Long-time F1 Fanatic reader Fer No. 65 tells us all about the exciting Argentinean Touring Car Championship TC2000 which visits some fantastic tracks and boasts a cunning qualifying system designed to produce great races.
First things first. You probably won’t know a thing about TC2000, unless you’re a passionate Touring Car fan. And that’s okay, because I’m sure no one outside Argentina (except maybe Brazil and Uruguay) knows it.
But take ten minutes to read about it – and watch the videos below – and I’m sure you’ll love it.
TC2000 is Argentina’s fastest and most technologically advanced motorsport series. It ranks at the same level with World Touring Car Championship or British Touring Car Championship in terms of racing and technology, but it’s a lot less restrictive. Autosport called it the third best touring car series in the world.
TC2000 offers the kind of excitement BTCC enjoyed during the Supertouring era. It’s a reminder that touring cars races with plenty of works teams, a big number of potential winners every round and fas,t light 2-litre engined cars are never boring.
Cars and drivers
Are TC2000’s cars powerful? Are they beautiful? It’s difficult to fall in love with a series if cars are horrible. Well, that’s a matter of opinions. And in my opinion, they all look awesome!
They don’t disappoint in terms of performance either. TC2000 cars are powerful, light front-wheel-drive machines. Engines are highly tuned; 2-litres, straight-four normally aspirated engines, with revs limited to 8500rpm, and a power output around 350bhp. No diesels here…
The chassis are built from each manufacturer’s medium sized saloon. Hatchbacks are usually avoided, because it’s a lot more painful for the engineers to find aerodynamic efficiency.
The difference between the road cars and the racing cars is clearly visible. Like in the DTM, the bodies are widened and some teams add winglets to generate extra downforce at the front, while at the back a big wing is placed (with some restrictions on its design).
Big low-profile slicks and very low ride height complete the picture. Alan Menu said about the Chevrolet Astra he raced in 2006: “This car is way faster than the Lacetti I use to drive in Europe. It’s really sad the tyres are rock hard. It’d be amazing to see how fast they go on better ones.”
Seven works teams compete: Fiat, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Peugeot and Renault, plus Volkswagen as a privateer.
All of them have a large pedigree in the series, hence the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” policy famous in America is still very much the way to go around here as well, so it’s an intense fight to see whose car appears on the newspaper the morning after. That means every team work hard to get the latest and most modern saloon each year.
Fiat brought the new Linea last year, Toyota did it with the new Corolla as well, Chevrolet dropped their successful Astra last year and started racing the new four-door Vectra. Honda has been racing the Civic since 2007, Ford won the second race of the season with the new four-door Focus, Renault is present with their four-door Megane and Peugeot races the only hachbacks with the five-door 307.
Among the drivers are reigning double champion Jose Maria Lopez, who has come bacl after his broken F1 dream and is leading the championship once again.
Former F1 driver Norberto Fontana was champion in 2002 and Leonel Pernia, Chevrolet’s WTCC driver at Monza last weekend, races a Civic and was runner-uplast year.
From late March to early November, TC 2000 travels to the best racing tracks in the country, some of which have featured in articles on this site.
They include the old Buenos Aires Number 15 circuit, used for F1 from 1974 to 1981, with its huge, long loop and back straight.
The cars also visit the new and astonishing Potrero de los Funes course, built using road streets around a lake near an extinct volcano.
The Zonda track in San Juan is tricky and frightening – it’s an eight-shaped track nestling within the mountains.
Most weekends consist of two practice sessions and a F1 knock-out style qualifying on Saturday, and two races on Sunday, with the exception of endurance and street tracks events, which only host one race on Sundays.
Normal Sundays consist of a short six-lap sprint and a long 120km feature event. The championship employs an unusual but rather effective means of deciding the grid.
After qualifying, the grid for the sprint race is determined by a penalty system. The championship leader starts 12 places behind the position he originally qualified in. The driver who’s second starts ten places behind his original position and so on until the tenth-placed racer, who only loses 1 place after qualifying. The finishing order in the sprint race determines the grid for the feature.
Yes, it sounds unfair for the championship leader at first – even if he sets pole position, he starts 13th. But the quality of the races reached a peak since the system was introduced back in 2006.
Faster cars end up fighting for the lead at the feature race anyway, but only those who resisted the fierce battle at the midfield. And those starting ahead won’t miss the opportunity to finally win a race. The complicated system is not applied at endurance and street track events.
Endurance weekends consist of just one race, but it’s much longer than the others and includes pitting for fuel. These endurace races are held at the longest tracks TC2000 visits, Potrero de los Funes, the classic 200km of Buenos Aires and Santiago del Estero.
Two drivers share the cars, so manufacturers tend to invite well known touring car racers from foreign countries to help the locals.
Chevrolet has brought WTCC specialists Alan Menu, Robert Huff and Nicola Larini. Honda has run Anthony Reid and Brazilian Stock Car star Cacá Bueno, who also raced actively during the decade.
Ford won a race with former Ferrari tester Luciano Burti at the wheel of one of their Focuses. Toyota invited Kelvin Burt once and Jordi Gene, Eliseo Salazar, Rickard Rydell, Tarso Marquez and Enrique Bernoldi have also made appearances.
Street track weekends consist of normal races at the only street racetracks the series visit, at Santa Fe and Uruguay’s Punta del Este, few metres from the beach.
This Sunday is the fourth round of the 2010 championship at Cordoba, home of the Argentinean WRC event. The championship is wide open, with four drivers between five points on top of the standings.
It’s a normal weekend, so expect a great race with a lot of overtaking, some broken bumpers, a couple of missing headlights after the fastest cars start from the back of the grid after qualifying.
A new TC2000 simulation based on rFactor’s ISI engine is soon to be released, which could be an interesting way to find out more about the series.
Action from the fearsome Zonda circuit in 2008:
Another exciting race at Mendonza in 2009:
The last round of the championship held earlier this month:
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