Monday, 19 December 2016

Dominik Wilde Motorsport Awards 2016

Another year, another chance for me to hand out meaningless and light-hearted awards. Let's crack on...


Car of the year - Skoda Fabia R5

I can almost hear the chorus of groans from people who know me personally...

Yes, I bought a Skoda Fabia a couple of months ago, and no, that isn't a motivating factor. In fact, the Fabia R5 was already a shoe-in for this before I signed on the dotted line, despite its lack of a heater, carpets, and a three-year warranty.

From 13 rounds of the 2016 WRC-2 championship the Fabia R5 took 10 wins, and locked out four of the top five in the points, including the top two spots. Meanwhile, in the European Rally Championship, the Fabia R5 took five wins from 10, including two podium lockouts.

This is the third time in five years a rally or rallycross car from Volkswagen Audi Group has won this award (VW Polo R WRC in 2013, VW Beetle GRC in 2015), they must be doing something right.

Those that missed out - Volkswagen Polo R WRC (WRC), Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid, Red Bull RB12, Force India VJM09 (Formula One), Citroën C-Elysée (WTCC), Honda Civic Type R NGTC, Subaru Levorg NGTC (BTCC), Volkswagen Beetle GRC (GRC), Porsche 919 Hybrid, Ferrari 488 GTE, Ford GT (WEC)

Manufacturer of the year - Audi

2016 may be remembered as the year that Audi left the LMP1 ranks in the FIA World Endurance Championship after being a mainstay in the category after about a million years, but it was also a wildly succesful year for the marque.

In the WEC, they took two wins and a further seven podiums. They could have won the season opener at Silverstone too if they weren't excluded. In the end Audi were the closest challengers to Porsche in the overall standings, but a one-two finish in their last ever prototype race (for now, at least) wasn't enough to elevate them from second to the top spot.

In DTM, Audi were the top dogs in the manufacturers' championship, but missed out on the drivers' title by a mere four points. Still, they took a series-high eight wins from 18.

Audi also broke Petter Solberg's stranglehold on the FIA World Rallycross championship. Mattias Ekstrom, driving a semi-works S1 won four races on his way to the title - the first time Solberg and his privately entered Citroën haven't ended the year on top in the series' three-year history.

The Ingolstadt automaker also introduced a new GT3 racer in 2016: The R8 LMS, which will carry the comany's torch in sports car racing from here on.

Those that missed out - Chevrolet (NASCAR, IndyCar, WSC, WEC), Ford (NASCAR, WRX, WSC, WEC), Volkswagen (WRC, WRX, GRC)

Breakthrough of the year - Nico Rosberg winning the Formula One world championship

Finally. After two seasons of being beaten by team mate Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg finally won the Formula One world championship.

There were question marks over Hamilton's reliability, the pair's head-to-head record, and Rosberg's seemingly conservative approach at the end of the year but the fact of the matter is, Rosberg did what needed to be done and at the end of the year he finished with the most points.

He then almost instantly opted to retire, meaning we'll never see another titanic Hamilton-Rosberg. Still, as far as the German is concerned, it's job done.

Those that missed out - Alexander Rossi (First IndyCar/Indy 500 win), Steve Arpin/Chip Ganassi Racing (first Rallycross/GRC win), Simon Pagenaud (first IndyCar Series title), Jack Goff (first BTCC Win), Tom Ingram/Speedworks Motorsport, Ash Sutton (first BTCC wins)

Team Of The Year - Sahara Force India

Force India enjoyed their strongest year to date in 2016. The Silverstone-based team finished fourth in the constructors' championship, beating Williams to take their highest ever finish.

The team scored two podiums and 12 double points finishes, and were widely regarded as the best team per pound spent in all of Formula One, thanks to their giant-killing performances and modest budget.

