As we come to the end of a very busy year of racing there is time to reflect on the ups, downs, comings and goings of our very specific part of a much wider sport.
In an era where participation and indeed attendance in motorsport is on the wane it is a delight to be reporting on an area of the sport that bucks that trend.
Whether measured in numbers of significant races around the world, grid numbers, variety, or indeed the quality of the competition on track, we are truly in a golden era.
GT racing, principally through the success of the current GT3 regulations, is it its pomp.
The emergence of new contemporary ‘Classics’ in Dubai and Bathurst, are now added to the excitement we’ve enjoyed for a decade and a half at the Spa 24 hours together with the continued rise of its old friend the Nurburgring 24 hours.
The Blancpain Endurance Series continues to attract large and high-quality grids, and whilst its sister Blancpain Sprint series has not so far achieved the same level of numerical success, the signs of growth are there for all to see.
It’s been a time of challenge and varied fortunes for many of the large number of national GT championships. Some flourishing others struggling.
Here at DSC we are delighted that the British GT Championship, so long a foundation for our coverage, is going from strength to strength.
Big grids, big name teams and high profile racing efforts have all combined to give the championship an opportunity to take a big step forward in its public and media profile. Huge kudos is due to all concerned, and all of them are fully aware of what needs to be done to take the next step forward.
The European Le Mans Series is another Championship that is close to our hearts. Since its genesis in 2003 we’ve followed its various twists and turns, and have been delighted and amazed at its near rebirth from the trough of just a couple of seasons ago.
It was difficult to watch its descent to a dozen cars on the grid just a couple of years ago after the simply fabulous racing in many of its earlier years. With the series handed over though to a management team with real commitment to the cause there was an immediate recovery and in 2015 the ELMS looks set to go from strength to strength.
North America by contrast, saw a challenging year for the unified Tudor United Sportscar Championship. Despite massive and varied grids the challenges of balancing two fundamentally different breeds of prototype dogged the new championship throughout the year. Add in more than a dash of poor driving at Daytona, and in particular a chaotic Sebring and even worse officiating in the early rounds of the year too with bad calls and hugely disruptive procedures under caution and TUSCC was firmly on the back foot.
With Daytona looming we wait to see what depth of quality and numbers will grace the full season grids. Some wholly sensible steps forward have been taken. Here’s hoping 2015 see’s a happier paddock and a happy fan base. Sportscar road racing in North America is another scene close to our hearts here, we’re hoping for a return to past glories.
One of the main challenges in 2015 to TUSCC is the emergence of the Pirelli World Challenge. The single driver, sprint race format Championship looks set to take a large bite out of its NASCAR owned rival’s GTD grid.
Is PWC ready to take the next step? There is certainly demand for their competitive offer, and IMSA’s gamble on the TUSCC exclusive GTD class is now transparently a busted flush.
PWC though will have to work hard to keep the bigger and increasingly politically savvy paddock happy. To do that the management team will need to be even-handed, tactful and, at times, pragmatic. Their challenge will come in a years time when TUSCC adopt full GT3 regulations. How many of the new additions to their grid will stay?
On the global platform, we’ve had the chance, for the third year, to take a close, and at times inside view of progress with the FIA WEC.
In years gone by the prospects of a successful joint venture between the ACO and FIA would’ve been somewhat bleak.
It’s to the credit of all involved, and with particular mention here of Pierre Fillon, Sir Lindsay Owen Jones and Gerard Neveu, that they’ve managed to navigate the potentially choppy administrative waters with skill and tact.
The racing in 2014 was fantastic, the new breed of LMP1 producing speed and reliability that surprised and delighted in equal measure.
The WEC is a championship that has clearly caught the attention of the major manufacturers. With Nissan joining the party in 2015 it will take another big step forward. The prospects of eight full factory LMP1s battling for the 2015 season is a mouth watering one, 11 at Le Mans is a big fat cherry on the cake.
Whilst the start of 2014 saw uncertainty and disappointments, particularly in LMP2, the prospects for 2015 right through the grid are considerably brighter.
LMP2 numbers are set to double and it looks likely that the FIA WEC selection committee will, for the first time, have a job of work to do when entries close. The self imposed full season ceiling of 32 cars looks likely to be exceeded in terms of those requesting entries.
We’re looking forward then to 2015 having real potential to take the sport yet another step forward and we are also looking forward to reminding you, our faithful and much appreciated readers, what is that we do that others don’t.
So here’s what to expect in 2015 from DSC:
More and better.
More and better coverage of the racing, more news, more features, more photographs and more opinion.
You can expect too an exciting new venture from DSC in the early part of next year, building on our strengths, and providing something that simply isn’t out there at the moment. More news in the next few weeks on this.
Finally for now this is the point at which, traditionally, we thank all those who contributed to these pages.
First though I’d like to reflect on the stunning Summer of success for some of our youngest colleagues here at DSC:
Stephen Kilbey arrived at Silverstone less than two years ago with enthusiasm and wide-eyed keenness to learn.
Last month Stephen was named as the 2014 Winner of the Sir William Lyons Trophy, awarded by the Guild of Motoring Writers. That marks almost 2 years hard work, application, and not least some good hard listening!
Just a few days later, Adam Pigott was named as 2014 Renault MSA Young Photographer of the Year.
Adam is another young man who has been with us for less than two years. His skill and application, readily obvious to all that see his work . Again it is a delight to see this recognised by his peers.
Just missing out on that award, was another of our young charges, Dan Bathie.
Dan finished as Highly Commended in the final standings, a very commendable result indeed against a highly skilled field. (sorry about the pic Dan!)
Both Dan and Adam have consistently produced work to very high standards even as they adapted to the very different working environments that DSC has exposed them to over the past couple of seasons.
Each of the three young men above has, of course, had the opportunity to learn from some of our more experienced staff.
We are all delighted with their success and we hope to continue to bring their work to our readers for many years to come.
So aside from our three award winners, thanks too are due to many others and apologies in advance if anyone is missed from this list:
In North America: Gary Horrocks, Martin Spetz, Regis Lefebure, Russell Wittenberg, Joe Martin, Lyndon Fox and last but by no means least the very youngest of our current roster Beck Duggleby.
In Asia Pacific Sam Tickell, James Goodwin and David Greenhalgh.
And in the UK, across Europe and for the FIA WEC across the world: Mark Howson, Sam Smith, Paul Truswell, Peter May, David Downes, Stephen Errity, Andrew Hall, John Brooks, Soren Herweg, Martin Little, Paul Slinger, and Richard Leach together with the efforts of David Legangneux, Gabriele Tosi, and Matt Fernandez.
If current plans come to fruition we will be adding to their numbers in 2015
We’d like to thank too our partners this year whose sponsorship and support enabled us to bring the unrivalled variety of coverage once again that has graced these pages:
Nissan NISMO, Dunlop, Radio Le Mans and Radio Show Ltd, BASE Performance, Beechdean AMR, Travel Destinations, The Smoking Dog and Project 100.
And we’d like to thank all the teams, Drivers, Manufacturers, their pit crews and the long-suffering PR personnel for their continued indulgence in our forensic levels of inquisitiveness about their business!
As has been observed numerous times this year we simply would not be permitted to do what we do in certain other areas of motorsport!
There’s more, much more indeed, to come in the final week of 2014, but we’re firmly focused on the year to come. New cars, new racing efforts and no doubt new stars to look forward to.
We can’t wait!
Graham Goodwin and David Lord