WSC Group Ltd.’s Fabio Ravaioli after the inaugural TCR SPA 500 to discuss the difficulties of planning such an event, why it can only grow stronger, and the importance of the TCR concept.
Fabio, let’s not beat about the bush, was the first-ever TCR SPA 500 a success?
“Yes. The number of entries wasn’t quite what we hoped it would be but we experienced the same thing when we founded the TCR International Series [for 2015]. If you wait for a ‘satisfying number of cars’, you will never start! You have to show the event exists, and that it is run in a proper way. And I believe this was a good event, the level of entries was good, and I’m sure the second year will be better.”
I’m sure you can appreciate how big of a weekend this is for CREVENTIC, but what does the TCR SPA 500 mean to WSC?
“Well of course Spa-Francorchamps is a track [synonymous] with touring car and endurance races, and establishing a halo event for TCR cars at Spa is hugely important for the category. So obviously we hope this event will re-ignite the tradition of long distance endurance racing for touring cars, and continue to do so for many years to come.”
Why do you believe the TCR program has been such a global success since it was first introduced?
“It was the right idea at the right moment, because touring car competition needed ‘something’ to become global again. Super Touring regulations were introduced in the 1990s, but that didn’t last very long. It happened again with Super 2000, but again, it didn’t last long because these categories were too expensive for customer teams. ‘TCR’ though has proven itself to be a category that’s affordable and enables teams to race in a multitude of series and championships across the world with cars that can race for four, maybe five years that don’t require heavy modifications or updates every season. So this has been the key to success.
“All of our brands believed in this concept, because for the first time in many years, they had a tool to create a market for customers without being directly involved with a factory team. Now the role of the manufacturer is to develop the car, to build it, to sell it, and then support teams with spare parts and/or technical assistance, something that just wasn’t sustainable under the old system.”
Is it reasonable to call TCR a motorsport ‘phenomenon’?
“I think it is, yes. Today, there are nearly 900 TCR cars racing around the globe in 320 races during the year. And this is only the fifth year of the concept.
“We expected to be successful, but honestly, we didn’t expect to be anywhere near this successful, and that’s very satisfying for [TCR founder] Marcello Lotti and his team. You could very reasonably argue that TCR has surpassed ‘GT3’ and ‘GT4’ in terms of the teams involved, in terms of the number of cars produced, and in terms of the championships that have embraced this concept worldwide. It’s easily one of – if not THE – most successful categories in many, many years.”
We had a very broad spread of nationalities competing at the first TCR SPA 500, with drivers representing 18 different countries. Why do you think the event generated the interest that it did?
“TCR is the first-ever motorsport category born in Europe that is having immediate success in the United States. That’s never happened before. Never. So it wasn’t surprising to see all-North American driver line-ups for Ferda Autosport By QSR Racing and Vmax-Engineering. One of the most celebrated TCR races in its first year was in Macau, so again, it wasn’t surprising to have Macau PS Racing at Spa. And there’s a very strong TCR program in Asia too, so that means the Teamwork Huff Motorsport guys, who know these cars very well, can travel to Europe and be immediately competitive in Europe. Take a driver like Douglas Khoo [Viper Niza Racing]: he raced in the WTCR in 2015, so we know how quick he really is.
“This is also a very different kind of race. If we look at Sunny Wong Yat Shing and Alex Hui Ka Tui [Teamwork Huff Motorsport], they’ve previously raced in the [Hankook] 24H DUBAI, and to have an event organised by the same promoter but exclusively for touring cars at one of the most famous circuits in the world, it’s no wonder they’re willing to travel for this brand new adventure. It just proves that the TCR concept is working well.”
So, can the TCR SPA 500 become THE halo endurance event for touring cars?
“Absolutely. I’m sure that, year after year, this race will become more and more popular with teams and drivers. TCR as a concept proved that hardwork and a good base can, and usually does, pay off.”