To complete our TCF Picks series for 2015, our team of writers are taking a look forward to 2016 and what we’re most looking forward to this coming season.
Louis Suddaby – MotoGP – Can the best get better?
This year’s MotoGP season was the greatest I have ever had the pleasure of watching but 2016 has the potential to be just as good, if not better. Jorge Lorenzo has the challenge of doing something he has never done before in the premier class, win back-to-back titles, Valentino Rossi will be out to prove 2015 wasn’t his last chance of a tenth world crown and Marc Marquez, for the first time, is the hunter rather than the hunted. Last time I checked as well, those two don’t particularly get on!
The playing field is also changing with Bridgestone’s long association with MotoGP coming to an end. The arrival of Michelin as sole tyre supplier presents its own challenges which the teams and riders are still struggling to overcome while a new standard ECU is also causing many a headache in the paddock.
While these changes have the potential to shake up the established order, one would expect the championship to be decided between the three titans that entertained us so much in 2015 – Lorenzo, Rossi and Marquez. This will be one heavyweight clash that doesn’t disappoint.
Josh Close – New Tyres – Same Rivalries
The 2015 Moto GP season was one of the most entertaining and most talked about in years, but the 2016 season could be even better.
The new electronic systems and the switch to Michelin tyres provide a whole new challenge for the riders and look set to close the gap between the factory Honda and Yamaha teams and the rest of the field.
I expect the Ducati duo of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso to take advantage of the new regulations, as well as the Suzuki team who showed plenty of potential in their first season back.
Of course we also have the heated relationship between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez which could boil over once again at any moment.
Anything could happen between the pair and the racing action could be closer than ever in what could be Rossi’s final year in the sport.
Dan Mason – F1 and THE MotoGP rivalry
Formula 1 endured a mixed campaign it has to be said in 2015, although the revival of Ferrari to the fore against Mercedes was very welcome as the Prancing Horse reportedly gained 0.5s purely in fuel performance through partners, Shell, alongside Sebastian Vettel’s brilliance.
McLaren and Honda’s progress in 2016 will take up plenty of the winter season’s headlines meanwhile. 2015 did for all the wrong reasons, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button only succeeding in becoming viral sensations and grid penalty record breakers this year.
A real focal point however comes on two wheels – that being the resumption of a recent battle that reached breaking point in terms of needle between past and present stars, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
Marquez once labelled the great Italian as his all-time hero, but may have had to review that following Phillip Island comments from Rossi inciting favouritism towards eventual champion, Jorge Lorenzo.
The result was a moment of madness from the six-time champion in the following race at Malaysia. What was becoming one of the greatest duels in GP history between himself and Honda’s youngster soon became equally as controversial, when Rossi appeared to have had enough as he eased Marquez out wide.
Contact was made and Marquez fell slid down the tarmac, the question being did Rossi put his rival on the floor intentionally with his flailing left leg? The outcome was outcry, Rossi made to fight from the back in Valencia where he lost out to team-mate Lorenzo on the title despite a tenacious recovery.
Will fireworks between the duo continue in 2016? You can bet on that handsomely!
Katy McConnachie – Mercedes AMG Petronas vs Scuderia Ferrari
In 2016, I fully expect Ferrari to build on the progress made this season and to put up a strong fight against Mercedes.
Although Mercedes ultimately dominated the 2015 season, Ferrari made sure that they gave them a run for their money on numerous occasions. In moments of weakness by Mercedes, the team from Maranello were sure to take advantage and outshine the rest of the field with their drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel – the latter in particular impressing in his first year as a Scuderia Ferrari driver.
With a total of 16 podiums, including three wins, Ferrari have proved that they are capable of getting back to their challenging ways, it’s just a case of building on what they learnt this year and continuing to take full advantage of the weaknesses shown by Mercedes and their other rivals throughout the year.
Gemma Bray – Toro Rosso
Scuderia Toro Rosso announcing a different engine to their sister-team Red Bull will be interesting for the 2016 season. Especially seeing as it’s a completely different engine to them, Ferrari’s current 2015 engine.
Will having a year-old engine give Toro Rosso a disadvantage to their competition out on track? I hope to see both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. do as well as they have done this season.
Connor Jackson – Formula 3.5 V8
As the FIA continues it “righteous” crusade to sort out the Feeder Series, there continues to be casualties. So after 11 years as Formula 1’s ‘other’ feeder series, Renault pulls its funding from its flagship championship, just as it was becoming a true competitor to GP2.
But maybe that was the issue, was it too big to survive? I could go into detail about the situation, but instead we must look forward. The new 3.5 V8 series intends to set off where it landed, as a cheaper option for F1 hopefuls.
I’ve put this as my ‘Watch for 2016’ because I’m curious as to the direction it’ll take. Will it continue to survive as a strong independent series, or will turn the way of the ‘Formula 3000’ categories in the mid-2000’s, a fall that concluded this year with the dissolution of the Auto GP Series.
Despite the dreaded outlook, short term signs are positive as AF Course has announced their interest with only Dams pulling out. Time will tell if it can live up to its predecessors glory. After all, the move from Nissan to Renault in 2005 only strengthened its credibility.
Chloe Hewitt – Esteban Ocon
Not so much what to watch but rather who to watch in 2016. Having won the GP3 title in 2015 and the FIA F3 title in 2014, things are looking bright for Esteban Ocon but the question is where will the Frenchman race in 2016?
