Touring Car racing is back with a bang following an incredibly successful first WTCR World Touring Car Cup opening round in Marrakech. The WTCC is dead, long live the WTCR. When the World Touring Car Championship TC1 regulations wallowed in its final death throws at the end of 2017, many expected that would spell the end of a once great touring car championship, citing the mass withdrawal of manufacturer teams and dwindling fan interest as the barometer in which to measure the final, sad, last wave of the chequered flag for a series that has led the way in World level touring car racing since the middle 2000's. Much of the final months of 2017 would be spent casting around ideas about how the series could be propped up for another couple of years until something bigger came along, with promoters Eurosport Events banding around a potential tie-in to DTM / SuperGT style regulations, Class One silhouette rules or a hybrid of the current and insanely expensive TC1 rule sets for the year ahead, leaving plenty of uncertainty around where the championship might end up as 2018 begins. With a call for change happening too late into the season for any serious manufacturers to knuckle down and build entirely new cars, the people behind the WTCC made the obvious if not painful decision to adopt TCR regulations for the year ahead, effectively throwing in their hat with the series that was born from the brain of the disenchanted former WTCC boss Marcello Lotti, bringing an end to the young and rapidly growing TCR International Series and effectively joining the two championships together in a short term two year agreement. Although sensible on paper, the new category had plenty of doubters calling a World level series without official manufacturer entries (which are forbidden in TCR regulations) a pale shadow of what the championship should be, many eyes would be on the teams and drivers this weekend as the cars headed out onto the circuit in Marrakech for the first time during open practice. So was the first weekend of the new WTCR championship a success? That would be a resounding YES! Firstly the cars. For a championship that has struggled to attract decent numbers of cars in recent years, it would be a pleasure to see 25 well turned out racing machines on the grid for the opening round. Run by some very high quality teams and representing eight different models, the grid this weekend looked a damn site more healthy than has been the case for several seasons. In terms of drivers, we have several returning touring car legends on the grid this year, including a 56-year-old Gabrielle Tarquini who went on to win two of the three races in his Hyundai i30 N TCR and former four time World Champion Yvan Muller, driving for his own YMR team to name but two golden oldies. Alongside these two heavyweights would be another former champion reunited with his iconic Alfa Romeo, Fabrizio Giovanardi, 2017 WTCC champion Thed Bjork, 2017 TCR International Champion Jean-Karl Vernay, three time BTCC Champion Gordon Shedden, double BTCC Champion James Thompson and many other big names, all in closely matched cars, leaving a very realistic possibility of the number of drivers in double figures capable of scoring victories in any given race. As for the racing itself, TCR cars lend themselves much more to close and hard racing than their predecessor TC1 regulation machines, meaning a bit of touring car contact is nothing to be afraid of compared to what has been the norm over the last few seasons in the World Touring Car Championship, which let us be honest here, is exactly what we need to see in a top level tin top racing series... With Eurosport putting on an exceptional quality broadcast from beginning to end, the drivers fighting from the very moment the green flag waved for Free Practice and the racing, despite taking place on a hard and tight little street circuit that is renowned for not offering overtaking opportunities, being hard, close and exciting, the opening three races of the new WTCR World Touring Car Cup proved to be an exceptional spectacle and a brilliant way to showcase a series that looks very much like it is rapidly on the way to re-establishing itself as the premier motoracing series in the world. Happy? Hell yes I am. Touring Car racing is awesome, and the WTCR series looks like the perfect platform for a return to form for World Touring Cars. Yehaa. For more news from the motorsport world be sure to check out the Motorsport Sub Forum here at RaceDepartment - Join in the discussion today! Like what you see here at RaceDepartment? Don't forget to like, subscribe and follow us on social media! RaceDepartment YouTube RaceDepartment Twitter RaceDepartment Facebook RaceDepartment Twitch RaceDepartment Instagram What did you think of the new WTCR series opener? Does a move to TCR regulations mark the beginning of a resurgence of touring car racing in your opinion? Let us know in the comments section below!