Races. Though points decide the champions at the end of the season motorsport is all about races – and there have been some great ones in 2012. The choices of the regular contributors for www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk include two races that culminated in the closest finishes in the history of the championships, three series finales and an Indy 500 that set records for lead changes before being decided on the final lap.
Peter Allen – GP3 Monza
I’ve actually chosen two races, if you’ll allow me (I’ll let you, season of good will and all that – ed). GP3’s season finales at Monza already had a reputation for exciting races, and with four drivers going into this year’s decider with a chance of becoming champion, it promised to be another cracker. With Mitch Evans taking pole and extending his points lead it seemed the title was only a formality for the Kiwi, but everything changed early in the first race when he sustained suspension damage. The advantage went to Antonio Felix da Costa, but after he got stuck in gear, race winner Daniel Abt became the only man who could stop Evans. Needing to win race two from eighth on the grid, the German soon took the lead but Evans was fighting back into the points and the title seemed to be his, until he was forced into another off-track excursion which this time gave him a puncture. Everything was now in Abt’s hands but he came under attack from Tio Ellinas, the pair swapping the lead several times in the closing stages until Ellinas came out on top, handing the title to a relieved Evans.
David Bean – Brazilian Grand Prix
There can obviously only be one choice for this one. Vettel went to Interlagos with such an advantage, and was expected to glide effortlessly to his third title. That clout from Bruno Senna, which resulted in a lot of damage and a spin, plus the rain and an extra pit stop all meant that Vettel had to fight extremely hard for his title though, and there were at least a couple of times when viewers would have thought that it was all over. And even away from the title race, there were enough thrills, spills and overtakes to keep even the most disinterested viewer glued to the screen for all 71 laps of this exceptional race.
Read TCF’s report of the F1 climax – HERE
James Broomhead – British GT, Brands Hatch
‘Balance of performance’ is a pejorative, even seemingly taboo term around GT racing sometimes, but if you want an advert for what the balancing off all the different marques and models means to the racing them the two hour race at Brands Hatch is perfect advert. 120 minutes of racing, three different cars, from three different team and they end the race within seconds of each other. The winning margin, 0.022 seconds – that’s not a typo, that’s the right number of noughts. Jann Mardenborough drove well beyond his years to hold the lead throughout the second half of the race, pushing on through a brief rain shower when the more experienced Oliver Bryant in the chasing BMW opted for caution, arguably ending his chances of winning. All the while Jonny Adam was charging up from the back end of the top ten, taking seconds a lap off of the lead on a collision course for the final laps. Adam took Bryant for second with two laps left and pushed Mardenborough through the final corner, the young Welshman holding a slide through the final corner that allowed Adam a run on the outside towards the finish line which, had it have been twenty metres of so further down the hill towards Paddock Hill Bend, would have been greeted by Adam for an Aston Martin win. As it was it was Mardenborough, by a wheel that took the win to a spontaneous round of applause.
Read James’ race report of the classic on the Grand Prix track – HERE
Andy Champness – Bathurst 1000
I’ve really tried to go for something different this year, but I just couldn’t do it! There have been some incredible V8 Supercar races this season, the season opener in Adelaide, race one in Hamilton, the third race in Perth, the Sandown 500 and race two at Townsville, to name a few. But Bathurst tops them all again. Mt. Panorama is just such a unique and incredible circuit and I never fail to be amazed at how close this race is after 161 laps. Yet again, the difference between winning and losing this six-hour epic came down to less than one second. It was Jamie Whincup that took the victory in the 50th anniversary of the ‘Great Race’, but he was pushed all the way by David Reynolds in an enthralling Holden-versus-Ford nose-to-tail duel over the final 12 laps. And just as exciting was the fight for third between James Courtney, Michael Caruso and the fast-finishing Craig Lowndes.
Read the race report on a thrilling edition of Australia’s ‘Great Race’ – HERE
Alex Goldschmidt – Britcar 24 Hours, Silverstone
I had never been put to the ultimate test as a writer, until I arrived at Silverstone to help James and Chris cover what would be a dramatic race from start to finish, plus it had interested me as to how I would fare under the pressure of an endurance race, reporting on the action via the TCF Live Twitter feed, as well as reporting on the action every hour. With both James and I constantly battling sleep deprivation, and with Mike helping out when he could remotely, it was an experience I would never forget, and when I finally published the report for the penultimate hour, I breathed the biggest sigh of relief for years, but it was an adrenaline and sugar-fuelled high and then suddenly bumped back down to earth with a huge bump, as I realized my biggest personal accomplishment to date. In the span of 38 and a half hours, I’d driven from Cambridgeshire to Silverstone, Silverstone back home to Manningtree, covering approximately 250 miles, and then reported on a 24 hour endurance race – such is the power of the mind. A weekend to never forget.
