This is the year motorsport gets its mojo back.
If top categories like Formula 1, the World Rally Championship and the World Endurance Championship live up to their potential, maybe, just maybe, 2017 will be the year we finally stop yearning for the good old days.
You can certainly feel the anticipation at the Autosport International, which is open today for the second of four days. Drivers, engineers and fans alike – everyone at the Birmingham NEC event is excited to see the new cars, to understand revamped regulations and to guess who’ll be quickest at round one.
The great thing is, for the first time in a long time, making predictions is nigh on impossible. For example, will Mercedes have the quickest car out of the box during the first F1 winter test? Last year you might have bet hundreds on it being so, but with so many changes this year that look set to make the cars much harder to drive and more fascinating to watch, can you really discount Red Bull, Ferrari, and maybe even Williams, so quickly?
The same pre-season uncertainty can be seen in WRC. Reigning champ Sébastien Ogier moves to M-Sport now his old team Volkswagen is gone. No doubt the talented Frenchman will find pace in his Ford Fiesta WRC, but will it be enough to win the championship? Given the substantial differences of the cars competing in this year’s championship, an answer now would be nothing short of a guess.
Then there’s the WEC. Audi, like Volkswagen’s rally team, is gone following heavy post-Dieselgate cost cutting. The LMP1 category now has just two factory teams left, Porsche and Toyota. But while those two will be fighting for the top step of the podium, eyes may now be drawn to the LMP2 class, where new regulations mean the cars will be much faster.
“LMP2 cars will be around three seconds a lap quicker than Group C cars were at Le Mans, and Group C cars didn’t used to run the chicanes on the straight,” was the explanation of speed from racer Alex Brundle, who’s father you’ll likely know from Formula 1. “The LMP2 cars this year will be much faster.”
And while the British Touring Car Championship might not have introduced any major rule changes for 2017, its grid has been shaken up and new cars have joined the field, meaning there are all the right ingredients for this to be an even more hotly contested season than last year, where the championship went down to the wire.
With all that, plus plenty of inevitable action from the likes of MotoGP, Indycar and many more, 2017 could really be a golden year for racing. Thankfully, we don’t have long to wait for it to start, because the first major series to kick things off is the WRC. It bursts back to life in Monte Carlo next week…