Those that missed out -
Red Bull Racing (F1), Volkswagen Motorsport (WRC, GRC (With Andretti)), Penske (IndyCar, NASCAR, Supercars), Honda Red Bull OMSE (GRC), Chip Ganassi Racing (IndyCar, NASCAR, GRC, WSC, WEC)

Innovation of the year - TCR

TCR touring car racing is innovative because it is so simple. In an age with constant rising costs, TCR offers a low cost, yet high profile series.

While it began in 2015, 2016 has seen TCR grow from an international series with three regional offshoots, to 10 separate championships in 2016. Currently there are almost 20 eligible car available with more and more expected over the comiong years.

Expect the series to expand into more territories soon too. The USA, the Americas, Great Britain, The Middle East, and the Iberian peninsula are just some of the ideas mooted for possible TCR expansions.

Comeback of the year - Daniil Kvyat

2016 started off great for Daniil Kvyat, if you ignore his non start in Australia. A podium finish for a much more competitive looking Red Bull Racing in China looked like it could be the precursor to a great season for the Russian.

However, just one round later, he crashed into Sebastian Vettel and was later dropped by Red Bull in favour of Max Verstappen. He was left driving for the lesser Toro Rosso team for the rest of the year and his performance took a big hit.

The summer break looked to rejuvenate Kvyat. He was smiling again, and altogether more positive about his future, and despite the dwindling performance of Toro Rosso's STR11 equipped with a year-old Ferrari engine, he was able to impress enough to earn a contract extension. He'll race for Toro Rosso again next year, leaving GP2 champion Pierre Gasly on the sidelines.

Not many would have predicted that earlier on in the year.

Those that missed out - Red Bull Racing (winning two Formula One Grands Prix after a tough 2015 season), Ford (winning on their return to Le Mans, 50 years after their first triumph), Scott Speed (Winning a second GRC title despite the championship being dominated by team mate Tanner Foust from early on), Jeff Gordon (two top 10 finishes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standing in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. despite retiring last year)

Race of The Year - Red Bull Global Rallycross The Base I Final

Red Bull Global Rallycross' second visit to MCAS New River was blighted by bad weather. So bad in fact, that the second final of the weekend had to be called off.

It was a different story for the first final, however, and it proved to be one of the most thrilling races of the year.

The rain and the mud meant that visibility and grip were a rare commodity in the race, and one everyone had scrambled through the first few turns, it was Tanner Foust who took off into a sizeable lead while the rest of the pack spun and cut corners behind.

Foust however ended up surrendering the lead, now at 13 seconds, on lap four. That gave Brian Deegan the chance to take his first win since 2011 and it looked as if he would, until he was passed by Scott Speed on the final corner of the final lap.

Deegan would go on to win the season finale, the same race Speed took his second consecutive championship.

Those that missed out - Los Angeles II Final (GRC), 24 Hours of Le Mans (WEC), Beijing EPrix (Formula E), Indy 500 (IndyCar), Hockenheim RX Semi Final 2 (WRX) Spanish Grand Prix, Malaysian Grand Prix, Brazilian Grand Prix (Formula One).

Driver Of The Year - Max Verstappen

Do I even need to explain this one? Sure, some of his moves on track have been questionable, and others downright dangerous, but Max Verstappen is no doubt a once in a generation talent. Let's not forget, 2016 was only the teenager's THIRD year in car racing, and he took a Grand Prix win.

He's 19. I was still working out who I was at 19, never mind winning major national sporting events. I had my first car crash at 19 though, his was before that. 1-0 me.

Anyway, speaking of crashes, there was also that time he didn't crash in Brazil. You know, this one.

I get the feeling this won't be the last time Max Verstappen's name appears here...

Those that missed out - Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo (F1) Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR), Tanner Foust, Scott Speed, Steve Arpin (GRC, Formula E), Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tanak (WRC), Simon Pagenaud (IndyCar), Davide Rigon, Sam Bird (WEC), Shane Van Gisbergen (Supercars)

Images -Dominik Wilde, Daimler Media, Gepa Pictures*, TCR, Getty Images*, Larry Chen
* - Via Red Bull Content Pool

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