TCR World Championship WTCR will try to change with a new format called TCR World Tour starting next year. Motorsport is presenting various attempts for next‒generation electric vehicle racing under pressure from rising costs and environmental issues ‒ such as the electric touring car ETCR. Starting the first season in 2021, there are a total of 12 cars, with Hyundai Motor Company, Volkswagen‒owned Cupra, and Italian automaker Alfa Romeo using four race cars each. ETCR is leading the trend of pollution‒free motor sports by introducing a new competition system tailored to the unique characteristics of electric vehicles.
On November 20th, the worldwide touring car championship WTCR ended its final season with the BRC Hyundai Team and its driver Mikel Azcona claiming double championships – manufacturer’s and driver’s championship. While the TCR is still thriving worldwide, the World Championship (WTCR) has faced a number of challenges. In addition to the cost‒cutting and environmental concerns that have hit the motorsport industry, sponsors are also avoiding motorsport that uses fossil fuels. As a relatively smaller event, WTCR doesn’t have enough money to address the problem through hybridization or the introduction of next‒generation fuels. As logistics costs soared due to the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, there was no place to back down. In the end, the FIA, which enacts motor sports rules, and DSC (Discovery Sports Events), the promoter of WTCR, decided to scrap the contract option that was until 2025 and create a new version.
Fortunately, they have the electric touring car series ETCR, which they have been preparing since 2021. It is not yet satisfactory in terms of scale, but it is decided to put expectations on the possibility of development. That doesn’t mean the TCR race will disappear any time soon, however, because the TCR is still the most beloved touring car series worldwide.
Then an interesting idea came up: the TCR World Tour. Even if WTCR itself disappears, the event will rather grow. Starting next year, racers participating in the World Tour will be assigned races in several of the various TCR series ‒ for example, Silverstone in TCR UK, Mount Panorama in TCR Australia, Paul Ricard in TCR Europe, and Macau in TCR Asia. And based on the points earned, they will participate in the year‒end game. As for the world tour, only Australia’s Mount Panorama circuit has been officially unveiled so far. Mount Panorama, the final round of the Australian TCR this season, is one of the most famous circuits in the Southern Hemisphere.
There are more than 30 series using the TCR regulations worldwide, and there are more than 1,000 race cars from 13 brands and more than 650 drivers. Sixty racers of these numerous participants ‒ the top 15 TCR World Tour racers and 45 selected from the rest ‒ will compete in the final match at the end of the year to decide the ‘King of TCR’. Numerous independently operated TCR series now have one goal.
Even if the same TCR regulations are used, the size and environment of the competitions are different, so proper classification is necessary: international competitions are rated A5, regional races such as TCR Europe are rated A4.5, national series are A4, and endurance series are A3.5, and other sprint series are classified as A3. Points are awarded differently considering various other factors. Players participating in the World Tour receive a 50% higher score. The combined ranking of TCR drivers around the world is published on the TCR World Ranking page (https://tcr‒worldranking.com).
The final 60 racers will gather at the end of the TCR World Tour. The race, which will run for four days, has not yet been scheduled or set. It reminds us of the F3 Macau Grand Prix, where racers from different stages compete together.
WTCR barely survived in the name of a world tour, but in fact, the future of TCR is an electric vehicle. As environmental pressure becomes a reality, the motorsport industry is betting on a transition to hybrid and even electric: just like the electric touring car race ETCR devised by TCR promoter WSC. It was unveiled under the name Pure ETCR at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, and Hyundai Motor Company, Cupra, and Alfa Romeo are currently competing.
Although the production car‒based chassis looks similar to the TCR, it actually removes the engine and uses a motor to drive the rear wheels. To this end, a double wishbone suspension was installed at the rear. The power system is the same for all cars. Torque vectoring, which artificially creates turning force, is possible by adjusting the left and right driving force with a 4‒motor method in which two motors independently drive the left and right rear wheels. The motor supplied by MAGELEC produces greater power than the TCR. Continuous output reaches 300 kW (402 hp) and maximum 500 kW (680 hp). The 800V/ 62kWh battery supplied by Williams Advanced Engineering can drive 40km on the track and can be charged from 10% to 90% in one hour.
