TCF Picks – Competitor of the Year 2015


Simon Paice – Dan Cammish

While Tom Oliphant’s march to the Supercup title and Gordon Shedden’s BTCC success have hugely impressed, for the second time in three years my driver of the season has to be Dan Cammish, who was sensational en-route to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB title with Redline Racing.

While he had fired a warning shot with his debut win in the 2014 finale, no-one could have predicted quite what a season he would produce, a year well on par with his invincible season in Formula Ford GB in 2013, in which he won all 24 races he contested.

Cammish did get beaten this year, but it proved to be a rare occurrence as he stormed to eleven wins in sixteen races against a Carrera Cup grid that was hailed at the start of the season as one of the most talented and competitive in the championship’s history.

That makes his march to the title all the more remarkable, with the 26 year old finishing on the podium in every single race. On his day, Cammish was simply untouchable and he’s surely destined for a bright career in the sport.

Credit: Malcolm Griffiths
Credit: Malcolm Griffiths

Lee Bonham – Dan Cammish & Stoffel Vandoorne

Two. Number one is obvious. Dan Cammish. This man’s talent often made writing about the Porsche Carrera Cup GB seem more like the domain of a parrot. Nobody should have dominated such a breadth and depth of skill on the 2015 grid, yet Dan somehow did. The first TOCA champion of 2015 did an incredible job and whatever he has lined up for 2016, you can only hope it is a drive deserving of such a fantastic racer.

By contrast Stoffel Vandoorne was widely expected to dominate GP2. The fact that he did so in such a consummate and professional manner, is deserving of special notice. This is a driver who deserves to be in Formula 1 next season. Or bizarre though it may sound, should be poached by an LMP1 factory for a shot at the World Endurance Championship. Stoffel Vandoorne shouldn’t just be an also-ran in an uncompetitive car at the back of the F1 grid. He should be at the front of a competitive world championship, single-seaters or not.

Paul Hensby, Chloe Hewitt & Connor Jackson – Stoffel Vandoorne.

Paul: When the dust settled at the end of the 2015 GP2 Series season, one man stood head and shoulders above the rest, with Stoffel Vandoorne securing seven feature race victories out of a possible eleven, including the first four of the season.

The Belgian also secured an impressive sixteen podium finishes out of twenty-one races, as well as four pole positions and seven fastest laps! He wrapped up the title with two and a half race weekends to spare, and ended up 160 points ahead of his closest rival Alexander Rossi.

The ART Grand Prix driver was by far the most dominant and impressive driver of 2015 in my eyes, and has been rewarded by resuming his McLaren reserve driver role in 2016.

Chloe: There has been one man’s name on the lips of many people’s mouths this year – Stoffel Vandoorne. After an impressive debut season in GP2 back in 2014, the talented Belgian went one better (literally) and won the title in a remarkable fashion that rewrote the record books for series.

With seven wins this season added to the four from his rookie season, Vandoorne set the record for the most wins in the GP2 Series with 11 breaking the record set by Pastor Maldonado back in his 2010 championship winning year with 10. With 16 out of a possible 22 podiums over the course of the season, Vandoorne sealed the title in Russia after taking to the podium 12 times and with four races still left to run.

The only downside is the uncertainty of where Vandoorne will go from this? With no F1 seat available for him due to McLaren retaining Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, it seems that Vandoorne is having to head to Japan with Super Formula in 2016.

Connor: Coming in as title favourite isn’t easy, and according to Sky commentators, the McLaren team set him a target this year; Dominate and win the title.

Not only has Vandoorne achieved this, but he also won by the biggest margin in GP2 history, almost double Alexander Rossi. That’s not his only achievement though.

His run of eight podiums in the first nine races showed true talent. While his four pole positions and six fastest laps shows the one lap pace he has. Race pace hasn’t been lacking either, when he made up for a poor strategy to finish fourth in Belgium after dropping into the midfield.

The fact that he was overlooked for the McLaren drive seems criminal. He achieved his goals, he’s proven himself and yet, like fellow former McLaren Youth driver, Kevin Magnussen, looks like he too will be thrown to the side, just so Jenson Button can have another season to “develop” the car (as if that wasn’t Fernando’s job). At the moment he looks bound for Super Formula which may put pay to an F1 career all together, lets just cross fingers for Manor Marussia.

Credit: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service
Credit: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service

Katy McConnachie, Gemma Bray & Dan Mason – Max Verstappen

Katy: I remember when everyone claimed it was too early for the young Max Verstappen to climb into a Formula 1 car but I believe it is fair to say, he silenced everyone with incredible performances throughout the season.

