New for 2019, the Touring Car Trophy has been established by Stewart Lines and Maximum Motorsport to bridge the gap between many existing one-make race and club series and the BTCC. With a huge range of cars eligible, and some big BTCC teams and sponsors already signed up with more showing interest, the Touring Car Trophy promises to be a much-needed and fascinating addition to the UK motorsport scene. I sat down with series boss Stewart Lines to find out a little bit more about where the Touring Car Trophy came from, and his hopes for 2019.
Where did the idea come from, how long have you been working on it?
When I was racing in the BTCC I had a lot of feedback from other drivers and I realised that there was a lot of series where there is a big financial jump from the support series to the BTCC. And not just financial, but there was a huge jump in terms of driving experience, too. There wasn’t actually a “stepping-stone” series bridging the gap between the support series and the BTCC. I first thought of the idea a few years ago when I was racing, but at the time lots of BTCC teams were having to invest a lot of money in their BTCC programs. However the problem hasn’t really gone away in a couple of years, and in fact, I think the financial jump between certain series and the BTCC has got bigger.
But its not just the about the money. Drivers need more time and experience in touring cars. You need to have done 300km in a BTCC car before you can race one. Now that there’s a lot of S2000, BTC-T, TCR and NGCT cars available which can all enter the Touring Car Trophy there’s a really good chance to get a good grid. There’s a lot of drivers out there with nowhere to go. They could either stay in the club series and win the championships year after year, or they could struggle to get into the BTCC and not make it. That’s why we came up with the idea of the Touring Car Trophy.
Will you be driving?
No, I won’t be. I’ll be focusing on running the series, it would be too difficult to race on track and run the series. Running meetings is tricky, and I can’t be involved if incidents happen on the circuit.
You’ve already got some big names including Team Dynamics signed up, what do you think the grid size will be for season one?
I think getting a grid of 20 cars together is pretty achievable, but I think for season one we’re probably looking at around the 15 mark, but we could even surpass that. We’ve got a few exciting announcements lined up and there’s been some really strong interest. I’m also expecting a big peak in interest once the final BTCC seats have been taken.
How do you see the season progressing three years down the line?
We’ve got some strong backing already with Dunlop Tyres and we’ve had a lot of interest with other sponsors because they can see an opportunity for the series to expand. We’ve started off with five race meetings for next year, one with the British GT Championship and one with our Deutsche festival which is a good MSV event. Touring car fans who go and watch the BTCC are into touring cars, and I’m hopeful that lots will cross over and come and check out a Touring Car Trophy event. I think next year if everything goes well we can expand the tie-up with Britsh GT, too.
We’ve had a lot of interest from the touring car teams, and I hope to see lots of them join our series in the next few years. It would be a brilliant place to have an F1-style young driver program where the drivers can get experience racing BTCC machinery before jumping into the BTCC-proper.
What kind of parity measures or balance of performance will you be using?
We think there isn’t much difference between the TCR and other touring cars, I’ve been at race meetings where the two have done very similar lap times. But we do have a balance of performance built into the regulations should we need to. This will include things like changing the weight, boost on the BTCC cars, and ride height.
We’re not going to change things just so someone can win a race, though. Changes will only be made if they need to be.
Where can people watch the Touring Car Trophy next year?
There’ll be a full live stream of the events on YouTube and Facebook. I’ve learnt a lot over the years about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m confident that the Touring Car Trophy will deliver a great fan experience. It’s going to be really good value for money, for both fans and drivers. I’ve noticed that social media is really important too and we’re planning to have a strong presence over social media. Some of the TV slots for motorsport have been quite poor over the last few years, and we’ve seen in the past that live streaming events online sends viewing figures through the roof compared to TV.
What’s your background?
I’m from a Motocross background! I only got into racing cars in 2008, and I came out of Motocross after we’d done a lot in it, won a lot and been around the world with it. We ended up getting involved with cars, racing and running a few series and we also raced in the BTCC! Motorsport has also led me to meet a lot of new friends and business contacts, and I love being involved.
What’s your favourite UK race track?
I do like Knockhill, that’s one of my favourites. Personally, I prefer the smaller tracks. We couldn’t take the Touring Car Trophy there in 2019, but maybe in the future!
Where do you see Touring Car Trophy sitting alongside TCR UK?
I see the Touring Car Trophy as a feeder series into both TCR UK and TCR Europe. Maximum Motorsport had a team in TCR UK this year, and that’s something we’ll look to continue next year. I think the TCR cars and concept are really good. For example, if someone buys a TCR car, they can enter it in the Touring Car Trophy too, alongside all the TCR championships. This means that the car is really valuable, and it’s not just a one-series car which will sit in the garage with limited usage.
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