After the sleep deprivation eased we wrote a race report, read it – HERE
Chris Gurton – British GT finale, Donington Park
It would be obvious of me to pick the British GT race at Brands Hatch and it was difficult not to, but one other race just pips it in terms of build up, excitement, heart break, lead changes and down to wire racing. The British GT season finale at Donington had it all. With five driver pairings heading into the final race knowing that a race win would seal championship honours and two more pairings still with a good chance of the title, it was set to be a real ding dong battle. Alex Buncombe did the business with one of his trademark opening stints to climb from midfield obscurity to race lead in the opening laps. He handed over to team mate Jann Mardenborough with a healthy lead knowing that taking the chequered flag in their current position would crown them champions. Just a couple of laps into his Jann’s stint and disaster struck. Rear suspension failure on the Nissan put paid to all title hopes and it was heartbreak for Jann and the rest of the RJN team. This then but the championship into the hands of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. But the MTECH Ferrari had to deal with the Rosso Verdi Ferrari whilst the Ecurie Ecosse BMW was closing in. A safety car period enabled the BMW to close in and an ambitions move from Oliver Bryant in the BMW at the final hairpin meant contact with Griffin sending him into a spin, down the order and giving the BMW the championship lead with just a few laps left. However, a drive through penalty for Bryant ended their chance of championship honours and gifting them to the Motorbase Porsche of Parfetti and Caine with the latter just needing to bring the car home safely to take the title which he did.
Read the report from the superb finale to the 2012 season – HERE
Scott-Mitchell – BTCC Silverstone, race two
I am torn between race two at the penultimate round of the BTCC and the Formula One finale at Interlagos. Both were pivotal in the respective title fights and both provided heart-in-mouth moments and incedible comeback drives. But I’m plumping for home-grown heroics. In Britain, Mat Jackson delivered the first win for Motorbase/Redstone Racing’s first-ever in-house car, the NGTC Ford Focus, having fought through the field from 18th having retired while leading race one. However, this came after Jason Plato, erstwhile leader who had inherited victory in race one following Jackson’s demise, retired, and championship challenger Matt Neal suffered the second of two non-scores when his Honda dramtically caught fire. Meanwhile eventual champion, Gordon Shedden, circulated in sixth, a remarkable points haul in a car which was not even good enough for the top ten in qualifying.
Read Scott’s race report – HERE
James Newbold – Indianapolis 500
Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a jet-dryer at the Daytona 500 was among the most surreal images I have ever witnessed, and for sheer drama, the F1 title finale at Interlagos deserves a mention. But the race that truly did have it all was the incredible Indianapolis 500; the humiliating failure of Lotus to deliver Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro a competitive engine, another enormous crash for Mike Conway, and Tony Kanaan in with a chance of ending his Brickyard curse with just 10 laps to go… And who would have ever predicted that it would ultimately be Takuma Sato who would take the fight to Ganassi duo Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti? But could he actually do it? Surely not? As Sato closed in, the Speedway held its breath. Would this be a repeat of 2006, when Sam Hornish Jr. snatched victory from Marco Andretti on the run to the flag? Nope; Sato’s doomed attempt to pass Franchitti on the final lap in an all-or-nothing reach for glory duly resulted in contact with the turn 1 wall, handing the Scotsman an emotional third ‘500 victory.
Read TCF’s report on the 2012 Indianapolis 500 – HERE
James Singleton – ALMS, Road America
There have been many thrilling races that I’ve seen this year and initially, my short-list for this was quite large. But one stood out and since it happened, I’ve watched and re-watched it on YouTube countless times. It proves why quality is more important than quantity. The ALMS may only have had three cars in LMP1, but at the incredibly Road America circuit, Dyson Racing and the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing teams put on a thriller. The Muscle Milk HPD had gone several laps down earlier in the race due to a problem, but with Lucas Luhr at the wheel, they fought back brilliantly. The final ten minutes were electrifying, and by the end of the race the two cars were split by just 0.083 of a second – the closest finish in the championship’s history. An awesome track and a photo finish, what more do you need?
Read the race report from the the closest ALMS finish ever – HERE
Louis Suddaby – Moto3 French Grand Prix
To be honest, I could’ve picked any from around a dozen races in Moto3 this year, the new junior class has been the success story of 2012 for me. I’ve picked the French GP at Le Mans because of the emotion involved. It was a classic wet race which saw no fewer than four riders crash out of a winning position as the rain wreaked havoc and through it all came hometown hero Louis Rossi to take the first victory of his career, sending the crowd absolutely wild. Danny Kent’s stunning first win in Japan came a very close second.
Read Louis’ report on the Moto3 boys on the Bugatti circuit – HERE
Mike Trusler – Brazilian Grand Prix
This is one of my favourite races of all time. The race encapsulated everything I love about Formula One. From start to finish there was something going on. It had everything. Changing conditions, a championship decider, thrills, spills and everything in between. In one moment Alonso was champion, the next Vettel. It was brilliant to watch. A fantastic end to a fantastic F1 season. Honourable mention to the 2012 Indy500. In the first Indy500 for the DW1, the car proved to provide fantastic and close racing, with a record 34 lead changes throughout the race.
Those are our choices. Agree? Disagree? Let us know with your own picks for this year’s best race.
Tomorrow the TCF Team explain their selections for their favourite moment of the past season.
Lead photo credits: Photo Credit: (top to bottom, left to right) Chris Gurton Photography; motogp.com; Team Vodafone; Chris Gurton Photography; Paul Gilham/Getty Images; Chris Gurton Photography; Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR; Chris Gurton Photography; Chris Gurton Photography; Chris Gurton Photography; Citroen Racing Media; Jakob Ebrey Photography