Even though he was just seventeen when the season got underway, Verstappen was prepared and ready for the challenges that Formula 1 has thrown at him in his rookie year with Toro Rosso. It was always going to be a risk signing up such a young driver and causing so much controversy but I think that it was one of the best decisions made in Formula 1 in recent years. He has brought a whole new kind of spice to the sport and has provided action, even in some of the most boring and slow Grand Prix. It’s an incredible breath of fresh air for other drivers, teams and fans alike to be able to witness such a talent and I’m personally looking forward to seeing what Verstappen will bring to the table in the 2016 season.

Gemma: To become the youngest Formula 1 driver is an achievement in itself. Max Verstappen has showed that age does not matter when it comes to the sport, finishing in the Drivers’ Championship ahead of his team-mate in twelfth.

Moves by the Dutch that many successful F1 drivers have never completed themselves, pulling them off in just his third Grand Prix, moves in Shanghai becoming his trademark. Carrying across his kart experiences into a Formula 1 car shows some amazing talent.

Dan: Many championships had their star names, but ultimately it was Formula 1 that offered the ticket to see one of the season’s real superstars in 2015 – Max Verstappen.

The Toro Rosso youngster entered with a cloud of discussion over his head after being thrown in at the deep end at a mere 17 years of age, the youngest F1 competitor in history and only passing his driving test in the latter half of the year.

What was not expected was the sheer guts and tenacity of the Dutchman, who ended 12th in the championship thanks to 10 points finishes and a fourth place in Hungary during a feisty rookie campaign.

The step from Formula 3 seemed effortless, but his car control and sheer opportunistic overtaking ability was what made him worthy of this acolade.

Despite recklessness costing him at Monaco, passing moves like the one around the outside of Felipe Nasr at the flat-out Blanchimont corner were breathtaking – one which saw the son of ‘Jos the boss’ claim the FIA’s ‘Action of the year’ award also.

Toro Rosso may not be the place to achieve it, but Verstappen is certainly a future champion of the sport if those traits continue.

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Dan Lloyd – Juan Pablo Montoya

He may not have won the 2015 IndyCar championship, but what Juan Pablo Montoya achieved in the 2015 season showed that he is still one of the sport’s top driving forces.

The affable Colombian, driving for Penske in an all-star lineup, opened his season in style with a dramatic victory at the St. Petersburg curtain raiser. He followed this up with podiums at Long Beach and the Indianapolis GP before claiming his biggest victory of the year at the Indy 500, holding off Scott Dixon and team-mate Will Power in a frantic conclusion.

Although Montoya’s results stuttered in the second half of the season (his retirement in Iowa being a particular disappointment) he ended the year on a high with second in the championship, losing out to Dixon only on countback. Despite missing the final silverware, 2015 showed that, with a second career Indy 500 win and a Porsche LMP1 test under his belt, brand Montoya is still calling the shots at the sharp end of the field.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar
Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Joe Hudson – Jamie Chadwick & Ross Gunn

Stepping into GT racing for the first time is a challenge for any driver, endurance racing is something of an art form and being able to manage the car – and the traffic – for upwards of 60 minutes takes a driver of the utmost skill. Step forward Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn.

The pair made the step up to the Beechdean-run Aston Martin Vantage GT4 from Ginetta Juniors and BRDC F4 with an ease that masked their young years – Jamie is only 17 and Ross 18.

Leaving drivers like Oz Yusuf, Gavan Kershaw and James Nash in their wake, you would have been excused for thinking they were a pair of old pros who had been racing for donkey’s years but winning the title in year one of GT racing has fired a warning shot across GT paddocks that two new stars have been born and they aren’t taking any prisoners.

Credit: Jakob Ebrey
Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Louis Suddaby & Josh Close – Jonathan Rea

Louis: After one of the greatest seasons from any rider in World Superbike history, this award can only go to one man. For years, it looked as though Jonathan Rea would end up a victim of his own loyalty, having stayed with the Ten Kate Honda squad despite the Fireblade showing no signs that it would become a championship challenger. In 2015, that all changed as Rea switched to Kawasaki, giving him the perfect platform to display the talent that no-one in motorcycle racing doubted was there.

On paper, the task wasn’t easy with Rea joining a team including 2013 champion Tom Sykes, the Yorkshireman starting his sixth season in green. Despite that, Rea was much quicker out of the starting gate with victory on his Kawasaki debut at Phillip Island, opening the floodgates for a succession of wins and podiums.

