeland Motorsports. CB Motorsports will field Velosters for Caleb Bacon and Matt Forbush.

Pombo and his Mini will be among those tackling the Hyundai armada. Image by Richard S. James

There are established competitors that will make things difficult for newcomers, though. Mark Pombo finished third in the championship last season, and returns with the Mini JCW Team, partnered with Tomas Mejia. TechSport Racing will have its usual big presence with Subarus; likely the strongest entry will be PJ Groenke, back for a second year with the team.

A trio of Honda Civics will contest the series, the most intriguing of which comes from Kevin Boehm. Boehm is an engineer and test driver for Honda Research and Development and a four-time SCCA national champion. He comes with sponsorship from Crowdstrike and Amazon Web services — his car will be a twin to CJ Moses’ TCR Honda — and his engineering and racing background will make him a formidable competitor. He’s joined by two VGMC Racing entries, for Guatemalan Juan Diego Hernandez and Jonathan Newcombe.

TC America’s TCR and TCA classes go to St. Petersburg after COTA, then all three series hit Lime Rock for their headlining TC Festival. After that they follow the other SRO America series to VIR, Sonoma, Road America and Watkins Glen before ending their season alongside the Intercontinental GT Challenge 8 Hour race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

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