27 Jan 2014


Graham King assesses the new saloon car formula's chances

The history of motorsport is littered with series' and formulas that promised much but sank without trace. Some lasted a few seasons, some never even got off the ground in the first place. Some were ridiculous ideas, some aimed at a niche that simply wasn't there. Some actually were perfectly good ideas, but in practice they proved too costly, or the organisors failed to deliver what they promised.

Into this bear pit of wasted money and broken dreams steps Global Touring Cars, a new saloon car formula that seems promising.

The people behind GTC should know what they’re doing. Executive Director Mark Woolley has worked on the events side of motorsport for over 15 years with an impress roster of clients and the project is spearheaded by respected South African racer Gary Formato. The concept (hate that word) behind the formula is to sell franchises to run GTC series around the world. It's a perfectly sound idea and GTC claims to have sold a franchise in South Africa already.

But none of that will matter if the car is no good. Though it looks like it might just be.

Every car on the GTC grid will use identical spaceframe chassis, powered by a 500bhp V8 engine of unnamed manufacture, driving the rear wheels via a sequential gearbox. The chassis has been designed to accept original equipment body panels from most mid-size hatchbacks/saloons (a Ford Focus is pictured). Presumably the aero gubbins would be identical across the different cars, just adapted to fit.

Again, the car is a perfectly sound platform. The fact that chassis and running gear are identical across the grid would ensure a level playing field and keep a lid on costs, while a wide choice of bodies would provide variety and marketing opportunities.

So GTC looks like it should work. From a team's perspective the car should be relatively easy and affordable to acquire and run - the press release doesn't mention any numbers, but let's spitball and say £150k to buy the car and about the same to run it for a season. Affordability matters for the drivers, as does a powerful, challenging car that they make the difference to. That leads to close and spectacular racing for the spectators, both trackside and on TV, who will be able to recognise and relate to the cars they're watching. All of that means the franchise holders should have an easy job running and making money from the series.

That's the theory, but will it actually happen? Well, GTC is entering a very crowded marketplace. It's not trying to rival or replace any existing series, but it's tough to tell were it would fit. In the UK, Europe, South America and Australia, there are any number of super-competitive and high-profile tin-top series that already deliver what GTC aims to.

But those areas all have long motorsport histories with established series that GTC is unlikely to muscle in on. Where GTC might find its niche is Africa and Asia, massive continents with disparate racing landscapes between individual countries. If GTC plays its cards right, it could become a unifying force. There could even be a place for it in the USA, where multi-chassis touring car racing has traditionally struggled.

One factor heavily in GTC's favour is the current prevalence of 'global cars' - the Ford Focus you buy in Kenya is the same Ford Focus you buy in China. That is true of at least one car in pretty much every manufacturer's range. They could catch on...

The idea behind Global Touring Cars works and the machinery looks exciting. But ultimately the weak link in any project like this is the people running it. Woolley and Formato have one hell of a job on their hands to get GTC off the ground.

I'm rooting for them.