SO, The Formula One seasons was Nearly upon us. Then It wasn't. Now it is again, so Yay!
But whilst every other blog, website and Twitter feed is blazing towards the F1 seasons with Bated Breath, I've decided to do an alternative Motorsport preview, hopefully pointing out some races you're missing out on.
The World Touring Car Championship is facing a difficult season, if we're honest. With SEAT Pulling out in 2010 and BMW throwing their toys out of the pram in 2011 (They didn't fancy adapting to new engine rules - in ANY touring car Series) The championship has been left with just two Works Manufacturers, four factory Chevrolet Cruze's and a single Factory Volvo. With the Chevrolet team riding high as champions, you could be forgiven for thinking that the blue boys are going to storm it.
That said, what this does do is open the field up for independent runners to really make a story of this season. All of the former Works SEAT Leon 2.0 Tdi's are now being run independently, as well as a handful of BMW 320si's - although the BMW field is arguably poorer without Andy Priaulx. But with the first race starting from a rolling start and the second from a traditional standing start, the Series is haphazard enough and full of enough Touring Car action - on Grand Prix Tracks no less - that you get some very good races. Last years championship was decided by poor stewarding, but I have high hopes for this year, even with the lack of factory entrants.
Where to watch.
Eurosport shows the races live, and will show the AutoGP support series races once they come into play at Monza. The first race of the season is this weekend from the Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba in Brazil.
Here's some highlights of last season for you:
Football And Motorsport. I want you to think about that for a second. Football, combined with roaring V12 Single Seater Formula cars on fat slick tyres racing at some truly awesome Tracks. The Cars all sound fantastic, and the Racing is usually very, very good. Last years championship went very much down to the wire, with Tottenham Hotspurs' Craig Dolby undoubtedly cursing the fact that the Beijing round was a non-championship race due to the street track lacking the necessary FIA license, and losing to Anderlecht's Davide Rigon by just two points. The Series also seems to be very stable, so none of the teams seem to be scrabbling round for budgets or settling for drivers of limited talent who are willing to pay for their seat. It isn't quite a stepping stone to F1 yet, but it very much could be in the future.
The Race uses a similar format to a football match, with two main races of 40-45 minutes with the second race as a reversed grid, and a "SuperFinal" five lap shootout, with the top six drivers from the weekend racing for a prize of €100,000. The races feature rolling starts that are delightfully haphazard, since the cars can overtake from the moment the poleman reaches the start/finish line.
Where to watch.
While you can watch the races on ESPN in the UK or, rather oddly, on Bloomberg possibly the best way is to take advantage of the live stream on the Championship's Website.
And to encourage your patronage, here's the opening moments of the first round of the 2010 championship at Silverstone:
FIA GT1 and GT3 Championships
Do I really need to sell this one to you? DB9's, Murcielago's Ford-GTs, Nissan GT-Rs, Corvettes and Maseratis go Head to Head on a packed grid in some of the best sportscar racing in the world. To top that, it's supported at the European fixtures by the GT3 series which features BMW Z4's, Audi R8s, and in the near future the McLaren MP4-12c. The only downside to this series is that is has robbed the Le Mans grid a bit, since the legendary 24 hour race is having to go without it's GT1 runners this year due to a fixture clash.
Where to watch.
Again, ESPN or Bloomberg show the races, with the series kicking off on the 27th March - the evening after F1's opening race in Australia in the morning. Some highlights of last years race at Silverstone:
And Last but not in any way least, the British Touring Car Championship.
Somewhat ironically, this national series is currently looking far stronger than the WTCC, with with at two strong manufacturer entries - Chevrolet Cruzes and Honda Civics - and a massive field of Independents with greater variety than the WTCC. Currently, as well as the BMW's and SEAT's of the world championship, the BTCC also features Protons Gen-2's, Chevrolet Lacetti's, Older Ford Focus STs, Vauxhall Vectras, Honda Integras, VW Golfs, Audi A4s, Toyota Avensis' and the new 'Global' Ford Focus. The Series has three races per weekend, as well as a full racecard of supports ranging from Formula Renault to the Clio Cup. Now in it's 54th year, the series is currently going to a new strength with it's new "Next-Generation Touring Car" rules opening the field up substantially.
Given the tight twisty nature of most British tracks, and that fact that a lot of the races tend to take place on the shorter variants of circuits, the panel bashing fun and close pack racing are a near constant.
Where to watch.
ITV4 currently shows the Entirity of BTCC race day, including all the support races. Here's some highlights from 2010!
Well, this is far from a complete list of whats available out there, but they're certainly an alternative to Formula One, and can often be a lot more fun and frolicky. All of these series are relatively easy to find, along with other like the various Le Mans series, Formula 2 and the various Formula 3 series around the world. Hell, even Indycar and NASCAR are becoming more available through streaming, so theres plenty of choice to tide you over both before and during the F1 season.