A small club race takes place, at Ring Knutstorp in Sweden. Less than 10 drivers are there. The event, with its enjoyable, clean and close racing, leads to more every week.
And as the events come and go, becoming more popular
as the weeks and months go by, one driver in particular – Keith Barrick – feels that this group of sim racers are on to something.
Just about a year later, in September 2009, the American Touring Car Championship holds the first round of its inaugural season. A near-full grid of drivers braves the elevation changes of Mosport International Raceway… and becomes the first chapter of a legend.
Well over four years after the first club race, and three years after the start of the first season, the American Touring Car Championship has gone through four seasons and four different champions, and is now gearing up for its fifth season, under new management by the capable hands of Ivan Navarro. A part of the Touring Pro Series league collective since season 3, and the oldest league in the lineup, this championship is the main TPS draw for drivers in the Americas and Australasia, along with the Virtual Mini Challenge. Such is its popularity, though, that it attracts its fair share of European drivers too, who brave the small hours of their morning for a slice of the ATCC pie.
Races take place on Friday nights for racers in the Americas, and anywhere from crazy-o’clock in the morning for Europeans to midday Saturday for Australians. The league focuses on international-level Touring Car racing, with cars from the Super 2000 regulations – the dominant class of Touring Car racing in the northern hemisphere for the last decade. A mandatory pit stop for two tyres in every race and the top 8 on the grid being reversed for race 2 of a round means that there is action aplenty, something that ATCC has built its reputation on.
The racing has always been close in this championship, but in recent seasons, the competitiveness has skyrocketed. With the appearance and rise of talents such as Jesper Taulborg, Francisco Villar and Stoffel Vandoorne – who only recently won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup title in real life! – the speed, racing nous and professionalism required to succeed in ATCC has gradually risen every season.
This upcoming season sees the debut of some new faces and the return of many familiar ones. So without further ado, let’s start our season preview by talking about the drivers for this season of the American Touring Car Championship!
Drivers and Teams
For the most part, league regulars like Keith Barrick (Season 1 champion), Francisco Villar (Season 3 runner-up), Miguel Neto, Yuri Braham, Rhys Gardiner, Glenn Petersen, Eric Nelson, and many more, have returned to contest the season once again. But new names, both from within TPS and outside it, have signed up to the league to try their hand. Names like Jack Keithley, World Supertech Series season 1 champion, and Fabian Werner andAndrew Waring – both unknown constants that may add to the mix – have put their names on the signup list.
Terra Australis Racing, league veterans and the biggest Australian contingent in the league, now boast a new livery and a new sponsor in In2SimGear. Another Australian team, XsimGear.com.au Motorsport, return for a second attempt at ATCC, being represented by long-time TPS racer Rhys Gardiner and later, new team member Matthew Barron.
On the European front, Dan Allinson and Mike Bell drive for Plimspeed racing, a team named in honour of the late Eric Plimmer – a fellow sim racer and friend to many drivers in TPS, who sadly succumbed to the effects of cancer recently. Dan and Mike will undoubtedly be hoping to do Eric’s name honour during their campaign in ATCC. Dariusz Swiderski and Ethan Bass drive for SimSpeed Racing, having helped with the development of the custom mod used this season, which will be explained in greater detail later.Meanwhile, Alexander Lauritzen, Simon Kilov, Lasse Sørensen and Chris Shepherd represent a new team by the name of Walk Racing – organised by former league regular Caramidaru Bogdan, who is known as “Mr. C” in ATCC, but who sadly will not be racing this season. “Why race when we can walk by you?” seems to be their team motto, and their livery is among the most striking on the grid; overall, a bold statement indeed.
The calendar for ATCC season 5 also sees a mix of familiar and new ground. The switch back to the RACE 07 platform, after plans to use rFactor for season 5 fell through, means that there were some track choices that weren’t able to be carried over – thus, this season’s calendar consists almost entirely of tracks that have been visited before, but are definitely favourites.
