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Supercars champ’s shock at new ‘different beast’

Supercars champion-turned-NASCAR star Marcos Ambrose admits he wrote off the TCR Australia Series as just “fast shopping trolleys” but has come to love the hot hatches.

The touring car series burst onto the scene in 2019, creating tension between the powerbrokers of Australian motorsport.

The turbocharged, four-cylinder cars tapped into an audience previously uncatered for at the highest level domestically.

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Soon enough the win on Sunday, sell on Monday approach had returned to racing as Hyundai, Honda and more brands fought for the top gong while promoting their performance brands.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the series has consistently fielded entries of around 20 cars, produced close racing, and drawn interest from current and former Supercars stars.

Ambrose, however, was not one of the category’s early supporters.

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The dyed-in-the-wool V8 driver won two Supercars titles in 2003 and 2004 before moving to the United States where he enjoyed a fruitful NASCAR career.

Since retiring, Ambrose has joined Melbourne-based outfit Garry Rogers Motorsport as a director.

That saw him properly introduced to the TCR Australia Series for the first time in 2022, working with a slew of high-performance cars from Peugeot, Renault, and Alfa Romeo.

“TCR is a different beast,” said Ambrose in an end-of-season wrap video.

“It’s my first experience with the category. A great category by the way.

“I’ve come full circle on those TCR cars. You go, ‘oh, it’s just a fast shopping trolley’ but really when you get into it and you really start looking at it, they’re great cars for drivers to learn their craft coming out of [Hyundai] Excels and so forth.

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“They can come through and drive a really nicely balanced, good handling race car, at a really high level. These cars are beautifully built. A lot of them are from European teams, so the stuff underneath them is first-class.

“They’ve got plenty of power. They get a lot of power out of those small engines. They’re very nimble, very sharp cars to drive, so I’ve become a very big fan of TCR.

“What I like about it the most is that you’ve got these different brands that have different strengths at different tracks. No one make can dominate the year. Even if one car starts getting away, the world regulations bring it back.”

Garry Rogers’ son, Barry Rogers, who runs the team in part said the addition of Supercars full-timers and co-drivers to the field has been a plus for the series.

Erebus Motorsport driver Will Brown won the inaugural season while Chaz Mostert of Walkinshaw Andretti United won the 2021 season.

Others including Michael Caruso, Fabian Coulthard, James Moffat, Tim Slade, Lee Holdsworth, Jason Bargwanna, Andre Heimgartner, Russell Ingall, and Garth Tander have raced in the series.

“For the younger drivers coming through, the last few years Mostert’s won it, Will Brown’s won it, now D’Alberto’s won it,” said Rogers.

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“You’ve got Moff in it, Caruso is in it, Holdsworth has been in it. It seems to be a way that these Supercars co-drivers and even main game drivers keep themselves sharp.

“You’ve got to be sharp to drive one of these things.”

The 2023 TCR Australia Series will feature at every SpeedSeries event, without the Bathurst 6 Hour.

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