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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Now, I know we’ve been here before, but, to be quite honest…I think it’s about time this was done properly, don’t you? For those of you who have been here in the past, it’s nice to have you back, but, to those who are new around these parts, welcome to my relaunched and (hopefully) improved motorsport blog. Essentially, this is going to be a relatively short introductory post to give you a little bit of background as to where my interest in racing came from and to bring you up to speed (excuse the pun) with what I’ve got planned for the season ahead, so…let’s get on with it!

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