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Gallery: TCR Australia day one

By Tim Robson, 18 May 2019 Car Style

Gallery: TCR Australia day one

A new world series hot hatch racing class debuts in Australia. Check out a few shots from day one

I've been travelling to racing tracks for most of my adult life, and the day I don't get a tingly sense of anticipation in my stomach - even if I'm going in the middle of the week - then I reckon it might be time to stop going.

On approach to Sydney Motorsport Park yesterday, I'm glad to report that the feeling was there in full. In fact, it's been a while since I've been this excited to go to the track - and I'm not even driving.

The event that I'm so excited about is the Shannons Nationals, and the race I'm here to see is the debut of TCR Australia. It's a pretty basic tin-top series, but there's something about it which has caught the imagination of a lot of people.

2019 TCR Australia

TCR has been running for about four years now, and is designed around loud, lairy hot hatches and sedans that we all know and love.

Run locally by the former boss of Volvo Australia, Matt Braid, the series will debut this weekend in Sydney with 17 cars and eight brands on the grid and a host of drivers from across the racing world, and the globe.

The cars are all based on C-segment front-wheel-drive hatches or, in the case of the Audi S3 and Subaru WRX, sedans, they all use a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels, and they all use slick tyres, wide-body kits and big brakes.

The car industry is well represented, too, with cars from Renault, Honda, Volkswagen, Subaru, Alfa Romeo and Hyundai all on the grid with this weekend, with more cars expected to join.

Suprercars teams including Garry Rogers Motorsport, Kelly Racing and Matt Stone Racing are all involved.

There's a price cap of $206,000 per car - which sounds steep, but several teams have sourced one-year-old cars from European series for far less.

Drivers, too, come from various disciplines across the racing world and, for the first time, there are three female racers in an Australian national category.

MORE Everything you need to know about TCR Australia

Friday's opening day saw Adelaide Porsche Carrera Cup racer Michael Almond take the honours, in only his first ever drive in the category.

"They are fun to drive," he told WhichCar. "It's hard to get heat into the tyres, but they are a quick little thing, especially in the corners."

Michael's time of 1min 34.6sec is about four seconds slower than his usual Porsche 911 Carrera Cup car around the SMSP Brabham circuit, and just on five seconds slower than a Supercar. 

That's not bad, given the TCR car has about 260kW, versus the Porsche's 357kW and the Supercar's 450-plus. 

"There's more time to come," says Michael, who reckons the cars are currently more suited to smooth European tracks rather than bumpier Aussie circuits.

Debutante Chelsea Angelo, who's racing in a Holden Astra after stepping out of a Porsche, also reckons the cars are fun but challenging.

"It's just a matter of chasing the set-up in the car at the moment," she says. "I haven't raced a front-wheel-drive car, so I have to adapt my style a bit as well. But they are a lot of fun!"

2016 Australian rally champion Molly Taylor is also part of the series, and she says she's taking all one step at a time. Despite her vast rallying experience, this is her first ever circuit race.

"I'm in the deep end, for sure, but I'm getting more comfortable every lap," she says. 

Molly had some pretty awesome assistance, though, in the form of her mum, legendary rally co-driver Coral, and Neal Bates, a former Bathurst 1000 class winner in a Toyota Corolla and multiple Australian rally champion himself.

MORE Podcast: TCR takes off in Australia

The boss of the series, Matt Braid, told WhichCar that free-to-air TV was a key driver for many of the new teams, and he expects more team to come about for 2020.

He's also quick to suggest that TCR isn't meant to take over from Supercars.

"We want to put on a professional touring car category that is an alternative to Supercars," he says. "We don't want to go head to head with them, and it's never been our intention, but we believe there is a place for FWD hot hatches and sedans that are market-relevant to Australia."

There will be three 30-minute races over the weekend. Stay tuned for more pics and vid from the event.

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