TCM looking at widening car eligibility to build grid

Touring Car Masters at Sydney Motorsport Park. Picture: Australian Racing Group

The Gulf Western Oils Touring Car Masters series could be opened up to a wider variety of vehicles in order to grow grid numbers, Speedcafe.com has learned.

The field has hovered around the mid- to high-teens in the four rounds which have been held since the beginning of 2020, a reduction from the low- to mid-twenties of years prior.

That has coincided with a period of unrest within the paddock, over matters such as technical regulations, compliance with those regulations and others, and a perception that the series had become the Australian Racing Group’s “ugly stepsister”, to quote one competitor.

A new category manager in Liam Curkpatrick was appointed in May, and subsequently a new technical team, but COVID-19 restrictions mean they have not yet overseen any TCM racing in those roles.

However, they have not been stagnant in terms of potential changes to the category’s regulations and procedures, and it has now emerged that there have been talks over broadening the list of eligible automobiles.

One idea in particular could take TCM back to the future by allowing modified Group Nc cars to the field, either in a new class, as invitational entries, or possibly as additions to the Pro Sport class.

TCM began in 2007 as an evolution of Group N competition, although it has drifted from those roots in the years since with the opening up of eligibility and development of vehicles.

The 2021 Motorsport Australia Manual states that, “Group Nc is an historic group introduced on 1 January, 1995, to cater primarily for vehicles of a year, make and model which competed in Australia between 1 January, 1965, and 31 December, 1972 in either the Australian Touring Car Championship or races specifically for 3rd Category Group C Improved Production Touring Cars and Series Production Touring Cars.”

The changes which might be allowed for TCM would include disc brakes on all four corners, and use of the category’s tyres, a quite similar scenario to the retro series’ beginnings.

How competitive those cars would be remains to be seen, although the suggestion they would be put in the Pro Sport class is a clue that they would not be envisaged to challenge the very front-runners in the field.

That has raised concerns that, depending on which Group Nc cars might join the field, they could create a traffic headache for those vying for outright race wins.

The idea of broadening eligibility has apparently been raised with competitors just recently, but it does follow an article along that theme which was published on Touring Car Masters’ official website and social media earlier this week.

In what was ostensibly as an engagement piece, a number of cars were listed as hypothetical new TCM models, “just for fun.”

That article also read, in part, “While the category will firmly retain its roots as being the home to classic muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s – and the technical regulations ensure that they will remain just as competitive as they are now – there remain several cars from the late 1970s that would very much be TCM worthy but have not yet raced.”

According to Rule S4 of the sporting regulations, the eligible automobiles are currently as follows:

Model Year
Ford Falcon Sprint / Mercury Comet 1963-1966
Ford Falcon GT XT, XW, XY 1967-1971
Ford Falcon 4-door/Coupe XA, XB, XC 1972-1978
Ford Falcon Sedan XD 1979-1980
Ford Mustang 1964-1970
Ford Mustang (Fox Body) 1987-1980
Ford Capri (Perana) 1969-1975
Chevrolet Camaro 1967-1980
Holden Monaro 2-door/4-door 1969-1977
Holden Torana 1970-1979
Holden Commodore VB/VC HDT 1979-1980
Valiant Pacer 1971
Valiant Charger 1973
AMC Javelin 1971-1973
Chevrolet Monza 1975-1978
Pontiac Firebird 1970-1971
Porsche 911 (must retain Porsche engine) 1974 IROC 911

Speedcafe.com has also heard that category management is hoping to entice former cars and competitors, who had been rendered uncompetitive by the new generation of TCM vehicles, to come back.

John Bowe currently leads the series in a Torana SL/R, by 10 points over Torana A9X steerer Ryan Hansford.

Marcus Zukanovic holds a share of third spot in the standings in his XD Falcon, one of the newer additions to the field, tied with Valiant Pacer driver Cameron Tilley.

Steven Johnson gave his Tru-Blu XD its first win in the most recent race to be held, at Sydney Motorsport Park in May.

Speedcafe.com understands that a return to SMP in November is in the works, although the only remaining round locked in for this year is that which will support the Repco Bathurst 1000 following its expansion to a six-day event, beginning November 30.

Picture: Australian Racing Group

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