Friday, 21 December 2012

Dominik Wilde Motorsport Awards 2012

With the motorsport season over, it seems only right to have something to remember the great moments of 2012. So here are the (not so prestigious and hopefully) annual Dominik Wilde Motorsport Awards

Car Of The Year - Dallara DW12

It would be easy to chose a dominant car such as the Red Bull RB8, Chevrolet Cruze 1.6 TC or the Citroen DS3 WRC but my car of the year is one that was used by everyone in the series it competed.

Since the split in the 1990s, American open wheel racing has struggled whilst NASCAR has thrived. The reunification in 2008 showed hope for IndyCar. With the introduction of the Dallara Chevrolet/Honda/Lotus DW12 for 2012, IndyCar had a new car that received praise throughout the paddock and provided quite possibly the best season of IndyCar racing in the 21st century with exciting racing and 8 different winners out of the 15 rounds. It's start in life wasn't an easy one with trouble on ovals but the problems were quickly resolved and The DW12 proved to be capable on every track it raced on.

The DW12 was an easy choice for me for this award as it appears to have rescued IndyCar from recent bad press, and proved that despite political struggles off the track, Indy Car is still a fantastic racing series

Those that missed out - Red Bull RB8 (F1), Chevrolet Cruze 1.6 TC (WTCC), Citroen DS3 WRC (WRC), Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro (WEC)

Manufacturer of the year - Chevrolet

Chevrolet expanded their motorsport activities in 2012 with the addition of an IndyCar engine program, alongside their WTCC, ALMS, and NASCAR activities.

Joining Honda and Lotus, 2012 saw the return of engine competition in IndyCar and despite Honda's more recent experience, Chevy dominated winning 11 out of 15 races in the season. In NASCAR, Chevrolet missed out on the Sprint Cup title for the first time since 2005. However, half of the drivers in the Chase playoff were driving Chevrolet engined cars (6) and won 13 out of 36 point scoring races, more than any other manufacturer. Rounding of a successful season in America, Chevrolet triumphed in the American Le Mans season, taking 4 wins out of 10 on the way to securing the GT crown.

In touring car competition, the Chevrolet Cruze was a force across the world. In the World Touring Car Championship, they clinched a third consecutive WTCC crown with 20 wins out of 24; whilst in Scandinavia, 8 poles, 7 wins, and 6 fastest laps out of 16 saw Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden clinch second and third in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship with their drivers Rickard Rydell and Michel Nykjær.

2013 will see Chevrolet's factory involvement in the WTCC end, although the manufacturer will continue to be represented by privateer teams, notably Bamboo Engineering, who have already signed British star James Nash. Next year will also see the introduction of two new Chevrolet cars for NASCAR competition. The SS in the Sprint Cup, and the Camaro in the Nationwide Series. Chevrolet will also continue their involvement in Indy Car and the ALMS and are expected to be represented in the British Touring Car Championship by privateer team BTC racing with Chris Stockton racing an NGTC spec Cruze.

Those that missed out - Ferrari (F1, WEC, Various GT Categories), Ford (NASCAR, WRC, V8SC, BTCC), Honda (BTCC, WTCC, WEC*, IndyCar*), Mercedes-Benz (F1, DTM, Various GT Categories, Superstars), Audi (WEC, DTM, Various GT Categories, Superstars)

*Engine supplier

Breakthrough Of The Year - Penske, Brad Keselowski, and Dodge

The first Breakthrough Of The Year Award is a joint effort, as together, they all achieved a goal they'd been working hard for for many years. Brad Keselowski won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title in only his third season of full time competition, Roger Penske won his first Sprint Cup since entering the sport in 1972 after an illustrious career as an Indy Car team owner whist Dodge won their first Sprint Cup since rejoining NASCAR in 2001.

The win was welcomed by many in the NASCAR fraternity with Keselowski, Penske and Dodge all very popular. However, despite the breakthrough, Penske will switch to Ford for 2013 and Dodge will leave NASCAR once more. Still, the relationship ended in the best possible way.

Those that missed out - Dave Newsham, Frank Wrathall (First BTCC wins), Michael Waltrip Racing (First car(s) in the chase), Pastor Maldonado (first F1 win), Romain Grosjean (first F1 points, podium, and ROC triumph)

Team Of The Year - Lotus F1 Team

As with the car of the year, it'd be easy to pick a title winner here, but also like car of the year, I've opted for someone else.

After struggles in recent years, with race fixing scandals, the loss of Renault works backing,  financial trouble, and the loss of Robert Kubica; the Enstone based F1 team, competing in 2012 as Lotus, put all that behind them to have an impressive year in 2012.

Whilst most of the focus was on the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, Lotus quietly surprised many with strong results and a string of podium placings. Even the dark moments of 2012 with Romain Grosjean's one race ban couldn't put a dampener on their season and after near misses throughout the year, Kimi Raikkonen scored a popular win in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Raikkonen, returning from a two year haitus in the WRC, shocked many by being on the pace immediately, succeeding where fellow returnee Michael Schumacher had struggled. The Fin scored 7 podium positions (including the win) and finished every single race (20 races, a new record) scoring in all but one.

