The FIA World Touring Car Championship will introduce a second-tier class to run alongside its top-level TC1 cars in 2017, the series’ promoter Eurosport Events has announced.
The class, dubbed ‘WTCC-2’, will feature FIA TCN2-specification cars, as used by the WTCC’s feeder European Touring Car Cup category, as well as variations of these run worldwide in a number of TCR series.
The development has occurred to counter concerns of reduced grid sizes in 2017 following the sudden departure of LADA, which will remove a further three cars from the field next season.
The 2016 season also saw fewer privateer entries taking part, with just five teams able to field cars over the course of the year.
With no new manufacturers entering the championship in 2017, and with Honda and Volvo both confirming they are unable to field more than three factory-run cars next season, the move is necessary in order to ensure the grid size doesn’t drop below the minimum of 16, which can trigger the cancellation of an event under the WTCC’s sporting regulations.
“We recognise the challenges being faced by drivers and teams to secure the finances required to race a TC1 World Touring Car,” said WTCC promoter François Ribeiro.
“While the WTCC will clearly remain the pinnacle of touring car racing, WTCC-2 will provide a good platform for aspiring World Touring Car champions of the future to showcase their talents on a global stage, compete for an FIA title, but at a reduced cost by limiting WTCC-2 to TCN2-specification cars, which are more affordable to prepare and maintain.
“WTCC-2 competitors will benefit from the high event organisation standards, global media exposure and promotional activities in common with the WTCC.”
Ribeiro also countered concerns that the addition of TCN2 cars to the WTCC grid would threaten the future of the ETCC, which will stage six rounds over the course of its 2017 calendar.
“We’re actually creating a more affordable ladder of progression,” Ribeiro explained.
“It’s fair to say the jump from the ETCC to a TC1 World Touring Car is high so by creating WTCC-2, we’re providing an achievable next step for career-focused drivers. We also have to remember that a number of the drivers and teams taking part in the ETCC don’t have the resources, both in terms of time and finance, to undertake a greater programme of events than the six that are currently organised.”
A number of teams – including those already competing in the WTCC and competing in other touring car championships – are understood to have been approached about the possibility of running TCN2 cars next year.
Existing independent WTCC outifts Zengő Motorsport and Münnich Motorsport already operate TCN2 class cars which they run in the ETCC and some of the TCR series’, while Honda’s technical partner JAS Motorsport builds a host of TCR-specification Honda Civics in use around the world.
Image via FIA WTCC