Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 Et Cetera Predictions: Revisited

We are rounding out the year and we have a few more series to look at when it comes to predictions. Unfortunately, with so many great series and so little time for writing a few have to be condensed to one prediction in one post. Fortunately, 12 series is quite a lot and it can provide for a varied selection of predictions. Today we look back on series from around the world, big and small, domestic and international and see how many we hit on and how many we missed.

1. MotoGP: There are at least three races decided by a pass on the final lap
Wrong! There were only two races decided with a pass on the final lap. Jorge Lorenzo passed Marc Márquez on the final lap at the Red Bull Ring. Márquez passed Andrea Dovizioso on the final lap at Buriram. Despite all that, there were some really great races in MotoGP, as there always are. 

2. Indy Lights: Carlin does not win an oval race
Correct! But sadly it is because Carlin did not field an entry in Indy Lights this season. This isn't one correct prediction to feel good about. It would have been one thing if Carlin fielded two cars and Andretti Autosport and Juncos Racing were just better on the ovals.

Carlin's Indy Lights absence may be temporary and the team may plan on returning to Indy Lights in 2019 after stepping away to focus on the new IndyCar operation this past season but Indy Lights is still in a vicarious position even with Carlin on the grid. It may be an additional two cars but the series needs at least eight to ten entries to feel comfortable. 

3. Supercars: At least three full-time drivers who didn't win a race in 2017 win in 2018
Correct! Craig Lowndes, Scott Pye and Rick Kelly all won a race after not winning as full-time drivers in 2017. Pye was the first of the three to win and he did it at Melbourne during the Australian Grand Prix weekend in March. It was Pye's first career victory and it came in his 171st start. Lowndes won in the following round at Symmons Plains and he would win his seventh Bathurst 1000 later in the season. Kelly won at Winton Motor Raceway in May. It was Kelly's first victory since 2011.

4. World Superbike: P.J. Jacobsen finishes better in the championship than all Honda riders did in 2017
Wrong! Jacobsen's World Superbike season ended prematurely with two rounds to go and he finished 19th in the championship, six positions off where he had to finish.

5. World Supersport: Kenan Sofuoglu clinches the championship before the season finale
Wrong! Unfortunately, injuries forced Sofuoglu to retire during the season. He was a fantastic talent and he will be missed. 

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
Wrong! The only non-European winner was Kelvin van der Linde in the second race of the season in the Blancpain Sprint Series race from Zolder. 

7. Asian Le Mans Series: Harrison Newey's ALMS success leads to starts in either WEC or ELMS
Correct! Newey got to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. He drove for SMP Racing and he and his co-drivers Viktor Shaitar and Norman Nato finished 14th overall and tenth in LMP2. 

8. Super Formula: A rookie does not finish in the top four of the championship
Correct! The top four in the championship were Naoki Yamamoto, who was in his ninth season and won the title in 2013, sophomore Nick Cassidy, double Super Formula champion Hiroki Ishiura and Yuhi Sekiguchi, who was in his third season. 

9. Super GT: Jenson Button has at least two podium finishes
Correct! Button and co-driver Yamamoto had four podium finishes, including a victory at Sportsland SUGO and the pairing won the GT500 championship! 

10. DTM: A non-German driver wins a race in that driver's home country
Correct! Paul di Resta won at Brands Hatch.

11. World Touring Car Cup: WTCC race winners in 2017 win more races than 2017 TCR International Series race winners in 2018
Correct! WTCC winners edged out TCR winners six to five.

Here are the 2017 WTCC winners that won in 2018: Esteban Guierreri, Thed Björk, Norbert Michelisz, Rob Huff, Yann Ehrlacher and Mehdi Bennani.

Here are the 2017 TCR International Series winners that won in 2018: Gabriele Tarquini (though his victory did not count toward the points because he was a guest driver), Pepe Oriola, Jean-Karl Vernay, Norbert Michelisz and Rob Huff.

Ironically, Tarquini won the championship a year after running a handful of rounds in each sires and Yvan Muller was vice-champion after spending most of 2017 in retirement and only running the final WTCC round in 2017.

By the way, here is Muller's championship finishes since he joined WTCC in 2006: fourth, second, first, second, first, first, third, first, second, second, second, 15th after only running one round in 2017 and second. That is not a bad record. Not as good as his Andros Trophy record but very good considering those results are for a world championship.

12. WRC: The champion will not be named Sébastien
Wrong! Sébastien Ogier won his sixth consecutive championship despite having Theirry Neuville lead with two rounds remaining and Ott Tänak was the first driver to win four rallies this season. That is 15 consecutive years with a Sébastien as World Rally champion. It is bound to end but after this year it feels like it never will. 

Final Words
Where to begin? What has been left unsaid?

MotoGP should be interesting with Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo paired at Honda. Lorenzo has earned a reputation of a team-wrecker of sorts and butted heads with Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso. Now he is up against the man currently in the throne. Let's see how this goes. It will not end well. This might be Honda beating itself with Márquez and Lorenzo opening the door for Dovizioso and Ducati to take the title in 2019 or Márquez will ascend to a new level, one no one else can get close to reaching.

Supercars has set up an interesting two-horse battle between DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight Race Engineering. With Craig Lowndes retiring from full-time competition both teams will have two drivers and it feels the next generation is here for Supercars. Jamie Whincup is still around but Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen and two young champions and went toe-to-toe for all of 2018. If it isn't those three battling for majority of race victory than I will be surprised.

World Superbike has become the Jonathan Rea show and that doesn't appear to be changing with Rea going for a record fifth title in 2019. Rea will have a new teammate at Kawasaki with Leon Haslam moving over after winning the British Superbike Championship. Haslam is no stranger to World Superbike and he was vice-champion in 2010. A lot of riders are moving around in World Superbike with Chaz Davies having Álvaro Bautista join him at Ducati, Marco Melandri moving to Yamaha with World Supersport champion Sandro Cortese moving up to team with Melandri and Tom Sykes leaves Kawasaki to join BMW with Markus Reiterberger as his teammate.

On to Japan and the rise of Jenson Button. I did not expect this. I thought he would do well. I didn't think Honda would let him down and have him run 12th every race but to win the championship in his debut season is impressive. Honda has had its struggles in Super GT and Lexus and Nissan have traded titles in recent years. More impressive was Yamamoto, who swept titles in Super GT and Super Formula. We hear about the challenges when it comes to driving single-seaters versus a car with fenders and the fact that a driver can get the best out of both while competing full-time in the same year is something few can accomplish.

Let's end with the DTM and the new horizon for the series. Mercedes-Benz exits with the championship and with the loss of the manufacture means the end for champion Gary Paffett, who moves to Formula E along with Pascal Wehrlein and Edoardo Mortara. Paul di Resta is still a free agent and could remain in DTM but di Resta has been running more sports car races. The good news is Aston Martin steps into the series and keeps DTM at three manufactures. The entrance of Aston Martin coincides with the introduction of the "Class One" regulations, which see turbocharged 2.0 L inline-4 engines replace the naturally aspirated 4.0 L V8 engines used since the re-introduction of the series in 2000. It feels like the series has found some new life and it will be interesting to see how Aston Martin does in year one against the established efforts of Audi and BMW.

Seven-for-twelve on the predictions.