20 straight rostrum results, twelve of which were wins, saw Rea on the brink of the title by the time he arrived at Jerez in September and the Ulsterman duly delivered, wrapping up a first world championship with five races to spare. Had it not been for mechanical misfortune in the final race in Qatar, Jonathan would have smashed the all-time points record for a single WSBK season but even without that piece of history, Rea’s 2015 campaign was one of the greatest displays of two-wheeled dominance.

Josh: Competitor of the year has to be Jonathan Rea. After ten years of commitment to Honda, Rea finally decided enough was enough and joined the Kawasaki team for the 2015 WSBK season.

Rea instantly became accustomed to the green machine and would dominate the championship from start-to-finish, proving to everybody just how talented he is.

The Ulsterman would win eight out of the first 10 races and never looked like being caught in the championship by Tom Sykes or Chaz Davis.

Rea finished the season 136 points clear of Davis and a further 17 points clear of Sykes. He won the title with four races still to go and ended the season with 14 victories to his name.

If he continues his form into 2016 then it is going to be very difficult for anybody to stop him from becoming a two-time champion.

Credit: Kawasaki
Credit: Kawasaki

Dominik Wilde – Kyle Busch

A lot has been made of Kyle Busch’s triumphant Sprint Cup season this year. After missing 11 races with a broken right leg and left foot, the Las Vegas native went on to claim 16 top fives, five wins – including three in a row – and his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

Such is the way that NASCAR’s polarising Chase format, it didn’t matter that Busch was forced onto the sidelines, so long as he got the right results at the right time to ensure qualification for the playoff in the latter part of the season. That he did and although many fans will say he’s not the ‘real’ champion (had they been using the pre-2004 points system, he would not have been champion) but the drivers have to play with the cards they’re dealt and Busch did exactly what was necessary to give him the championship.

Agree or not, Kyle Busch went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs and was the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. Not many would have predicted that after his horror smash at Daytona back in February.

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Matthew McMahon – Emil Bergkvist

There have been a number of drivers who have impressed this year but one competitor has stood out from the rest. Swede Emil Bergkvist has had a stellar 2015 season and impressed everyone with his speed and consistency.

The ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team driver took three wins in the 2015 ERC Junior Championship on his way to being crowned champion but it was his performance in his prizewinning drive on the Rallye Internationale du Valais that makes him a very exciting prospect for next year.

As a prize for winning the ERC Junior series the Bergkvist was given the opportunity to compete in an Peugeot 208 T16 R5 in Switzerland. The Swede finished an incredible fourth overall and set third fastest time on stage 10 completing an impressive weekend. Bergkvist is hoping to secure an R5 driver for next season and will be one to keep a close eye on.

Credit: ERC Media
Credit: ERC Media

Matt Bristow – Julian Godfrey

He is not known for a flamboyant personality but Julian Godfrey’s 5thBritish title in a row has to be something special. Many people were saying that previous titles were hollow as there wasn’t much in the way of competition, but this year’s Supercar race for the title has been the hardest fought campaign for many, many years.

Godfrey
Credit: Matt Bristow | www.rubberduckdoes.com

Phil Kinch – Timmy Hansen

My choice for Competitor of the Year is Timmy Hansen, son of 14 times European Rallycross Champion Kenneth Hansen and driver for the 2015 FIA World Rallycross Teams Champions Team Peugeot-Hansen.

Timmy stepped up his game this season in WorldRX with an updated version of the Peugeot 208 WRX. This was evident by his consistency for being fast enough to lead the overnight standings at six consecutive events, a feat unmatched by any other driver during the season. Hansen would go on to take victories at Holjes in Sweden, Loheac in France and Istanbul in Turkey.

Not only did his talent shine through improved consistency in 2015, but Hansen’s racecraft massively improved also, still showing flashes of youthful exuberence as well as brilliant speed. He was up against the best in WorldRX every weekend: Solberg, Bakkerud, Heikkinen just to name a few and raced fairly as well as in an exciting manner, asking for no quarter whilst giving none in return. He showed a maturity beyond his years on many occaisions.

His speed was also unquestionable. Not just in his Day One domination but also during the Heats, Semi-Finals and Finals. Hansen was able to put the Peugeot at the front as and when he wanted, but not without hard work as well. He was a strong part of the testing that took place before and during the season alongside Davy Jeanney.

The result of all this was that Hansen finished runner up to Solberg in the Drivers Championship, but he underlined that he is a star of the future and a future World Champion in the making.

Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship
Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship