2015 was certainly a mixed year in the world of motor racing. There was the superb battle between Porsche and Audi in the World Endurance Championship and conversely the almost boring dominance of Mercedes in Formula One. We also witnessed Scott Dixon fighting off the Penske quartet in IndyCar as well as controversial driving standards in Formula 3 championship. Of course we lost both Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi too. There is plenty to be excited for next year so here are ten things to be excited about in motor racing in 2016.
Challenger Approaching: Can Ferrari take it to Mercedes?
Whilst gains were modest at best in 2015, Ferrari emerged as potentially the only real threat to Mercedes in the short-term. A much-improved power unit and what will be the first car in which both James Allison and Sebastian Vettel will have a major impact on is wetting the appetite of those hoping for a serious battle for the championships in 2016. Nico Rosberg’s improved form at the end of this year will also be worth noting, as it will be interesting to see whether he can take it to Lewis Hamilton for an entire season.
The Famous Four: Ganassi’s Surprise Daytona Team
The first major racing event in 2016 will be the Daytona 24 Hours at the end of January. Ganassi, winners of the 2015 event will run an unchanged line-up in the car which won the race this year, but in the other car will be three Daytona rookies and one driver with just a single race behind him. The ‘retired’ Alexander Wurz will be joined by fellow Daytona newbies Andy Priaulx (having ended his association with BMW) and F3 frontrunner Lance Stroll – the latter making his prototype debut. World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley, who ran the race in 2013 will finalise the quartet. That means that Ganassi will run with two NASCAR drivers, two IndyCar drivers, one LMP1 driver, one LMGTE driver, one F3 driver and a retired guy in their two Riley-Ford cars at Daytona and it should be great to watch.
All Change in GTE
One of the cars to look out for next year will be the brand new Ford GT, which will take part in both the IMSA and the WEC series. The famous marque will be looking to increase its famous legacy, and will race at Le Mans, 50 years after the famous first win in 1966. Two cars will be in the GTE Pro category in the WEC and two in the IMSA series, both run by Chip Ganassi Racing with backing from Ford. Elsewhere, there will be no Porsche works team in the WEC, and Ferrari will retire the almost all-conquering 458 for its younger sister, the 488.
The IndyCars Return to Road America and Phoenix
Fan favourite Road America will host open-wheel IndyCar racing for the first time since 2007 next year. The fast, flowing circuit is notorious for some very high-speed sections. It was last seen just before the merging of the Champ Car and the IRL series but has only been seen in testing since then. Also returning is the famous Phoenix circuit, which is where the great Mario Andretti got his final IndyCar win in 1993. There will be a brand new street race on the streets of Boston as well.
A Potentially Mighty GP2 Title Bout
Stoffel Vandoorne won the 2015 GP2 series by a scarcely believable 160 points. With him and supposedly runner-up Alexander Rossi off elsewhere and possibly both Formula Renault 3.5 and GP3 champions respectively Oliver Rowland and Esteban Ocon joining the category full-time, we could well see a great title fight in the category directly below Formula One. A number of drivers had impressive seasons behind Vandoorne in 2015, including Sergey Sirotkin, Mitch Evans, Alex Lynn and Nobuharu Matsushita. Other high-profile drivers including Felix Rosenqvist are yet to announce their plans for 2016 too. Unlike in 2015, there does not appear to be a single clear championship favourite.
Jaguar’s Return to Racing
One of the slightly more surprising pieces of news to come out of this year was that Jaguar will return to motor racing by participating in the Formula E series from season three. It is quite a while away as yet, but with no less than eight manufacturers taking part in the series from the middle of next year; it will be very interesting to see just how the crazy as ever series will manage. With season two looking to be dominated by Renault and Sebastien Buemi, it should be interesting to see just who can catch up to the French squad.
America’s Newest F1 Team
For the first time in many years, America will have its own Formula One team to cheer on in the Haas team, operated by Gene Haas. Having done everything seemingly right so far – not rushing the project, signing a top driver in Romain Grosjean and having a technical partnership with none other than Ferrari, Haas could be in the midfield from the off. With 22 cars on the grid again, it is at least one positive for Formula One in one of the darkest times for the sport.
Toro Rosso’s Rising Stars
The two drivers who stood out the most in 2015 were the very young Toro Rosso pairing of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Both made the odd rookie error this year, but both also delivered some eyebrow-raising qualifying and race performances and some cracking overtakes. To see how they will build on that in 2016 is very much exciting in itself, as well as the intra-team battle, which was hampered this year by reliability issues.
A Grand LMP1 Duel
The racing between the LMP1 cars in the World Endurance Championship has been sensational in 2015, and many will be hoping for much of the same in 2016. Audi will bring a revised R18, Toyota will bring their all-new car – the TS050 and Porsche are expected to build on the 919 even further. In the privateer section, the ByKolles team were regularly challenging privateer frontrunners Rebellion after a tough start. It is not all great for the LMP1 category though, as there will be just six hybrids at Le Mans in 2016, as opposed to the 11 or 12 which was expected following Nissan’s withdrawal from the championship and both Porsche and Audi forced to cut back on their third entry following the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
All Calm Before Another Storm in MotoGP?
The 2015 MotoGP season provided some of the finest racing in any category this year, and it was very sad to see it end in such a controversial manner in which only Dani Pedrosa really came out with any credibility. So here is to hoping that 2016 will provide less of the controversy on the track and more of the absolutely incredible racing between the now-recovered Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. It will also be interesting to see what the works Ducati and Suzuki teams can deliver too.