After several years of financial doom, the economy is slowly picking up. Manufacturers are once again starting to spend money on motorsport, with Porsche, VW and Nissan present in the likes of sports car racing, rallying and touring car racing respectively.
Despite this though, there are still some manufacturers who remain absent from the world of racing, despite having great heritage in the sport. For this new feature, The Checkered Flag looks at six manufacturers who really should be racing, but aren’t, or are doing very little at the moment.
We start, in no particular order, with Jaguar:
There are no two ways about it; Jaguar is a hugely iconic name in motorsport history, thanks mostly due to its success at Le Mans. Despite being owned by the Indian company, Tata, they are still viewed by many as a British brand.
But, aside from a few failed GT3 projects in the last few years, there has been little on track action to talk of, and it is time that changed. Jaguar’s new car, the F-Type, has received plenty of attention in the motoring press, and unsurprisingly there are rumours about a possible GT3 version again. That has possibly come from the Project 7 concept – a version of the F-Type that celebrates Jaguar’s 7 victories at Le Mans.
It is perhaps unsurprising that all the talk of Jaguar re-entering motorsport focus on sports car racing – indeed, there were rumours a couple of years ago about a potential LMP1 entry.
Additionally, Jaguar recently evaluated an entry in the blossoming Australian V8 Supercar series. Had it happened, Jaguar would have become yet another international manufacturer, alongside Nissan, Mercedes (albeit through AMG) and Volvo to enter the championship. Sadly though, Jaguar came to the conclusion that Australia wasn’t a great market for its cars.
It’s a shame, because as has been proved in the Superstars series in recent years, the XF makes a great looking racing car.
The boss of Tata seems determined to lead Jaguar back to the race track, but unfortunately it still looks some way off. Until then, we all wait with baited breath for an announcement.
It is perhaps a surprise to see the French manufacturer on this list; after all, they produce the engines that have powered Red Bull Racing to three consecutive Formula One World Championships.
But the problem is, with so much focus on Red Bull, your average fan probably wouldn’t know that. It is something that Renault is increasingly aware of, and has spoken recently about their frustration about not getting the recognition they feel they deserve.
So what should be done?
To motorsport fans, it is perhaps a fair assessment that Renault is most synonymous with touring car racing, thanks to its success in the Super Touring era. Additionally, Renault is present in the increasingly competitive Argentinian touring car series, TC2000.
It is no surprise then, to read of rumours that link Renault to a potential WTCC entry under the new for 2014 regulations. However, that may now be unlikely after rival French manufacturer, Citroen, confirmed its entry into the series.
Closer to home, and it is highly likely that we’ll see Renault in the BTCC next year, according to Motorsport News. It seems that an entry will be from an independent, building NGTC Meganes, with an announcement due at Rockingham.
While it won’t be a manufacturer entry, it should at least give Renault some ideas to re-enter touring car racing again soon.
Again, perhaps another surprise name. Ford after all was the first company to mass produce the car. It also had a brilliant motorsport pedigree – having been successful over the years in rallying, touring car racing, and sports car racing. They are seen by many as the company that brought motor racing to life.
Why then, are they on this list?
Well, their participation in motorsport today is rather limited. Sure, Ford is present in the V8 Supercars with fierce, long-time rivals Holden, and they also have a presence in the goliath of American racing – NASCAR.
But in European racing, the blue oval is pretty much non-existent. They withdrew from the World Rally Championship at the end of 2012, and their World Touring Car campaign was also short lived. The only real presence they have today is in the struggling Formula Ford series.
There were rumours a while ago about the new for 2014 F1 engine regulations sparking interest, but so far, nothing has come of that, which is a shame. Motorsport is without doubt a poorer place without Ford.
Maserati’s racing history dates back to the early days of Formula One – the images of Juan Manuel Fangio driving the legendary 250F to championship glory in 1957 are an iconic part of the sport’s history.
However, more recently, and Maserati have been dominant in the FIA GT series. The MC12, which was described by Top Gear as a “Ferrari Enzo in drag” was designed from the ground up for racing. It won numerous titles, and remained competitive right up until it was no longer eligible in the series, due to the demise of the GT1 category.
But since then, we haven’t seen Maserati racing – which is a real shame. The fact that they have been sold more times than you care to remember in recent times has not helped matters. There is also most likely a reluctance to enter any form of racing where they’re likely to end up competing against Ferrari.
It would be great to see Maserati back racing, but don’t hold your breath while waiting for it to happen.
It is fair to say that Mazda doesn’t have the same rich racing history as some of the other names in this list, but that isn’t to say they haven’t tasted success at the highest level of motorsport either.
Their greatest triumph was perhaps winning the 1991 24 hours of Le Mans with the 787B, a car that has received a cult hero like status from motorsport fans, partly because of the surprise victory against the more favoured Jaguars and Mercedes, and partly due to the fact it was the last rotary engine winner of the great race. In fact, the car was famously so loud that it led to Volker Weidler, one of the drivers who steered it to victory, to suffer from tinnitus.
Since then though, Mazda has not really had a high profile in motorsport, and it is time that changed. There have been persistent rumours about a return Le Mans in the prototype ranks, but due to the current ban on rotary engines, it is unlikely that they would be able to emulate that famous victory.
Any return would most likely be with their Skyactiv diesel technology, and it was planned that an LMP2 car would use one of those engines at this year’s race. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, those plans were shelved, but here’s hoping it comes to fruition next year.
Last but not least on this list is Alfa Romeo, a company whose racing history dates back to before the Second World War. Afterwards, in the first few years of the Formula One World Championship, Alfa was the team to beat, winning the title in 1950 and 1951.
Alfa’s success in motorsport hasn’t just been limited to Formula One though. It has raced in sports cars, IndyCar, and numerous forms of touring car racing, where it has perhaps enjoyed its most success, right up to pulling out of the WTCC at the end of 2005.
Since then, and not too dissimilar to Maserati, Alfa’s motorsport presence has been limited, but there are suggestions that could soon change. The brand will once again start selling cars in America from 2014, and that could lead to Alfa re-entering the IndyCar series, alongside Honda and Chevrolet as an engine supplier.
Alfa has long been associated with a cliché (thanks to a certain British motoring programme) that their cars are horribly unreliable. What better way to disprove that by winning one of the world’s toughest races, the Indianapolis 500?
It’d certainly make a great story.
Are there any manufacturers I haven’t listed that you’d like to see back in motorsport? As ever, feel free to leave a comment below.