Oh bleak, motorsport-free winter! When will you end? Well, in the spring is the answer to that, but you, dear reader, must surely share Badger’s longing for a return to the heady motorsport-packed days of summer. But hey, with Christmas over (it is over – it really is) there is now nothing standing between us and the new F1 season. And if that seems a touch far away fear not – we’ve been taking a look at some of the racing action that you can enjoy before the Grand Prix circus returns in March.
Dakar Rally (January 1-16)
The Dakar rally no longer has anything to do with Dakar (as in the Senegalese capital where it used to conclude) but retains the name for… well, who knows? It is cool name. An army of cars, bikes, trucks and quads will travel from Argentine capital Buenos Aries up to the city of Arica via Chile and back to where they started in a two-week rally that always provides plenty of action and, at times, total madness. Seriously, if you’re missing motorsport brightening up your TV screen what more could you ask than Dakar highlights every night for two weeks
Daytona 24 Hours
The 24 Hours of Daytona is a legendary sportscar endurance race, won in the past by the likes of Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx and Juan Pablo Montoya. Confirmed drivers this year include NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson, Indycar front-runner Ryan Briscoe, and former F1 racer Ricardo Zonta. And, if you like blasts from the past how about this: former Formula One team-mates Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell are among four drivers sharing a United Autosports-run Ford at the event. Martin won the race in 1988 and, over two decades later, is back for more. Once a racer always a racer.
V8 Supercar (February 11/12)
V8 Supercar, the somewhat O.T.T name for Australia’s premier touring car championship, is the home of some high-drama, paint-swapping fun. It’s got plenty of very talented drivers, two races per-weekend and a host of amusing nicknames (example: Mark Winterbottom, who is affectionately known as ‘Frosty’ in the Supercar paddock). The reigning champ is James Courtney, a former Jaguar F1 tester, but he’ll have his hands full stopping Triple Eight’s Jamie Whincup claiming a third title in four years in 2011. The championship kicks off at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina track (maybe the Supercar boys can actually pass eachother there) before traveling the Adelaide street circuit, host of the Australian Grand Prix between 1985 and 1995.
GP2 Asia (February 11)
This year’s GP2 Asia Series (essentially a warm-up for the European campaign) kicks off in February, and with a new car being introduced to the series this year you can pretty much guarantee all of the drivers looking to take the main title will be on the grid. The aforementioned machine looks more like an F1 car than ever before, with series organisers looking to strengthen GP2’s already-strong position as a must-tick-box on the way to Grand Prix racing. Expect Lotus ART drivers Jules Bianchi and Esteban Gutierrez and the Barwa Addax duo of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic to set the early pace.
NASCAR (February 12)
If you like your burgers super-sized and your banner star-spangled then you’ll no doubt be excited about the start of the new NASCAR Sprint Cup campaign, which begins over the second weekend of February. This year will see Jimmie Johnson seeking a sixth successive title, an achievement that would put him just one shy of NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Fans of former F1 drivers can follow the exploits of Juan Pablo Montoya (he’s put on some weight but is still very fast) whilst the likes of Jacques Villeneuve, Max Papis and Scott Speed could make appearances if they can find a drive.
WRC (February 11-13)
Rallying! Yeah! It’s high-octane stuff, full of thrills and massively unpredictable. Well, apart from the fact that Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb has now won the title seven times in a row. But hey, you never know who’ll finish second. Woof!
Actually this year could see a changing of the guard, with yet another Frenchman named Sebastien – this one a Mr. Ogier – joining Loeb at Citroen’s factory team. Will this be the year rallying’s greatest ever competitor is finally defeated? It might be worth watching to find out.
Elsewhere former F1 champ Kimi Raikkonen will almost certainly be back for a second crack at the WRC, with a deal for him to remain at Citroen’s B Team likely to be signed in the coming weeks. Note to Kimi: crash less. And drive faster, obviously, but otherwise keep up the good work.