Motor racing in 2017 in a lot of cases is yet to really get under way. However with the Dakar Rally on the go at the moment, the 24 Hours of Dubai in action and car launches now imminent, the excitement level is building looking forward to what could be another cracking year in many categories. So here are 10 things this writer is looking forward to in motor racing 2017.
10 Things to get Excited About in Motor Racing 2017
IMSA’s Awesome-Looking new DPi Cars
The Daytona Prototypes which ran in the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship over the previous years were beginning to look rather dated compared to modern Le Mans Prototypes. So enter the all-new Daytona Prototype International cars, which look quite simply stunning. These will hit the track in anger at the 24 Hours of Daytona later this month, which will hopefully provide the epic racing which we saw from the same race last year.
What Will Follow Hamilton vs Rosberg?
We simply do not know what will happen in Formula 1 this year, that is a given. What we do know, is that it cannot be a repeat of what we saw from 2014-2016, where much of the story was the battle between Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Germany’s Nico Rosberg, following the latter’s retirement. The shake-up in the regulations may throw Red Bull’s exciting young chargers into the mix, and Hamilton’s new team mate (expect a Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes announcement soon) may also provide some headaches. Ferrari cannot be counted out too, and McLaren may even spring a surprise…
Stoffel Vandoorne – Will he Deliver?
The rookie with the most pedigree entering F1 this season is Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne. Arguably the greatest GP2 driver of all time – undoubtedly the most successful driver ever to grace the category, comes in with a massive reputation which we saw glimpses of at Bahrain last year. It will be very tough for him to challenge Fernando Alonso in his first full campaign as a F1 driver, but similar was said about another rookie 10 years ago.
Penske’s Incredible Quartet
Penske will have the top four drivers in the IndyCar championship from 2016 amongst their ranks for 2017, having added the immensely talented Josef Newgarden to replace Juan Pablo Montoya, who will run just the Indy 500 for the team this year. Newgarden will have three of the toughest drivers in recent IndyCar history to contend with – Will Power, Helio Castroneves and reigning champion Simon Pagenaud. Roger Penske has had to deal with some fearsome driver line-ups before, and this will be no exception.
Can Lorenzo take Ducati Back to Championship Glory?
The Ducati team has seen very little success in MotoGP since the days of Casey Stoner, despite having the resources. For 2017, they have brought on one of the biggest names in the sport in Jorge Lorenzo, and he will look to succeed where his immediate predecessors have all failed. It was evident last year that Ducati made serious progress, but a championship challenge still looked a long way off, especially given the scarcely believable form of Marc Marquez. Lorenzo himself didn’t endure a brilliant 2016, which saw him absolutely nowhere as soon as any rain fell. MotoGP is certainly one to watch in 2017…
Moto 3 – What more needs to be said?
However the serious action will be in Moto 3, which without question has been the series to watch for pure entertainment value and racing over the past few years. The races frequently feature a dozen bikes fighting for the race win, and the races are beyond unpredictable. The racing is also perfect for the purist, where the gimmicks seen in other series quite simply do not exist.
Massive Changes in the WEC Across the Board
Despite Audi withdrawing from the top level of sportscar racing, the World Endurance Championship finds itself in a healthy place at the moment, and there is plenty of fresh change for 2017 which should provide some interesting tales. Porsche will run a very different line-up to 2016 in their LMP1 cars, and Toyota has a fresh face as well. Both manufacturers may also run third cars for much of the season. The LMP2s will all be significantly quicker this year, and big names such as Rebellion drop into this category with some huge names in their line-up. Porsche return to the Pro GT class with a factory team, with the all-new 911 RSR, whereas the 488s will replace the 458 Italia in the GTE Am class. As has been the case in the past few years, this writer will be in attendance at the 6 Hours of Silverstone in April.
Can Prema Become GP2’s new Unstoppable Force?
Prema stormed into GP2 in 2016 and won both championships at the first time of asking, which was absolutely remarkable given that their two drivers had just over a season of experience between them prior. With two rookies for 2017 in Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco, can the unstoppable force of the entry-level formula become the unstoppable force of the highest-level junior formula? Or can the likes of ART, Russian Time, Racing Engineering or DAMS topple the balance in their favour?
Will Prema Finally be Halted in F3?
Ever since the European Formula 3 Championship came to fruition in its current guise, the mighty Prema team has been the absolute powerhouse of the category, sweeping the championships every single year. Even this year, they should expect to fight for the titles again with the likes of Callum Ilott (in his third year) and rookie Mick Schumacher amongst their line-up. However, the name many are excited about seeing in F3 in 2017 is Carlin’s Lando Norris, who ran three full seasons in different corners of the globe, and walked away with three championships. Norris will focus on just one campaign in 2017 – the European F3 championship, but is tipped to be the guy who could stop Prema’s decimation of the rest of the field.
Massive WRC Overhaul
The World Rally Championship has gone under a massive change over the winter which will allow manufacturers to have extra freedom in their design process – in a bit of a throwback to the Group B era of decades ago. As a result of this, we have seen Toyota enter the series full-time and Volkswagen withdraw following ‘Dieselgate’. The knock-on effect of this is that the line-up has changed drastically, with Sebastien Ogier now at Ford, and Jari-Matti Latvala now at Toyota. This radical shake-up could produce some surprising results, and will almost certainly be spectacular to watch.