Other teams may have stole the headlines throughout 2012 but Lotus were consistent and competitive. A stark contrast to recent seasons since their last championship triumph back in 2006 (as Renault)

Those that missed out - Red Bull Racing (F1), Honda Yuasa Racing (BTCC), Audi Sport Team Joest WEC), Andretti Autosport (IndyCar), Penske Racing (NASCAR/IndyCar), Michael Waltrip Racing (NASCAR)

Innovation of the year - Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro

With costs at an extremely high level and the threat of climate change looming, manufacturers and teams across the world are starting to look at innovative ways to be 'greener' and cheaper with their race cars.

Audi, the dominant force in Sports car racing for the best part of a decade, adapted their successful R18 Le Mans Prototype car in 2012 to create the R18 e-Tron Quattro, an environmentally friendly version of the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours race winner.

Similar to Formula One's KERS system, The R18 e-Tron Quattro utilises a flywheel accumulator system designed by Williams Hybrid Power. This energy storage device delivers 500 kJ of power to the front wheels via an electric motor, giving the car four wheel drive, hence the word Quattro in the car's name. The system, as per the regulations, is only available at speeds above 75 mph and thanks to the 'geen' hybrid system, the car is fitted with a smaller 58 litre fuel tank.

The R18 e-Tron Quattro took 18 months to develop and became not only the first hybrid to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race, but the first four wheel drive car as well.

Those that missed out - DeltaWing, Toyota TS030 Hybrid (WEC)

Comeback of the year - Sebastian Vettel

The 3 time Formula One champion faced little competition for this award. It wasn't one stand out comeback that he gets this for, but 3.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had Vettel starting from the pit lane after a post qualifying penalty and few would predict what was to follow. Often branded as someone not capable of racing wheel to wheel, Vettel carved his way through the field from 24th and, with the help of two safety car periods, finished the race in third place, silencing his critics.

Next was the Brazilian Grand Prix. despite spinning on the opening lap and suffering damage, changing weather conditions and a botched pit stop where his team were unaware of him coming into the pits due to a broken radio, Vettel fought back to claim a sixth place finish, enough to win the championship.

Finally there was the championship itself. After a dominant 2011, Vettel started 2012 nothing like the previous season and it looked like Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren would run away with the championship battle, despite the former being in a weaker car than Vettel. The German however had a strong second half of the season, with a string of 6 consecutive podium finishes, including 4 wins, to take the title.

Those that missed out - BMW (DTM title, winning after returning to the sport following an 18 year absence), Jason Plato (Winning at Silverstone in the BTCC in race 3 despite starting from the rear of the field)

Race Of The Year - Brazilian Grand Prix

Without a doubt, I have to give this to the Brazilian Grand Prix.

F1 has developed a reputation of being boring in it's modern era but nobody can possibly say the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix was boring! With changing weather, plenty of overtaking, lots of action and a championship at stake, it was almost impossible to look away from the TV screen.

Motor races, more specifically F1 races, rarely leave me without a voice by the end of them. The 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix however was so full of excitement, at times I struggled to contain it. It's a miracle the neighbours didn't complain!

Those that missed out - Indianapolis 500 (IndyCar), European Grand Prix (F1), Gold Coast 600 Race 1&2 (V8 Supercars), Snetterton Race 2(BTCC), Silverstone 24 hours (Britcar),


Driver Of The Year - Sebastien Loeb

A catalogue of drivers deserve this, but ultimately only one can win. The driver? Sebastien Loeb.

Now arguably the greatest rally driver in history, the 2012 season was Loeb's ninth consecutive World Rally Championship triumph. The Frenchman's season started in the best possible way with an unpecedented sixth Monte Carlo Rally win, scoring maximum points for the event. That victory would be the first of nine for 2012 including a streak of five consecutive wins.

As well as his WRC success, Loeb competed in the X-Games, winning the gold medal at his first appearance at the competition, competing in the RallyCross event. He beat the likes of Ken Block, Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, Brian Deegan and Liam Doran, all of which are accomplished X-Games regulars.

2012 will likely be his last championship triumph with the legend only competing in 4 rallies next season after announcing his semi retirement in the WRC. 2013 sees Loeb move over to circuit racing. He founded Sebastien Loeb Racing in 2012 and he drove for his team at Pau in the French Carrera Cup. Sebastien Loeb Racing also competes in the European Le Mans Series and the FFSA GT. Loeb will contest next year's GT Sprint Series in a McLaren GT MP4-12C GT3 before an anticipated move into the WTCC in 2014 with Citroen.

At 38, Sebastien Loeb has proved that age is no barrier to success and despite retiring from WRC competition, there's no doubt that he is still competitive and easily one of the greatest human beings to sit behind the wheel of a car.

Those that missed out - Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel (F1), Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power (IndyCar), Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer (NASCAR), Giancarlo Fisichella (WEC)

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