Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2017 Et Cetera Predictions

Not every championship and motorsport discipline can have its own set of predictions but sometimes it is nice to mix it up and with Christmas a few days away, why not have smorgasbord of predictions to ponder?

1. MotoGP: There Will be at Least Six Different Winners
After having a record nine different winners in MotoGP, you can't expect that feat to be matched but it is hard to think any fewer than six will win in 2017. Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, and Maverick Viñales all seem like locks for at least one victory. Jorge Lorenzo joins Andrea Dovizioso at Ducati and both of them could win a race. Andrea Iannone moves to Suzuki and if he can keep the bike up, he could win a race. We saw privateer riders Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow win in 2016. They could do it again and maybe another privateer riders such as Danilo Petrucci or Johann Zarco could win a race.

2. Indy Lights: The Top Five From Indy Lights in 2016 Combine to Make Fewer Than 32 Indy Lights Starts in 2017
Ed Jones has moved to IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing. Santiago Urrutia's career appears to be uncertain. Dean Stoneman has said he has no interest in a second season in Lights. Kyle Kaiser will return for a third season. Zach Veach is 22 years old but not many drivers run four seasons in Indy Lights. The 2017 schedule features 16 races so you can pencil in Kaiser for 16 races. If Urrutia, Stoneman or Veach decide to take one more crack at the scholarship to get to IndyCar then 32 starts will be reached.

3. DTM: Edoardo Mortara Accounts for Less Than 50% of Mercedes-Benz's Victories
After winning five races and finishing runner-up in the championship with Audi, Mortara has moved to Mercedes-Benz for the 2017 season. Mercedes-Benz had a rough 2016 season and won only four times with Robert Wickens being responsible for two of the victories and Paul di Resta and Lucas Auer responsible for the others. I am not sure Mortara can be a championship contender at Mercedes-Benz, especially if he only wins once or twice.

4. Supercars: Simona de Silvestro Gets at Least Two Top Ten Finishes but Finishes Outside the Top Twenty in the Championship
The former IndyCar and former Sauber reserve driver will compete full-time with Nissan in Supercars next year after starting the Bathurst 1000 the last two years. There are almost 30 races in a Supercars season. Two top tens are doable, however, I think she will struggle because many racers coming from Europe or single-seaters struggle in Supercars and Nissan isn't the best manufacture. Alexandre Prémat ran two full seasons in Supercars and he didn't get his first top ten finish until the first race of his second season. De Silvestro had a good showing at Bathurst this year but I don't expect her to be a contender each week in 2017.

5. World Superbike: Alex Lowes Becomes the Next British Winner
The last few years in World Superbike has been dominated by British riders. Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea have combined to win three of the last four championships and won 75 races in that time period, including having won 50 of the last 52 races over the last two seasons. Lowes races for Yamaha, which finished fifth last year in the manufactures' championship in its first season back in the championship since 2011. I think year two goes much better and Lowes joins the likes of Rea, Sykes and Chaz Davies as Brits winning in World Superbike.

6. World Supersport: Niki Tuuli Finishes in the Top Three of the Championship
The Finn made three starts in the 2016 season. He finished second-place in all three races. He will contest the 2017 season with Kallio Racing Yamaha. He is only 21 years old but he seems to be the real deal and I think he could take the championship by storm in 2017.

7. Blancpain GT: The Championship Winning Team Does Not Have Black in it Country's Flag
This is the overall Blancpain GT Series championship by the way. I think either Garage 59 or Bentley Team M-Sport or GRT Grasser Racing Team or maybe even Strakka Racing can hold over the formidable Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and HTP Motorsport.

8. Asian Le Mans: Jackie Chan DC Racing Sweep the LMP2 and LMP3 Championships
This isn't the boldest prediction but after sweeping each class victory at the season opener at Zhuhai, neither car won at Fuji and the team is currently second in LMP3 trailing Tockwith Motorsport by four points. I think the team will flex its muscle at Buriram and Sepang in both classes.

9. Super Formula: Non-Japanese Drivers Win at Least Five Races
In 2016, Stoffel Vandoorne won twice and João Paulo de Oliveira won once and Japanese driver won the other six races. André Lotterer was held winless in Super Formula for the first time since 2008. James Rossiter's best finish was fifth. Narain Karthikeyan had one podium. Vandoorne is heading to Formula One but GP2 champion Pierre Gasly will take his place. I think he could win a race or two. I think Lotterer rebounds and wins at least two races. De Oliveira is always good for at least one victory. I wouldn't be surprised if Lotterer and Gasly are battling for the championship at the final round.

10. Super GT: An All-Japanese Pairing Finishes in the Top Three of the GT500 Championship
The top three in the 2016 GT500 championship all featured a European driver. The top all-Japanese pairing was Yuhi Sekiguchi and Yuji Kunimoto of the #19 Lexus who were fourth in the championship. The #24 Kondo Racing Nissan of Daiki Sasaki and Masataka Yanagida won twice but three finishes outside the points dropped them to seventh in the championship. Should the driver pairings remain unchanged either of those two teams could finish in the top three.

11. WTCC: There is a First Time Champion in 2017
José María López is gone. Yvan Muller finished second in the championship but only won once in 2016. Who knows if Rob Huff or Gabriele Tarquini will return. I think 2017 could be the year Tiago Montiero wins the title.

12. WRC: Four Different Manufactures Win a Rally in 2017
I said Ford would win in 2016 and Ford didn't win. Now that Sébastien Ogier has signed with M-Sport, I definitely think Ford will win at least a rally in 2017. I am not sure if Hyundai are a sure thing to pick up where Volkswagen left off and dominate the championship but Hyundai should win a handful of rallies and should be favorites for the title. I think Citroën could produce a title contender, maybe even Kris Meeke. Jari-Matti Latvala moves to Toyota and although he didn't have a great 2016 season, he might find new life at Toyota.

Round two of predictions are in the book. Don't forget to check out the NASCAR predictions. More predictions will come next week.