Competing in the inaugural season of the TCR International Series is “a mixture of business and emotion” according to Top Run Motorsport General Manager Renato Russo. The outfit made their début in the TCR International Series with their brand new Subaru STi TCR car in September, having announced plans to build cars to the series’ regulations back in April.
The North Italian based team are perhaps best known as experts in rallying, having forged a long customer history in the sport with Porsche, Lancia, Opel, Ford, Mitsubishi and since 2003, Subaru.
Amongst their successes, Top Run have claimed four Group N titles in the World Rally Championship and two overall FIA-observed rally victories in 1995 on Rally Argentina and in 2003 on Rally Mexico, as well as a number of titles in national and regional touring car and rally championships.
In touring car racing the outfit have previously run cars from Alfa Romeo, Nissan, Opel, Lancia, Mercedes and BMW in various different championships.
The Italian team were one of the first to sign up to the new TCR regulations, having spoken with promoter Marcello Lotti at the end of March 2015.
“They called me to say ‘listen, here is something really different’,” explained Russo to TouringCars.Net. “A new concept with car racing. I was in meetings and I said ‘this is really something – this is something which will be really successful’.
“We had a meeting with Marcello Lotti and I thought this is really a wonderful idea to have. Cars with the same regulations all over the world.
“It really is a pity that the team which is winning is the one who has more money than the others. But if you have seen the TCR races then they are fighting to win until the very last corner.
“This new championship makes sense, and you can no longer throw money away to have the best car. No, you have to say ‘this is where we are at’ and you have to perform. This is the reason why we are so motivated. This is about getting to the roots of car racing.”
Although the team may be new to many followers of international touring cars, Top Run have been involved in circuit racing previously, and were the first team to race the iconic Jaguar XJ220 anywhere in the world in 1993 when they competed in the Italian GT Championship in a Martini-liveried car.
“Whilst it’s true that we are known around as a rally team and rally developers, we have raced in quite a lot of circuit races,” added Russo. “We won the Lamborghini International Championship in 1997 and we won several Italian championships in touring cars and saloon car racing. The very first team racing anywhere in the world with the Jaguar XJ220 was Top Run.”
In recent years the team have been involved with Subaru in rallying, which has led to the team taking the decision to build the Japanese cars for the TCR regulations. Russo explains that he first sought backing from Subaru for the project, before embarking on building the cars as an independent.
“We spoke to Subaru, as we’ve had quite a lot of success with Subaru all over the world. They told us ‘OK, go on’. For the Japanese, Subaru is about four-wheel drive. So to swap over and do two-wheel drive really is something which is clashing against the principles of Subaru culture. Nevertheless, they told us ‘go on, we are happy, but it’s your job’.