Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2018 Et Cetera Predictions

Round three of predictions are here and this is the et cetera set of predictions. We don't have enough time or minds to write 18 sets of predictions so here is one set of predictions for 12 different series from two wheels to four, junior single seaters to GT3, dying touring car series to dying touring car series.

1. MotoGP: There are at least three races decided by a pass on the final lap
In 2017, three races were decided with a final lap pass. Those races were Le Mans where Maverick Viñales overtook Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi; Misano, where Marc Márquez stalked Danilo Petrucci in the wet before making his move as late as possible; and Valencia, where Dani Pedrosa spoiled the party and kept Johann Zarco from closing his rookie season with his first career MotoGP victory. 

Besides those three races you had Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso have two battles go to the final corner at Red Bull Ring and Motegi with the Italian holding on in each. Petrucci made a late charge on Rossi at Assen but fell 0.061 seconds short. Even the season opener had Viñales hold off Dovizioso. I think we are looking at another competitive season and races going to the wire. 

2. Indy Lights: Carlin does not win an oval race
Carlin has become the oval-dominant team in Indy Lights ever since the team entered the series in 2015. The team has won four of nine oval races since 2015 including three consecutive victories from Iowa 2016 to Iowa 2017 with the 2017 Freedom 100 in the middle. The team has had eight podium finishes on ovals. 

However, I think the team is shutout on the ovals in 2018. First, the team is going through a transition as the team has announced its move into IndyCar. The team was not present at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in October and it is unknown who the two drivers will be. With the move to IndyCar, Carlin will only run two Indy Lights cars next year. Second, Matheus Leist is gone from the team and he won at Indianapolis and Iowa last year. 

While much about the 2018 Indy Lights grid remains unknown, we do know Colton Herta will be back and I think he will win an oval race. Juncos Racing has done well on the short ovals and depending on the drivers you can't rule that team out. Aaron Telitz has had success on ovals in his Road to Indy career and he finished second at the Freedom 100 to Leist. 

3. Supercars: At least three full-time drivers who didn't win a race in 2017 win in 2018
While the 2017 Supercars Championship saw ten different race winners, a few notable names did not stand on the top step of the podium. Craig Lowndes didn't finish on the podium at all in 2017 and the three-time champion and second all-time in Supercars victories still finished tenth in the championship. He is going to find himself in position to get a victory or two in 2018 and he will close. Mark Winterbottom was shutout in victories and he finished sixth in the championship. He did have two runner-up finishes. In his first season with Garry Rogers Motorsport, Garth Tander's best finish was third and he finished nine points ahead of Lowndes in the championship.

Those three could all win a race in 2018 and then there are the likes of Tim Slade, Rick Kelly and Nick Percat, three drivers who have won prior in their careers. Scott Pye has yet to win a Supercars race but he will be driving for the super-team of Walkinshaw Andretti United and I bet that team will have its competitive days. 

4. World Superbike: P.J. Jacobsen finishes better in the championship than all Honda riders did in 2017
After four seasons in World Supersport, the American has taken the promotion to World Superbike. Jacobsen won twice and finished second in the WSS championship in 2015. In 47 starts, he had 16 podium finishes and won five pole positions. Jacobsen will be on the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Honda was dreadful in 2017 and the death of Nicky Hayden and an injured Stefan Bradl did not make things any easier. Bradl was the top Honda rider in 2017, 14th in the championship on 67 points. The German's best finish was sixth at Assen but he had only five top ten finishes from 18 starts. 

Jacobsen won't be the only American on a Honda in WSBK. Jake Gagne earned a promotion to the factory team after he made six starts for the team and scored 14 points with his best finish being 12th in his final three starts and he scored points in five races. Leon Camier moves to Honda from the factory MV Augusta effort. I think the Honda will improve and Jacobsen can consistently score points. He won't set the world on fire but he will be respectable. 

5. World Supersport: Kenan Sofuoglu clinches the championship before the season finale
The Turkish rider finished second in the championship with five victories and seven podium finishes despite missing four of 12 races due to injury. If he were healthy Sofuoglu would have comfortably won the title despite the consistency from Lucas Mahias. Sofuoglu is the greatest rider in World Supersport history and he doesn't appear to be slowing down. If he keeps himself fit and healthy then the Supersport grid is in trouble.

6. Blancpain GT: At least two different non-European drivers win races overall and at least one of those races do not come in a qualifying race for a sprint weekend
Last year, only one non-European driver won a Blancpain GT Series race and that was Félix Serrallés in the finale, the 3 Hours of Barcelona. Somewhat unsurprisingly, European drivers have dominated the European-based Blancpain GT Series. However, there have been a handful of international instances of success. Shane Van Gisbergen won twice in the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2016 on his way to the Blancpain Endurance Series championship with Garage 59. Katsumasa Chiyo won the year prior with Nissan at Circuit Paul Ricard. Brazilian César Ramos also won a handful of races when he drove for Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. I think there will be a little more international flair in the series in 2018.