Round 1 visits Watkins Glen, an old favourite that has featured in every season of ATCC thus far. This fast, flowing and wide track has always been good for racing, with cars that are high power and low drag being favoured, and slipstreaming being a essential part of on-track battles.
Round 2 moves from the East to the West of the USA, when the field holds two 19-lap races around Laguna Seca. This bucking, diving,
twisting and turning circuit in California has history and reputation behind it – which drivers can successfully brave the fabled Corkscrew?
The third round of the championship crosses the pond to Europe for the season’s first international race. The Hungaroring, host of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix since 1985, has been used in preseason events last season, but this is the first time it will be used in the season proper. Flat, technical and twisty, it will favour drivers who have set up their cars with good mechanical grip.
Round 4 moves back to the United States, to Birmingham in Alabama. Barber Motorsports Park was a favourite track to visit for club races in the pre-ATCC days, and it finally makes its ATCC debut in season 5. Rolling elevation changes and blind turns will reward the most daring of drivers.
Round 5 is the marquee event of ATCC – the double oval race at KW Superspeedway. With all drivers switching to the rear-wheel drive BMW for this round, expect special-edition paint jobs, trains of drafting cars, and close wheel-to-wheel racing at scary speeds!
The sixth round of the season goes to Europe for the second and final time, to the fictional Vitus Parc circuit in Switzerland. The club layout of this facility has been a Touring Pro Series favourite, and promises an exciting event with its fast chicanes and rolling turns.
The end of the season goes back to America, to two classic road courses. The first is the rollercoaster of Mid-Ohio. Tight and twisty, with drivers barely getting a rest over the course of a lap, this legendary track will surely provide a frenetic penultimate round of the season. All eyes will be on turn 5, to see if any drivers will become victims of the infamous car-flipping kerb at the apex…
The second of the two classics is Road America – America’s Monza. With a perennial, high-speed layout dating back to the 1950s, Road America is the perfect track at which to (hopefully) decide a championship, and conclude the American Touring Car Championship’s run on the RACE 07 platform.
The grand finale for SimBin’s Touring Car sim sees ATCC using a custom mod once more. Masterminded by Michael van Scheppingen of SimSpeed Racing, the SSR S2000 mod balances the cars of the Super 2000 class and introduces new parameters to make their handling and setup methods more realistic. Every car has its strengths and weaknesses, and in the hands of a good driver, any of the
cars used will do well in a race.
The cars should be familiar to anyone who has watched or followed Super 2000 racing since 2003 – cars like the Alfa Romeo 156, Vauxhall Vectra, SEAT Leon and BMW 3-series are the current popular choices among the drivers. Currently, the Alfa seems to be the dominant car in terms of sheer numbers, but the BMWs have always attracted some of the most unearthly-quick drivers in the league, and as said earlier, no car should be discounted due to the balancing this mod applies. It will surely be an interesting championship car-wise!
It is a universal rule that a good racing series, real or virtual, will have one winning combination: good drivers, challenging tracks, interesting cars and great racing. Taking all of the above into account, it would seem that season 5 of the American Touring Car Championship is looking to be the best yet. Will the “Old Reliable” RACE 07 go out with a bang? We’ll be one step closer to finding out this Friday, November 16!
As always, ATCC will be broadcasted live on MultiBC, Touring Pro Series’ broadcast partner. Remember to keep your finger on the TPS pulse by liking Touring Pro Series on Facebook, following Touring Pro Series on Twitter and subscribing to the Touring Pro Series YouTube channel. You will be updated with articles, race reports and replays of live broadcasts of all of our leagues, including ATCC!
We’ll see you at Watkins Glen on November 16, with the broadcast kicking off at 9:15pm EST!
—For more information on ATCC, such as league history, signups and more, visit http://www.touringproseries.com/atcc/ and check out the links on the top toolbar.