Our team at TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk continue to cast our collective minds over the 2014 season with the penultimate instalment of our TCF Picks series, in which we select those races from the last year that we saw as instant classics.
Joe Diamond: GP2 Feature Race, Germany
In its 200th ever race, GP2 produced one of the finest races to date at the Hockenheimring in Germany. The race came down to a late showdown between title contenders Stoffel Vandoorne, DAMS Jolyon Palmer, and Russian Time’s Kiwi representative Mitch Evans.
The latter endured the advances of Vandoorne and Palmer on a set of tyres ten laps older than those of his pursuers, with the race being ran in tyre-shredding heat in the height of a German summer. Throughout the battles ensued, with the likes of Stefano Coletti and Felipe Nasr launching late charges north of the timesheets, in similar fashion to that of the victor, Evans, from 15th on the grid.
Tom Errington: Blancpain, 24 Hours of Spa
While maybe not conventional, the Blancpain 24 Hours of Spa had it all this year. The on track drama, particularly in mistakes and collisions meant it was a 24 hour race that never bored. Some of the moves, particularly from the race winners were phenomenal.
To see such a long race won by just seven seconds by Laurens Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock and Rast in the #1 Audi was phenomenal and the second place BMW Z4 of Lucas Luhr, Dirk Werner and Markus Palttala gave them a run for the money throughout.
Pete Allen: Formula One, Bahrain
Before the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg got particularly hostile, the Mercedes team-mates took part in a fantastic duel for victory late on in Bahrain. After a safety car period (thank you, Pastor Maldonado), the two Silver Arrows flew off into the distance, stretching their legs as they pushed each other to the limit. The pair ran side-by-side at times, with Hamilton just managing to hold on to the win.
And it wasn’t just about the Mercs, because there was great racing behind that too, including more team-mate duels. But out front we saw that edge from Hamilton in racing situations that would pay dividends for him later in the season.
Jake Handley: Le Mans 24 Hours
The 2014 race of the year was the Le Mans 24 Hours. The entire weekend, from Loïc Duval’s terrifying crash in practice to the crash involving the #8 Toyota and the #3 Audi during the race to the #2 R18 winning, the 82nd edition had it all, as well as providing a boost to the race after Alan Simonsen’s tragic crash last year.
Alex Goldschmidt: DTM, Zandvoort
After the cancellation of the round in China, the penultimate round of the DTM season saw one of major drama and plenty of action, as the race by the North Sea had several drivers going off track, bringing out the safety car several times. But it was the performance by Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Mattias Ekström, which mirrored his efforts from last year. The Swedish two time champion scythed his way through the field, taking advantage of the safety car periods in the second half of the race on option tyres to take Audi’s first win of the year after a long drought.
Louis Suddaby: MotoGP, Grand Prix of Aragon
I seem to pick a Moto3 race every year in this category and the lightweight class was as thrilling as ever in 2014 but the race that stands out to me this year comes from MotoGP itself. The Aragon Grand Prix was set-up to be another Marc Marquez demonstration when the world champion romped to pole position but changeable weather and the brilliance of Jorge Lorenzo turned everything on its head.
Light drizzle fell prior to the race, causing dramatic accidents for Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi, but Marquez and Lorenzo were unaffected by the conditions. Joined by Dani Pedrosa, the Spaniards put on a sensational show for 66,000 of their compatriots with several changes of lead but things really started to get interesting when the rain returned in the latter stages.
With Lorenzo choosing to change bikes under flag-to-flag rules, Marquez and Pedrosa were left with a choice – pit immediately and risk losing the lead to Jorge or stay out on slicks, both chose the latter. Pedrosa’s plan backfired within seconds of Lorenzo’s pitstop, crashing out at turn one, before Marquez succumbed to the conditions a lap later, proving he was indeed human. Honda’s loss was Yamaha’s gain as Lorenzo stayed upright to claim a memorable victory.
Nick Smith: British GT, Donington Park
The final race of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship 2014 was a great race run to the now familiar British GT script. A win for a rank outsider with problems for the championship leaders. Tension in the final laps as the Oman Racing Team tried desperately to stay in a championship winning spot brought the season to a close in nail biting style. That one race was the essence of GT and Endurance racing distilled down into one manageable and bite sized chunk. A fantastic contest.
