Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 Et Cetera Predictions: Revisited

Eleven months ago I made a dozen predictions for a dozen racing series from around the globe. Today we look back to see how I did after looking into the crystal ball at MotoGP, V8 Supercars, Super Formula, Indy Lights and Formula E just to name a few of the series.

1. MotoGP: The Title Will Come Down To The Final Race
Correct! Although it was much more anti-climatic than expected. Valentino Rossi entered with a seven-point lead over Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo but Rossi had to started last on the grid after he kicked Marc Márquez's bike during the Malaysian Grand Prix the round before. Lorenzo started on pole position and led lights-to-flag while Rossi charged from 26th to fourth but fell to Lorenzo in the championship by five points.

This season had a very sour ending. It was a good season and Lorenzo won the most races but you can't help but feel it would have played out differently had Rossi not be penalized. We will never know. Lorenzo might have had the better bike all weekend and would have still beat Rossi. Rossi might have been able to take the fight to the Majorcan. But had Rossi been disqualified from the Malaysian Grand Prix, Lorenzo would have had the championship lead entering Valencia and Rossi would have had a nine-point margin to overcome and there is no guarantee he would have been to overcome that. Both had great seasons but I don't think it ended the way anyone wanted it to.

2. V8 Supercars: Marcos Ambrose Does Not Finish in the Top Ten of the Championship
Correct! This was surprising. The long awaited return to V8 Supercars for Marcos Ambrose with the partnership of Dick Johnson Racing and Team Penske seemed like a potentially great mix and it didn't make it past the first round at Adelaide. Two 16ths and a 12th and Ambrose was done, replaced by Scott Pye. He only returned for the endurance races and the team retired at Bathurst with an eighth in race one from Surfers Paradise being Ambrose's best finish of the season.

I thought Ambrose would have finished around 15th in the championship. I expected him to struggle at the start of the season but eventually try to find his footing and get a few top tens as the season went along. I was really hoping this was going to work because Ambrose is a great driver. He left Australia at his prime and came to NASCAR and ran well. He has now retired for good at the age of 39. I wish Ambrose the best in whatever else he chooses to do.

3. Indy Lights: Grids Average Over 13 Entries
Wrong! Indy Lights average 12 cars in the first season of the IL-15. I was a little surprised. After all the buzz entering the season and all the talk about car orders and new car owners purchasing cars, I thought we would see 15-16 cars per race and that didn't happen. The buzz is still up for year two as Andretti Autosport could expand their operation to four cars in 2016 and 8Star Motorsport has had their program merger with Team Pelfrey, who has fielded championship-winning cars in U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda. Foul me once, shame on you; foul me twice, shame on me. I want to believe that there will be significant growth in Indy Lights next year but I am not sure what to believe.

4. DTM: The Russian Round Doesn't Happen
Wrong! It did occur and Pascal Wehrlein and Mike Rockenfeller split the weekend. I thought the conflict in Ukraine and the economic downturn in Russia was going to cause DTM to bail on the event but that didn't happen. Will DTM return to Russia in 2016? We will have to wait and see.

5. Super GT: Lexus Retakes GT500 Title
Wrong! Nissan kept the title as Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli won their second consecutive crowd. Nissan dominated and it wasn't just the factory pairing of Matsuda and Quintarelli. The #46 MOLA Nissan of Satoshi Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida won a round as did the #24 Kondō Racing Nissan of Daiki Sasaki and Michael Krumm. Lexus did have a good year. The #36 Petronas TOM's RC F of James Rossiter and Daisuke Itō won the Suzuka 1000km. The #37 KeePer TOM's entry of Andrea Caldarelli and Ryō Hirakawa won the bookends at Okyama and Motegi.

6. World Superbike/World Supersport: P.J. Jacobsen Takes His Game to the Next Level
Correct! The lone American in World Supersport nearly had his season end when his Kawasaki team closed it's doors. Fortunately, Honda picked him up and Jacobsen made history, becoming the first American to win in WSS when he made a final corner pass on Jules Cluzel at Sepang and then went on to win at Magny-Cours, both victories from pole position. He had seven podiums from 12 races, 11 top fives and his worst finish of the season was 10th in the season opener. Jacobsen finished second in the champion to Kenan Sofuoglu. Perhaps he can make a run at the title in 2016.

7. World Rally: Sébastien Loeb Wins a Rally
Wrong! Loeb only entered Rallye Monte-Carlo and he was looking like a contender until he hit a rock and he had to settle for eighth overall and second in the power stage. Perhaps Loeb is getting tired of racing touring cars (more on that in a moment). He is going to run the Dakar Rally in an all-star line-up for Peugeot that includes Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, Cyril Despres and Romain Dumas. Maybe he will run a few more rallies in 2016.

8. World Touring Car Championship: Citroën Wins Less Than Seventeen Races
Wrong! There is still two races to go in the 2015 WTCC season and Citroën has won 19 of 22 races. I thought Honda would be more of a threat. I thought Lada would build off their success at the end of the 2014 season. None of that happened. José María López ran away with his second consecutive WTCC title and the round in Qatar the day after Thanksgiving is all for shits and giggles.

9. Formula E: At Least Five New Drivers Make a Start
Correct! I was only counting the latter half of the 2014-15 season for this prediction and in the eight races that took place from January-June, ten drivers made their Formula E debuts, four of them for Andretti Autosport. Marco Andretti, Scott Speed, Justin Wilson and Simona de Silvestro all made starts for the American team. Loïc Duval joined Dragon Racing in Miami, as did Vitantonio Liuzzi at Trulli. Four drivers debut in London. Oliver Turvey ran for China Racing and finished ninth in both races. Swiss drivers Fabio Leimer and Alex Fontana run for Virgin and Trulli respectively with Fontana replacing Liuzzi. Salon Yamamoto reminded the world he is still racing and had an ugly weekend driving for Aguri.

10. Super Formula: There Will Be At Least One First Time Winner
Correct! Hiroaki Ishiura won his first career race in the second at Okyama and he went on to win the Super Formula championship with another win at Motegi just for good measure. Ishiura is interesting. It took him 45 starts to score his first career Super Formula victory and he was out of the series for two seasons. He returned last year to Super Formula and had a career year finishing fifth in championship with two podiums. He won the Super GT GT300 championship as a rookie in 2007 with Kazuya Oshima. He is only 34 years old. I don't know what his career will bring outside of Japan but I congratulate him on a breakout season. 

11. European Le Mans Series: Porsche Wins a Race in a GT Category
Correct! The #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Wainwright, Phil Keen and Adam Carroll won the opening of the season at Silverstone. However, Ferrari did win three of five times in GTE and won three of fives times in GTC with BMW winning once in GTE and twice in GTC.

12. Asian Le Mans Series: Grid Size Grows Under ACO Control
Correct! Kind of. I did not expect the Asian Le Mans Series (which we are calling ALMS from now on) to adopt a split, autumn-winter schedule with two races in 2015 and two in 2016 but I think it will work for the series. It appears ALMS will benefit from LMP3 and the GT grid has been stellar. There were eight entries in the Sepang race on November. Considering the 2014 season opener from Inje, South Korea had eight cars total, 2015-16 season has been a big success. There were 16 total entries at Sepang across LMP2, LMP3, CN, GT and GT-Am and there were 13 cars at the season open at Fuji. The 2016-17 has already been released, which includes a stop in Zhuhai to open that season. I really hope this ALMS succeeds. I wish there was a way for ALMS could get GT entries from Australia. Especially with the two rounds in January 2016 taking place within a month of the Bathurst 12 Hour.