TCR International Series 2017 – Georgia (Rounds 1-2)

At the risk of making myself look stupid once again…this couldn’t really get any better, could it? I mean, when this all came about for the first time less than three years ago, many people were quick to dismiss it as an unnecessary addition to the world of touring car racing – in fact, some questioned whether it would even see the light of day – but motorsport has an uncanny knack of throwing up its fair share of surprises…and few could have predicted how this was going to take off. Granted, it might still fall short in terms of pedigree and prestige compared to most other global championships at the minute, but everything’s in place for it to become even bigger and more popular in the coming years – an ever-increasing number of top-level drivers, cars from a wide variety of manufacturers (with technical parity being maintained to ensure the closest racing) and the regulations spreading like wildfire to national and regional series around the world – and, to be honest, it’s hard to believe that it won’t happen. On paper, the 2017 TCR International Series looks to be shaping up as the closest of its short history so far…but there’s still one man that everyone will be trying to catch.

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Supercars 2017 – Tasmania SuperSprint (Rounds 3-4)

Well, talk about starting as you mean to go on…that simply couldn’t have gone any better, could it? I mean, it doesn’t take much to work out that success doesn’t come easily in the world of motorsport at any level, but strangely, whenever a new season rolls around, there seems to be even more pressure than usual on the defending champion of a particular series to prove that their triumph wasn’t just a fluke and simply carry on as before, and, as a result, it can sometimes take a while for the results to pick up…which, in many ways, was what made this even more impressive. OK, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected – particularly when you consider the previous record of the team and the superior performance of their car – but you can only beat what’s in front of you, and, while success in the past doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to happen again in the future, it certainly makes it a lot easier when the competition is this strong. The dominant force of recent times have started ominously in the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, and, even at this early stage…it looks like the competition don’t have any answers.

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BTCC 2017 – Brands Hatch (Indy) (Rounds 1-3)

Now, I know this kind of thing gets repeated virtually every year, but it’s probably true this time around…this really could turn out to be something special, couldn’t it? Of course, in motorsport, it’s always a risk to build up the prospects of a particular championship before a wheel has even been turned, only to then find that the on-track action falls short of those high expectations once the season gets underway, but, having forged a formidable reputation as one of the most competitive series around, I suspect that’s not going to be the case here. I mean, granted, the big-budget racing of years gone by might be little more than a distant memory, but, with a huge range of cars and manufacturers on view and tightly controlled regulations that help to keep the action as close as possible, the formula has remained pretty much the same ever since – after all, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it – and, when you add an ever-growing list of driving talent into the mix…there’s plenty to get excited about. Sure, the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is going to have to go some way to match the drama of the past few years, but, on paper…it could be even better than before.

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WTCC 2017 – Season Preview


While some of its global appeal may have been lost, as one of the best tintop series around, the FIA World Touring Car Championship still has a reputation for incredibly close action – this is the field at the start of the Main Race in Russia in 2016 – but, with the dominant force of recent years now out of the way…who’s going to step up and steal the glory in 2017?

I don’t want this to sound negative…but it doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence, does it? Granted, things never stand still for too long in the world of motorsport, and this even extends to championships themselves, with new categories popping up all the time at the expense of other, more well-established series, but you tend to expect, don’t you, that major international championships would be immune from the threat of being scrapped, and yet that’s exactly the situation we’ve got here. I mean, for years, it’s hardly been much of a contest in terms of the destination of the overall title – indeed, it was sometimes clear for everyone to see even before a wheel had been turned – and, as a result, it was inevitable that there were going to have consequences sooner or later in terms of either the size of the grid or the variety of the machinery on show (two absolute essentials for a good saloon car series) and, after years of predictions that this might happen…we’re now starting to see the results. The 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship kicks off this weekend with some major questions being asked about its future, and, at present…it doesn’t seem as though anyone has the answers.

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Supercars 2017 – Clipsal 500 Adelaide (Rounds 1-2)

OK, so the final outcome wasn’t much of a surprise…but it wasn’t quite as many had expected either, was it? I mean, whichever way you look at it, the world of motorsport is difficult enough to succeed in at the best of times, particularly at a high level like this – after all, only one driver can win the title each year – and so, for those that fall short in their pursuit of championship glory, it can prove tricky for them to make a name for themselves in the sport. However, reputation only counts for so much in racing, and, while it must be satisfying for a driver to know they’ve delivered the goods in the past, titles aren’t decided on previous achievements – the standard of performances (and, ultimately, the quantity of points) in that season are what matter, and it’s hard to argue that whoever comes out on top will have earned their success, regardless of what they’ve achieved before. Put simply, anyone can beat anyone in the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, but there’s one combination they’re all trying to catch, and the question on many people’s lips this time is…can they do it again?