Matt Bristow: World RX of Sweden
This is such a difficult thing to pin point in rallycross as there’s so much action in every race, however for me it was probably Mattias Ekstrom’s victory at round 5 of the World RX. A near perfect drive which saw him win by possibly the largest margin in 2015.
Dan Mason: BTCC Round 29, Brands Hatch
Personal favourites from trackside include the British Grand Prix, which brought the tingling feeling of witnessing a British winner for the first time since 2008 around Silverstone, plus my chosen race – the penultimate round of the BTCC at Brands Hatch.
The champion had just been decided in Colin Turkington, leaving everybody wanting to end the year in style – and what followed didn’t disappoint. It was a race seemingly nobody wanted to win, with the crowd enjoying the pantomime-like action that unfolded as no less than five people were removed from the lead at some stage.
Turkington grabbed the lead from third on the grid but was then abruptly binned at Paddock Hill Bend by his main title rival, Jason Plato, leaving Mat Jackson in front for all but half a lap before he unceremoniously flung his Ford into the barriers heading into Westfield.
This left another WSR BMW in the lead driven by Rob Collard – who had been in hospital two weekends earlier – before Adam Morgan entertained the crowds as he squeezed by Plato and then Collard before he also threw away the lead at Sheene Curve.
Plato won, but briefly, as Morgan was later gifted the win after a penalty for the double champion. The sprint race seemed like a lifetime, the action as relentless as it had been all season.
Joe Hudson: Indianapolis 500
The Indy 500 never fails to impress with the sheer bravery of the drivers who risk it all for a chance of glory at the Brickyard and this year’s finish will go down as one of the most exciting this decade. A red flag eight laps from the end set up a six lap dash for the cash as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves diced with each other until the flag fell. The final winning margin? About 0.06 seconds, a photo finish if ever there was one.
Paul Hensby: GP2 Feature Race, Spa-Francorchamps
We had been waiting all year for McLaren F1 Team reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to battle Ferrari Driver Academy driver Raffaele Marciello, but it finally materialised at Spa.
Vandoorne and Marciello were in a class of their own throughout the race, with the two of them over half a minute clear of third placed Johnny Cecotto Jr at the chequered flag.
After a heavy shower caused an early red flag, it was pole sitter Vandoorne who led away when the race restarted. Cecotto took the lead early, but slipped back behind both Vandoorne and Marciello, and it was then we saw the two of them at the top of their games, edging away lap by lap from the chasing pack.
Their on-track battle was fantastic, with Vandoorne, in front of his home fans, holding on until just four laps until the end, when Marciello finally found a way passed heading down into Rivage. It was a battle I predict will happen again and again in GP2 in 2015 and eventually in Formula 1, but August 23rd 2014 was the date of first battle, and the Ferrari-backed driver won.
James Broomhead: Blancpain Endurance Series, Silverstone
So much was made of this race being Bentley’s historic return to racing in Britain it seemed that only a victory for the Continental GT3 would result. At the end of three hours it was Bentley boys Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane who scored the victory but their journey up, down and up the order made it seem like a proper endurance race.
A penalty at the end of the first hour dropped the team out of the lead battle but smashing drives from Meyrick and Kane in the second and third stints hauled the car up the order, their charge including some aggressive moves through the final complex. A late safety car period took much of the will-they-won’t-they tension from the final stages, leaving Kane to take the lead in front of the home crowd.
Lee Bonham: Porsche Carrera Cup, Le Mans
The Porsche Le Mans Cup featured over sixty of the stunning GT3 Cup race cars taking to the track as one. Such an iconic field of cars and such an iconic venue created some exhilarating racing that would also prove significant in terms of the Carrera Cup GB title hunt as Josh Webster beat Michael Meadows in a straight fight after a difficult qualifying session. This really was the start of the youngster’s ultimately successful title charge.
Aaron Rook: Formula One, Bahrain
There was many great races in 2014. I could have went for the first Formula E race that featured the sure to be infamous coming together between Nick Heidfeld and Nico Prost, I could have chosen a handful of BTCC races, but after much deliberation I had to go for the Formula One Bahrain GP.
For a team that could only really lose the Constructors Championship themselves Mercedes were very brave in letting their drivers race flat out, and race flat out they did! The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg was truly enthralling and had me and I’m sure many other on the edge of my seat. It was Formula One at its very best.
That’s our teams selections, but what was your race of the year from the 2015 season? Let us know on Twitter @thecheckerflag with #TCFPicks, or pop a comment below.