7. Asian Le Mans Series: Harrison Newey's ALMS success leads to starts in either WEC or ELMS
We are two races into the ALMS season and two remain in January. Harrison Newey has won both races with Jackie Chan DC Racing X Jota teammates Thomas Laurent and Stéphane Richelmi. I think the 19-year-old will get a breakthrough somewhere and his name doesn't hurt. Name aside, he has done well in junior formula racing. Someone will give him an opportunity even if it is a one-off. 

8. Super Formula: A rookie does not finish in the top four of the championship
The series won't have the GP2/Formula Two champion coming to Japan as a sort of gap year before a Formula One seat opens up and no other top European junior formula driver appears destined for Japan. Nobuharu Matsushita won races in GP2/Formula Two and he was at Super Formula rookie test and was respectable, as was GP3 race winner Nirei Fukuzumi. Other notable first timers at the rookie test were Rio Haryanto and Félix Serrallés. It isn't clear if Matsushita and/or Fukuzumi will return to Japan after running in Europe but I think the Super Formula experienced drivers will show the way and control the championship. 

9. Super GT: Jenson Button has at least two podium finishes
After a year away Jenson Button will return to full-time competition in the Super GT series. Button made his debut at the Suzuka 1000km and he finished 12th. Honda won twice in Super GT in 2017 but the manufacture was well behind Lexus and kind of equal to Nissan. 

However, I don't think Button would make this decision if he didn't think he would be in a competitive ride. He will drive for Team Mugen and his co-driver is to be confirmed. Last year, the team fielded Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima as it returned to Super GT competition after the manufacture withdrew from the GT300 class after the 2014 season. It will be a challenge but I think Button will be motivated and get results. 

10. DTM: A non-German driver wins a race in that driver's home country
The DTM season is a mix of a lame duck season, as Mercedes-Benz will be exiting after 2018 and that will leave the series' future in flux but it is a fun calendar. The series drops Moscow Raceway, somehow will be at Lausitz despite the track being sold and it has been known the racetrack will be discontinued, and the series will return to Brands Hatch, only this time on the grand prix circuit and the series makes its debut at Misano. 

British drivers do well at Brands Hatch and Jamie Green and Gary Paffett will likely be there. Paul di Resta we aren't sure about but if he doesn't get the Williams F1 ride he will be there. The only Italian on the grid in 2017 was Edoardo Mortara and while he had a tough first season with Mercedes-Benz no one would be surprised if he turned it around in 2018 and contend for victories and why couldn't that come at Misano?

Then there is Lucas Auer, the Austrian who won three races and was the top Mercedes-Benz driver in the championship in 2017 by finishing fifth. The series will be at Red Bull Ring and I am sure Auer would cherish a victory at home and he won't be the only Austrian, as Philipp Eng will drive for BMW. The DTM doesn't have a Hungarian driver or a Dutch driver lined up but if DTM get a driver from either country that driver would have a home race at the Hungaroring or Zandvoort.

11. World Touring Car Cup: WTCC race winners in 2017 win more races than 2017 TCR International Series race winners in 2018
I am not entirely sure what this prediction says. I am not entirely sure what is going on with the World Touring Car Championship and the TCR International Series. They are merging but it is no longer a world championship but a world cup and I ask what the fuck is the difference? We aren't sure who will be driving what or what percentage of the grid will be WTCC teams or TCR teams.

Here are the WTCC race winners in 2017: Esteban Guerrieri, Tiago Monteiro, Tom Chilton, Thed Björk, Mehdi Bennani, Nick Catsburg, Norbert Michaeliz, Yann Ehrlacher, Néstor Girolami and Rob Huff.

2017 TCR International Series race winner: Davit Kajaia, Pepe Oriola, Roberto Colciago, Dušan Borković, Stefano Comini, Jean-Karl Vernay, Attila Tassi, Gianni Morbidelli, Norbert Michaeliz, Aurélien Panis and Rob Huff. 

So Michaeliz and Huff count for both. Besides those two there were eight other WTCC winners and nine other TCR International Series winners. I think the WTCC winners are vastly more talented than the TCR grid. It will be interesting to see what happens in terms of which manufactures commit and which don't and that could decide how this prediction turns out. 

12. WRC: The champion will not be named Sébastien
Sébastiens have won 14 consecutive World Rally Championships. There is a generation of kids who know nothing other than Sébastiens winning the World Rally title. They probably think that is all it takes. We have to be running out of Sébastien champions soon. Sébastien Ogier has won five consecutive championships and last year was his worst year of the five as he won two rallies, his fewest victories since 2012. He returns to M-Sport but Ott Tänak moves from M-Sport Ford to Toyota and joins Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi. Thierry Neuville won four rallies for Hyundai in 2017. Someone different is going to breakthrough especially if Ogier can only manage two victories once again.

We have got two more predictions, two more posts for 2017. We once again will focus on multiple series as we have the sports car predictions. Don't forget to check out the NASCAR predictions and Formula One predictions.