While the likes of SEAT, Citroën, Honda and LADA ramp up their development programme in readiness for next year’s brand-new technical regulations, the World Touring Car Championship’s five BMW-running teams remain at the crossroads, unsure of whether they will be able to compete in season 2014.
With Citroën confirming it will fields a works-backed team alongside Honda and LADA next year, the FIA’s original plans to only allow all-new cars built to the latest Super 2000 regulations onto next year’s grid have mercifully been delayed until 2015. Had they have been signed off, it would have forbidden any privateer outfit trying to enter with a 2013-spec car in 2014.
The FIA has instead determined that a ‘two-tier’ regulation system will be allowed next year, pitting the all-new cars (equipped with a drastically reduced minimum weight limit of 1,100kg, 18” wheels and designed to the latest aerodynamic rules) against the older 2013-spec Super 2000 cars currently being run.
In order to try and ensure some degree of competition between the old and new cars, the FIA will allow those running the older – and far heavier – cars to run with increased engine power and the bigger 18” wheels.
While SEAT’s factory-backed future with its concept racer is still unknown, the outfits running the Chevrolet Cruzes (RML, Bamboo Engineering and NIKA Racing and Tuenti Racing) are likely to receive some upgrades with the American carmaker’s blessing, which would allow them to compete next year, should they all choose to run the same cars in 2014.
But for those running the BMWs, the situation is far more complicated. The teams receive little, if any, direct support from BMW itself, which withdrew its works support from the WTCC at the end of 2010. The Bavarian carmaker developed a bespoke 1.6-litre turbo engine for the current regulations, but it’s unlikely to sign off on further engine or aero tweaks needed to give its 320TC cars a remote chance of being competitive next year.
It is understood that the BMW-running teams have met to try and thrash out a solution to collectively upgrade the 320TC to semi-2014 specifications, although that in itself is not a suitable long-term position, because only the all-new designs will be allowed from 2015 onwards.
It is likely that some of the BMW teams will be forced to switch to another car in order to remain in the series long-term, or be forced out altogether.
“We have a few ideas for next season,” Weichers-Sport team boss Dominik Greiner said.
“The lines have become more clear now in the past few weeks, so we’ll try to find the best possible package for Wiechers-Sport to run next season. Our aim is to be back on the grid for sure.”
Let’s hope that a solution is sorted out quickly…