By Phillip Horton on Friday, December 21, 2012
The 2011 Motorsport season ended on a low note. Few championships had a thrilling finale, while fans were numbed by the deaths of the super-talented Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli over successive weekends in October. But in 2012, motorsport excelled. There were undeniably some tame moments across the board, but here’s a look at what happened in series outside of F1 (yes, that world does exist!)
IndyCar bounced back from the horror of the 2011 season finale to put on a stellar year of racing. Incumbent champion Dario Franchitti struggled with the new Dallara DW12 machine, although he still won a thrilling Indy500, denying Takuma Sato on the final lap. The fight for the title went down to the wire between Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay, with the latter prevailing after Power crashed out of the season finale.
Back in Europe, it was Italian Davide Valsecchi who won the GP2 crown after ending up on top of a season long duel with Luiz Razia. Valescchi dominated early on in the year but Razia’s form throughout the middle of the season was ominous – particularly an amazing sprint race victory in Valencia, only for the Brazilian to throw away a few good results at the end of the year. Several drivers swayed between brilliance and idiocy, although the unluckiest racer was Lotus’s James Calado, who lost several strong results through no fault of his own and tumbled from third to fifth in the final points standings after illness struck in Singapore. The aforementioned line between brilliance and idiocy from the GP2 drivers was seen in Monaco, where a huge pile up occurred on the run towards Casino Square.
GP3’s title battle ebbed and flowed throughout the year, with Mitch Evans pipping Daniel Abt in a thrilling finale at Monza, arguably one of the races of 2012. Will Buller gambled on slicks at a drying Silverstone to take a home win, while Conor Daly survived a horrific shunt in Monaco after flying over the back of Dmitry Suranovich. One driver stood out, and that was Antonio Felix da Costa. Having been confined to GP3 after an insufficient budget for GP2, the Portuguese racer became the first driver in GP3 history to claim both victories in one weekend and was signed to Red Bull’s driver system. Felix da Costa also raced in World Series by Renault and finished fourth in the championship despite missing the first five races. To cap off an incredible year, he added victory in Macau to his trophy cabinet. He will be one to watch in 2013, as will Sauber’s new reserve driver Robin Frijns. The Dutch driver beat Force India test driver Jules Bianchi in controversial fashion after the two collided in the finale at the Circuit de Catalunya. Sam Bird and Bianchi were in a class of their own in Monaco as the two finished half a minute ahead of their rivals, while wet weather at Silverstone resulted in Luffield turning into a car park.
Luciano Bacheta won the final F2 championship, although 15 year old Swiss Matteo Tuscher pushed him all the way. The AutoGP championship was dominated by Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, while Daniel Juncadella won the F3 title. The prestigious British Formula Three championship went down to the wire, and although entries were down, Jack Harvey won the title. Over in Japan, former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima took the final Formula Nippon title before the series rebrands in 2013.
Peugeot pulled out of Sportscars at the start of the season, allowing Audi a seemingly clear passage. But Toyota debuted their TS030 and showed strong pace at Le Mans, although that race was cut short when Anthony Davidson suffered a terrifying accident after hitting a Ferrari at the end of the Mulsanne Straight. Audi battled between themselves for victory, claiming a 1-2-3 with Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer winning for a second successive season. The fight for the FIA GT1 championship ended in controversial circumstances when Markus Winkelhock and Yelmer Buurman collided at Donington Park, handing the trophy to Winkelhock and Marc Basseng in a series that saw the top three teams separated by a single point. The F1-supporting Porsche Supercup was won by German driver Rene Rast.
Over in America, Brad Keselowski claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, while in Touring Car racing, Rob Huff took his first World Touring Car title, fending off Chevrolet rivals Yvan Muller and Alain Menu. BMW returned to DTM and while the quality of the racing left a lot to be desired, another manufacturer added to the spectacle of the championship. Despite a valiant effort from Gary Paffett, neither he, Mercedes nor Audi could resist BMW who won the championship with Canadian Bruno Spengler. Scot Gordon Shedden won his first British title, while Jamie Whincup triumphed again in the Australian V8 Supercars championship.
It was another insipid World Rally Championship as the series struggled in terms of entertainment and became dragged down in politics that rumbled on and threatened the mere existence of the WRC. With Red Bull on-board, the future looks brighter. Sebastien Loeb won his ninth successive title and announced his semi-retirement, while Ford suffered calamity after calamity and pulled out at the end of the year, although M-Sport will continue to run Fiestas in 2013. VW-bound Jari-Matti Latvala, Mads Ostberg and Mikko Hirvonen won the four rounds out of thirteen that Loeb failed to win. Craig Breen won the Super 2000 WRC, although his year was rocked after the tragic death of co-driver Gareth Roberts. Andreas Mikkelsen won the final IRC trophy before its merge with the ERC.
On two wheels, Jorge Lorenzo was a mark of consistency as he finished first and second in every race – bar two, where he retired – to take his second MotoGP title, ahead of Dani Pedrosa. Reigning champion Casey Stoner looked a long shot for the title when he suffered a huge accident at Indianapolis that ended his hopes of a third crown before his retirement. His 2013 replacement, Marc Marquez, won the Moto2 title, while Moto3 was won by German rider Sandro Cortese.