The January Review


As the year 2010 started off with the Dakar there was a resilient display of defiance by many in the motorsports industry that permeated all aspects of the business. The effect of the global economy was always going to be at the forefront of many motorsport teams concerns; however, the Dakar saw a very large participation in all the classes by manufacturer and privateer teams, particularly in Bikes and Quads including two representatives of Chinese motorcycle manufacturer Jincheng, Su Weming and Wei Guangui.

KTM who nearly pulled out altogether due to the 450cc regulation dominated the Bike class as Marc Coma and Cyril Despres slugged it out until the latter (Despres) finally won the bike trophy from the former Dakar Champion (Coma).

However, as predicted manufacturer team Volkswagen Motorsports dominated the car class of the Rally Raid, but did not have everything entirely its own way. The BMW’s of X Raid led by Stephane Petterhansel put up some stiff opposition over some the early stages moving from Chile into Argentina, as did the American Privateer team of Robby Gordon in his Toyo Tire/Monster H3 Hummer.

Yet by the end of the Rally Raid the Volkswagen Touaregs had done what they had set out to do, which was to dominate the Dakar with its overwhelming resources. Carlos Sainz eventually captured the Car Class Trophy for VW Motorsports and its Danish “Herr Director” Kris Nissen. Sainz was aware of how fortunate the VW armada was that Frenchman Peterhansel had experienced some difficulties on stage 5 of the Rally with a broken propshaft allowing the VW team to gain on him. Peterhansel finished in 4th. After clinching the trophy for VW Motorsport Sainz said “In some ways we were lucky that Stephane Peterhansel had his problem on stage five, he was very strong and won a lot of stages”. VW Motorsport finished with a 1, 2, 3 at the top. Last year’s champion South African Giniel de Villiers finished 5th.

Despite the unfortunate incident of a female spectator suffering fatality during the early stages of the Dakar, the Rally Raid was overall a great success which gathered a substantial deal of attention unto itself. Such a high level of interest in the new South American Dakar is a good thing for the Dakar organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) which might emulate Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM and CVC with just as much financial muscle in the years to come should it choose to grow beyond the allocated traditional two weeks at the beginning of each year.

Agreed, ASO already has a large portfolio in sports including the Tour de France and European Rally Raids, nonetheless, I feel that the new South American Dakar has given the Dakar renewed momentum. I predicted earlier that the Dakar will build further on this success and see further expansion in competition and competitors alike next year.

Moving on to the business side of things, the Autosports International, (The Racecar Show) an exhibition of engineering, innovation, and most things pertaining motorsports took place at the NEC in Birmingham, UK ( Jan 14-17). I’d been looking forward to this exhibition but despite my attempts at finding time (and resources) to cover the event in Birmingham, I could not attend, and thus, I cannot give a firsthand account of the many wonderful things I seen reported by some other media outlets.

What I was able to observe (albeit through secondary sources), was presence of many British fans favourite Drivers including Stirling Moss, Derek Bell, Martin Brundle, Allan McNish (Le Mans Series), Gary Paffett (DTM/McLaren) and current Formula One Champion Jenson Button who conducted a highly anticipated Q & A.

Speaking of Formula One, most commentators are reticent or at least hesitant to predict the outcome of 2010 Formula One season since Button and Lewis are now on the same team and Schumacher has returned to racing.

Michael Schumacher’s GP2 test in Spain was ‘much ado about nothing’ in real terms, but today, 25th January, Mercedes GP has launched its MGP W01 in Stuttgart with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher in attendance. Vodafone, McLaren, Mercedes is set launch the MP4-25 on the 29th of January at Vodafone Headquarters in Newbury UK.

Being unable to attend the Racecar Show in Birmingham was unfortunate, but I rallied my spirits and found a poor substitute in the Tullet Prebon London International Boat Show held at the London ExCel 9th -17th of January. I use the phrase ‘poor substitute’ strictly context of motorsports, and not in terms of the opulence and luxury yachts on display at the show. I must confess that I’m just as intrigue about hydrodynamics as I am about aerodynamics, without much of scientific background in either, nor extensive comprehension of both.

So, I went in search of F1 racing boats, Evolution Class P1 boats, BMW Oracle (Challenger 33rd America’s Cup), Alinghi (Defender 33rd America’s Cup), Extreme 40s (iShares Cup) and 70ft Monohulls (Volvo Ocean Race). Unfortunately I was only able to find a small section with a small selection of P1 Superstock powerboats, and hell-of-a-lot of luxury yachts. Disappointing, yet inspirational if such a thing is possible. A lot of those yachts kick ass, but I wanted the Racers.

There was more disappointment in store for me later in the month as I could not attend one event most coveted by me, the asphalt Rally of Monte Carlo and the opening event of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). As all Rally aficionados are probably aware by now M-Sport enter the IRC with Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen driving an S2000 Ford Fiesta and winning, whilst last year’s winner Brit Kris Meek crashed out. By the way the IRC win saw Hirvonen’s stock go up in the new Castrol Drivers Ranking system launched with the help of David Coulthard.

This month also saw Former WRC Champion Norwegian Petter Solberg strike out on his own as a privateer team owner with a 2009 spec Citroen. Solberg is determined to challenge current WRC Champion Loeb and has been reported to have scheduled 26 testing sessions to Loeb’s 16. In a recent interview Solberg says “I have one goal this year and that is to beat Sebastien Loeb, I’m a privateer now and that’s tough, many people probably regard it as impossible”.

In addition, since he is reluctant to shell out an astronomical amount of money (£795,000) needed to get a similar gear box to Loeb’s which would weigh 4 kg lighter than what he already has, he’s decided to lose 4kg himself. This should make the 2010 WRC competition very interesting indeed with the additional input of American Ken Block driving for Monster Ford this year.

As the month draws to a close one major event will soon be upon us, the Rolex Grand Am 24 hrs Jan. 28th -31st. Testing for the event termed “The Roar before the Rolex 24” was carried out earlier this month Jan 8-10 and revealed little more than a drop in car numbers participating in 2010 compared to 2009.