Tires that must withstand strong torque are usually used regardless of the season and weather. Usually, various types of tires such as soft or hard tires that maximize grip depending on the temperature, and wet tires for rainy weather are required, but unifying tires is economical and environmentally beneficial because logistics can be reduced. Moreover, ETCR utilizes ships, whose carbon emissions are only 1/100 of that of air transport.
But the ETCR’s 40km range is never quite satisfactory for racing ‒ like a 500kg battery pack. It is 300kg heavier than a TCR racing car of the same class, not to mention Formula E because it is a mass‒produced car base. In races where rapid acceleration and sudden braking are common, the driving distance is bound to be shorter. If you increase the battery, the mileage will increase, but it will be heavier and the price will increase, which is the dilemma of electric racing cars. Furthermore, smooth acceleration or elastic driving for efficiency is impossible in the race.
The hassle of charging is also a challenge. For this reason, Formula E once put forward the idea of preparing two race cars and switching between them during the race. Unlike internal combustion locomotives, which fill their fuel tanks in seconds, electric vehicles require at least tens of minutes to charge. This is the reason why electric vehicles cannot be introduced to mid‒ to long‒distance races yet. Therefore, ETCR needs a new race operation system that fits the characteristics of electric vehicles.
The mileage and charging time are unique characteristics of electric vehicles, so it is difficult to solve them right away. So, ETCR is divided into several sprint races. There are currently 12 race cars participating in ETCR. Then, they are divided into two random groups of six each ‒ Pool Fast and Pool Furious ‒ and compete separately throughout the weekend.
The 6 units divided in this way go through the preliminaries and are again divided into 2 groups of 3 units each. After that, the quarterfinals (QF) and semifinals (SF) will be held. The top 3 in the preliminaries are QF1, and the bottom 3 are QF2. The 1st and 2nd place in QF1 and the 1st place in QF2 will play the semi‒final 1 (SF1). And the 3rd place from QF1 advances to Semi‒Final 2 (SF2) along with the 2nd and 3rd places from QF2. After this complex process, six cars compete in the super final, just like the rallycross system.
In addition, points are awarded for all races from the preliminaries to the quarter finals, semi finals, and super finals. 15, 12, 9, 6, 3, 0 points for qualifying, 20, 15, 10 points for QF1, and 15, 10, 5 points for QF2. In addition, 25‒20‒15 points are awarded in SF1, and 20, 15, and 5 points are awarded respectively in SF2. The player who collects the most points until the last Super Final ‒ 40, 30, 20, 15, 10, 5 points ‒ becomes the winner.
For the quarter‒finals and semi‒finals, where three cars start side by side, a starting gate with a partition in front is prepared like a horse race. It is a device that increases the tension as well as the fun. Superfinals, run by 6 units, have a standard standing start system. The race time is 15 minutes for the semi‒finals and quarter‒finals, and a maximum of 20 minutes for the super finals. At the 4.381km Hungaroring, the Super Final is a 5‒lap race and the French Four Ville, less than 3km long, is an 8‒lap race. As mentioned above, such a complex system is due to battery capacity, mileage, and charging issues.
ETCR brings together various ideas for sustainability; First of all, tires have been unified into four‒season radials. And instead of planes, they use ships, which have low carbon emissions and are inexpensive. The use of single‒use plastic is also prohibited inside the stadium. In addition, the charging station uses a hydrogen fuel‒cell generator exclusively supplied by Hyundai Motor Group to produce electricity without emitting pollutants.
There would be no point in using an internal combustion engine generator to charge an electric vehicle. Therefore, hydrogen fuel cell generators are an inevitable choice for ETCR. Fuel cells, which generate electricity by reacting hydrogen and oxygen, appeared as a by‒product of space development programs in the 1960s and have now become the next‒generation power source for automobiles. Hyundai Motor Company started developing related technologies in 1998 and succeeded in mass‒producing the world’s first hydrogen‒powered vehicle (Tucson iX FC) in 2013. In 2018, it is leading hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology by launching the exclusive model Nexo using a second‒generation fuel cell.
The generator for ETCR, which combines two fuel cell stacks used in Nexo, can produce up to 160kW of power, so two electric vehicles can be charged at the same time with one generator. After generating electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, only water is emitted. A generator in the form of a package is extremely environmentally friendly, easy to move, and produces little noise.