Three of the previous five GP3 champions have made the step up to Formula 1, but this is not an option for Ocon who could follow in the footsteps of 2014 champion Alex Lynn and 2012 champion Mitch Evans by joining them in GP2.
However, Ocon does not seem too keen on this idea and has stated that he would rather race in DTM than the F1 feeder series. With Mercedes being the only team left offering a DTM drive following BMW and Audi confirming their line ups, the chance of Ocon landing a seat is fairly high after being named a Mercedes junior driver alongside 2015 DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein.
Wherever the young Frenchman does eventually end up racing he will certainly be one to watch given his incredible consistency and race craft.
Paul Hensby – The continued rise of Charles Leclerc
Eighteen-year-old Leclerc was one of the stars of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2015 with Van Amersfoort Racing, with the Monegasque driver securing four race victories in only his second season of car racing.
Leclerc, a childhood friend of the late Jules Bianchi and part of Nicolas Todt’s ARM management Company, has been linked with a move up the racing ladder into the GP3 Series, possibly with ART Grand Prix, the team that took Esteban Ocon to the 2015 title, while he has also been linked to a move into the Ferrari Driver Academy and to the Haas F1 Team as a Development Driver.
Whatever happens, this talented young man has a bright future ahead of him, and is certainly one to watch in 2016.
Matt Bristow – Rallycross
There’s so much happening in Rallycross next season I’m really stuck to narrow it down to just one. There’s talk of Ken Block racing in the World Championship in a M-Sport prepared car, and if this does happen it will be awesome.
I’m also looking forward to the European Championship being run with completely separate heats as I think it will make for some great racing. Also I’m still hoping that the Super1600 out there in the UK get it together next year and put together a seasons worth of racing as that would make for some truly epic races!
Dominik Wilde – Patrik Sandell in Red Bull Global Rallycross
Eighth place in the final standings with just one win really doesn’t do Patrik Sandell’s 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross campaign justice.
In his first season with Beryan Herta Rally Sport peddling the proven M-Sport built Ford Fiesta, Sandell was often one of the fastest drivers on track.
He never set a time outside the top five (only twice missing out on the top three) in practice. In qualifying he made the top five no less than seven times during the season. Sandell was seen as a threat by most during the season, but what held him back was horrendous bad luck with mechanical issues hitting him at the season opener in Fort Lauderdale, and other drivers hitting him at various points as the year went on.
If the former Junior World Rally champion can banish those demons in 2016 he will be a sure bet to challenge for honours when Red Bull GRC hits Vegas next November.
Matthew McMahon – Emil Bergkvist
Emil Bergkivst will be a driver to keep an eye on next year. His plan to rally an R5 car next year is an exiting prospect considering what he achieved in his first outing in a Peugeot 208 T16 in October.
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.
Joe Hudson – A resurgent Toyota in the WEC
This has been one hell of a year for Toyota, no wins and barely any podiums is not what anyone would expect of the team so dominant in 2014 it seemed like they would be the force to be reckoned with in 2015.
However, they underestimated the improvements of their rivals – especially Porsche – and they would struggle in the doldrums with a car that had good intentions but was not blessed with the necessary power to take the fight to their German rivals.
Porsche and Audi should look to Japan with caution though, Toyota Gazoo Racing may make a mistake once but it’ll be highly unlikely that they’ll repeat it.
Dan Lloyd – The Rise of Charlie Robertson
For those who followed Charlie Robertson during his time in national racing it will come as little surprise that the 18 year old Scot is now making tremendous waves on the international scene.
In 2015 Robertson spearheaded Team LNT’s charge in the European Le Mans Series, claiming four podiums in five races and winning twice with team-mate Chris Hoy to seal the title at Paul Ricard. Undeniably talented for a person of his age, Robertson will be tipped for continued success in 2016, with an LMP2 drive at Le Mans the high priority.
Lee Bonham – The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship
Britain’s top series is, in my view, well into a new golden era that stems back to 2013. The NGTC regulations have been updated and drivers seem to like the feel of the new RML parts.
So we should have happier drivers and the fans… well with the removal of the second race grid being set by fastest lap times rule, happier fans in all likelihood too. Will it make race two a re-run of race one? With 2015’s increased ballast and the soft tyre, I very much doubt that.
Simon Paice – Renault UK Clio Cup
2015 was an up and down season for the Clio Cup. While there were some high-profile exits and a clear divide between the top four and the rest of the grid, the sensational championship battle was one of the highlights of the TOCA season and a late surge in entries hinted at a positive 2016.
A new generation of Clio drivers learnt the ropes last year including Charlie Ladell, Rory Collingbourne, George Jackson, Tom Grundy and Dan Holland, who all have potential to be front-runners next season, where they’ll likely come up against a couple of the series stalwarts in Ant Whorton-Eales and Paul Rivett, plus exciting new talent like Senna Proctor, Ollie Pidgley and Paul Streather.
On top of that talent, there’s a strong chance that Ashley Sutton could become only the second champion in a decade to return to defend the Clio title, which would be another exciting sub-plot in what’s shaping up to be a fascinating 22nd Clio Cup season.
As well as the Clio’s, the other four TOCA support series look in strong health for 2016, in particular the Ginetta Juniors with the latest crop of exciting car-racing rookies, while after an uninspiring Autumn Trophy debut, it will be intriguing to see how BRDC F4 shapes up with its new machinery.