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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Formula One 2017 – Season Preview

Arguably the most spectacular and prestigious motorsport championship in the world, Formula One is about to change in a big way – this is the field of 2016 at the start of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix 12 months ago – and, with so many questions still to be answered…who’s going to grab the glory this time?

Talk about the winds of change…this is more like a hurricane, isn’t it? OK, so I might be overstating things a little, but it can be easy sometimes to become accustomed to things being done in a certain way – particularly  after such a long period of time – and so, when the status quo is upset for whatever reason, there’s immediate pressure on those coming in to prove they’re capable of delivering the goods. I mean, it’s natural that the world of motorsport has to move with the times every now and again, but this is very much a case of revolution rather than evolution, and, to be honest, it’s difficult to emphasise just how important this could be for what many people regard as the pinnacle of racing.  That’s right, Formula One is back, and, with the 2017 season set to get underway this weekend and so many unknowns to throw into the mix as a new era for the sport begins…it’s anyone’s guess how it’s going to play out.

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WRC 2017 – Sweden (Round 2)

Sweden (Round 2)
As the only truly winter rally on the current calendar, the snow-covered Swedish forests present perhaps the most unique challenge of any WRC event, so, with no clear championship favourite after the opening round of the season…who would be able to tame the white stuff this time around as the sport’s new era begins to take shape?

Now, I don’t know about you…but I think we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Of course, in motorsport, no two championship seasons are ever exactly the same – particularly after such a dramatic overhaul of the rules during the off-season – and so it’s inevitable things aren’t going to stay this way, but, with everyone starting from a clean sheet of paper, there was hope that the start of the sport’s new era would level the playing field and give a chance to some of the less familiar names to immediately make their mark…and yet, for one reason or another, we still ended up with near enough the same result.
In fact, if you were being really honest, you could say that this was the dominant force of recent times picking up virtually where they left off last year (and, if you’d only looked at the final result, that’s probably how it appeared), but it’s all too easy sometimes to take success for granted based on what’s gone before, and so, while it might not have looked like a contest on the surface, if you read between the lines…there was considerably more to it than that. The 2017 FIA World Rally Championship may have started as many had expected, but the field looks to be even more competitive than it has for a while…and so there’ll be plenty of twists and turns still to come.

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Supercars 2017 – Season Preview

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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WRC 2017 – Monte Carlo (Round 1)

Monte Carlo (Round 1)
You could call this ‘the calm before the storm’ – with 2017 signalling the dawn of a much-anticipated new era for the WRC, the new louder, angrier breed of cars gathered in Monte Carlo’s Casino Square ahead of the curtain-raiser…but who would be the one to strike first blood once they hit the stages?

Well, it’s certainly been a while in coming, but now (finally), it’s here…and it’s going to be something special. Of course, I realise that making statements like that at this stage means it could always come back and bite me in the weeks and months ahead, but, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no harm in being optimistic about something new, particularly when it has the potential to reshape the pecking order in such a big way. I mean, for all its plus points – and there’s plenty of those – certain championships in the world of motorsport can sometimes become a bit samey, and so, when the same driver keeps on winning time and time again, it’s not difficult to understand why things would need to change in order to shake things up, but, as shake-ups go…this is a pretty sizeable one, to say the least! The 2017 FIA World Rally Championship could well be the most open season for many years, and, given what we’ve seen in the recent past…I don’t think there’s many who’ll be complaining.

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WRC 2017 – Season Preview

WRC 2016
Compared to the machines of 2016 (seen here at the ceremonial start in Monte Carlo’s Casino Square 12 months ago), there’ll be a very different look to the WRC this time around, as well as a very different outcome…but who’s going to emerge on top?

Sitting comfortably, are we? All I’ll say is don’t get too used to it, because this is going to be one hell of a wild ride – sure, whichever way you look at it, motorsport as a whole is a pretty extreme discipline, but, while it’s all well and good watching it take place within the controlled environment of a purpose-built circuit, there’s something that bit more spectacular about taking the same concept out “into the wild”, so to speak…and this is, without doubt, the toughest test of them all. I mean, just think about it for a second – some of the world’s most talented drivers, behind the wheel of some incredible machinery, negotiating their way down essentially closed public roads at insane speeds, with hidden hazards just waiting to trip them up if they get it even slightly wrong and the added bonus of some stunning backdrops…sound good, does it? Well, in that case, strap yourselves in for a whirlwind worldwide adventure – the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship is about to burst into life, and, for once, it doesn’t seem to be anything like a foregone conclusion.

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‘Mouthing Off’ (1) – The current state of junior single-seaters

F1 2016
There’s no disputing that Formula One is still the place to be in open-wheel racing – this is the start of the 2016 Australian Grand Prix – but what’s going on further down the system?

With their distinctive appearance and often incredible performance figures, it’s no surprise that open-wheel, single-seater racing has become one of the most recognisable and popular forms of motorsport on the planet, but, with most of the attention and coverage directed towards the very highest level of Formula One, it’s often easy to forget the vital role that the numerous feeder formulae play in providing aspiring young drivers with a platform to show their skills.
In the past, it used to be relatively straightforward to work out where a future F1 superstar might well emerge from, but now…well, the picture is more than a little muddled with the numerous different avenues on offer to the next generation, and so, for the first of my new ‘Mouthing Off’ series of posts, I’m going to take a look at the current situation from three separate angles – money, seats and career progression – before giving my opinion on what could potentially be the best way forward…

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