Veloster N ETCR, Hyundai’s first EV racing car, has been developed at Hyundai Motorsport in Alzenau, Germany since 2018 and first appeared at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. The reinforced chassis has a double wishbone suspension at the rear, and a total of four motors, two each for the left and right rear wheels. It is supplied with electricity from an 800V battery with a capacity of 65kWh provided by Williams, and the basic output is 300kW, and 200kW (total 500kW) can be added by pressing the boost button. The boost button, which can be used for overtaking or increasing distance, can be effective when used strategically at the right timing. In the preliminaries, all 500kW are released.
ETCR demonstrated the start gate and test driving at the WTCR Aragon back in November 2020, although they have struggled in developing and testing during the pandemic. Then they were joined by Veloster N ETCR by Hyundai Motor Company, E-Racer of Cupra, and Alfa Romeo Giulia for the championship race to meet the necessary requirements.
In June 2021, the first season was finally played in five rounds of Spain, Denmark, Hungary and France, starting with Italy. Hyundai Motor Company recruited Jean‒Karl Vernay of the WTCR Engstler Team, Augusto Farfus, who was a development and test driver, and John Filippi and Tom Chilton. did. Jean‒Carl Vernay placed 2nd in the opening match and finished 2nd in the Drivers Championship by winning the final game, but in terms of manufacturer points, she was pushed out by Romeo Ferraris by 1 point and stayed in 3rd place. Still, at the circuit of Po Arno in France, where the final match was held, Parfus and Bernay of the Hyundai Team took first place in the group and won the overall championship, and proved that they had overcome their lack of fighting ability at the beginning of the season by ahead of their competitors in team points and combined race car scores.
ETCR has been credited by the FIA since this year and has become a true electric touring car world championship. Despite the fact that the initially planned matches between Turkey and Korea were canceled due to a lack of preparations and logistics issues, the number of races increased to six. Competition intensified as big names such as former BMW DTM works driver Adrien Tambay and 2012 DTM champion Bruno Spengler jumped in.
The Hyundai team also completely changed their driver lineup except for Vernay. For the WTCR, Norbert Michelisz and Mikel Azcona, who are participating in the war as members of BRC Hyundai, were joined; and Kevin Ceccon and Nicky Catsburg were given the last car.
This year, with the Cupra racers dominating, Adrian Tambay took the Drivers’ Championship. The Hyundai team ended the season in 5th place in the Drivers, with Azcona winning in Italy. Although he stood on the podiums less (first once and third once), his overall performance actually enhanced.
Azcona, who showed good pace in the preliminary match at the German Sachsenring in the final game and raised expectations for a rise in the rankings, was excluded from the preliminary round because her body part exceeded the regulation by 5mm, and even received a penalty during the quarterfinals. Instead, Michelisz finished the final round in 3rd place, ending the season in 2nd place in the Teams Championship.
Azcona, who recently became the final WTCR champion in Saudi Arabia, got attention by announcing that he aims to win next year’s ETCR with a new Hyundai car. There is yet to be any information about the new car. When Hyundai unveiled the RM22e concept in July of this year, the automaker mentioned that it was inspired by a TCR race car, but the RM22e does not abide by the current ETCR regulations ‒ such as a larger body compared to the TCR, four‒wheel drive system using two front/rear motors, and a torque vectoring system (e‒TVTC) using a multi‒plate clutch. Still, it seems clear that it will be based on the E‒GMP platform for electric vehicles with a low center of gravity. Hyundai Motor Company finished the end of the WTCR era splendidly as a double champion. And many people are already looking forward to the quiet, powerful, clean, and intense race of the new ETCR racing car being developed by the automaker.
By Sujin Lee, automobile critic
Excited about the 1991 establishment of the first domestic auto mania magazine 〈Car Vision〉, I sent a series of long letters there that led to an unexpected hire. After becoming an editor and the Editor‒in‒Chief for 〈Car Life〉 and 〈Car Vision〉, I have started a new career as an auto critic. My recent interests include cutting‒edge techs like electric cars, connected cars, and autonomous driving, but the ‘otaku’ in me doesn’t want internal combustion engines to disappear either.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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