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TCR International Series 2017 – Season Preview


Despite being a relatively recent addition to the world motorsport scene, the TCR International Series has rapidly grown to become one of the most popular and prestigious touring car series around – this is the 2016 field at the Imola circuit in Italy – so what does the new season have in store?

The novelty factor might be wearing off a little bit now…but it still doesn’t look an inch out of place, does it? I mean, in the cut-and-thrust world of motorsport, whenever a new championship arrives on the scene – particularly one that seems to have come completely out of left-field – it’s natural that expectations are going to remain pretty low for a while as it tries to find its feet, yet nobody seems to have got the memo here. Sure, it might not have been around all that long, but it delivers everything you’d expect of the more established touring car series around the world, and, at the minute, it just seems to be going from strength to strength. The TCR International Series has created more than its fair share of stories in its short history so far, and so, with the 2017 season preparing to fire up this weekend…it’s time to start writing the next chapter.

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BTCC 2017 – Season Preview


With packed grids, a huge variety of cars and some of the best racing anywhere on the planet, the British Touring Car Championship continues to set incredibly high standards – this is the field of 2016 in the first race of the penultimate meeting at Silverstone – but can the new campaign stand up to expectations?

Now, I know this gets said every single year, but let’s be honest here…this has all the makings of something special, doesn’t it? I mean, one of the many great things about motorsport as a whole is that there’s so much variety in terms of the various different styles of racing, meaning that – regardless of which one you prefer – there’s a championship out there to suit virtually anybody, and, as far as I’m concerned…this is the best of the bunch. Sure, on the surface, it can’t really compete with the engineering masterpieces that you get in Formula One, nor does it produce the same brutal, rugged spectacle of the World Rally Championship, but these things are almost a price worth paying when the quality of the racing itself remains so consistently high year after year, and so it’s really no surprise why many people regard it as the best saloon car series anywhere in the world. That’s right, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is back, and, as the 2017 season prepares to kick off at Brands Hatch this weekend…it’s virtually impossible to predict who’s going to come out on top.

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Supercars 2017 – Season Preview

v8-supercars-2016
With such a high-class field of drivers on show, it’s no surprise that the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is one of the toughest touring car series in the world – this is the class of 2016 gathered ahead of the season-opening Clipsal 500 12 months ago – so who’s going to come out on top in 2017?

Right, so how’s this going to play out? I mean, clearly, national motorsport championships are unlikely to be able to establish the same broad appeal as one that travels around the world, but, every now and again, you do get certain exceptions that can develop a reputation outside of their home country, and, as far as I’m concerned…this is one of them. However, when you look at it on paper, it’s a bit of an odd combination – sure, they might be based on ordinary, road-going saloon cars (the backbone of any good touring car series), but the amount of power under the bonnet means they probably wouldn’t look out of place in GT or sports car racing either – and, despite numerous attempts to sort things out…well, the picture seems to get even more confusing, doesn’t it? As a result, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is still having to field some pretty stiff questions about its future direction, and, as the 2017 season prepares to burst into life this weekend, I think it’s about time we started to get some answers.

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‘Mouthing Off’ (2) – The role of manufacturer teams in touring cars

BTCC 2016
The British Touring Car Championship has traditionally led the way when it comes to the variety of cars on the grid – this is the 2016 field at the start of the first race at Thruxton – but, when it comes to manufacturer entries, are things as clear-cut as they seem?

In stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of other forms of motorsport, there’s something decidedly more down-to-earth about touring car racing as a whole, with the familiarity of the cars themselves – which are essentially modified versions of the same ordinary hatchbacks and saloons that you or I might drive on the road – making it much easier for spectators to recognise and relate to the machinery out on the race track, and, with so many different models to pick from, it’s no surprise that many of the more high-profile championships have such variety in the amount of manufacturers represented on the grid.
However, while the number of marques might be increasing, things aren’t necessarily as clear-cut when it comes to the issue of ‘works’ teams – by which I mean teams that are officially backed by their manufacturer, who would also pay their drivers to race rather than the other way around – and the role they now play, so, for the second of my new, opinion-based ‘Mouthing Off’ series of posts, I’m going to take a look at the situation in terms of how things were not that long ago, where they are now and (potentially) where they might be heading in the future, before trying to come to some sort of conclusion as to whether or not modern-day touring car racing actually needs them…

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