Much has been written in recent weeks about the 2015 Formula 1 season and the latent excitement of the impending battle for motorsport’s top prize. We’ve seen the new cars, with regulations thankfully kicking in to mitigate last season’s awful nose jobs, met the new boys and read the reams of cautious-optimism-flavoured press releases featuring team chiefs, drivers, designers and engine builders as we head into season two of this 1.6-litre, turbocharged, energy-recovery-biased era.
And British interest remains high, of course, thanks to Lewis Hamilton’s 2014 success, with the Mercedes ace most people’s favourite to make it title number three for the British-based squad. The off-season hoo-ha over Jenson Button’s future kept our antennae up, as well. His presence on the grid, for a sixth season with what we hope is a rejuvenated, Honda-powered McLaren team, is good news for patriotic fans. Let’s not forget Williams, either. Its return to the front of the grid was one of the feel-good factors last year.
But it’s not just in the limelight-grabbing world of F1 where you’ll find British fan fascination ramping up by the day. The FIA World Endurance Championship is right on the radar for home-grown hope.
Created in 2012 and bringing an end to a 20-year drought for sportscar racing’s flagship global competition, the series has quickly become a hotbed of big-brand, hi-tech endeavour and it’s all set to once again deliver an epic struggle for supremacy among the big-buck, resource-laden manufacturers.
In the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the big four LMP1 prototype marques – Audi, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota – talking up their 2015 chances with their take on what is a hybrid-technology formula with science to rival anything you might see in F1.
To help them do that, they’ve not only got very clever people designing and building the cars, they’ve also all enlisted the services of one or two top British pedallers.
Audi, champion in 2012 and 2013 and winner of the series’ blue-riband event, the Le Mans 24 Hours, 13 times in the past 15 years, has promoted Oliver Jarvis to its full-time squad, replacing the recently retired Tom Kristensen. Watch out for the 31-year-old as he aims to emulate the also-now-retired Allan McNish by securing Le Mans victory and the world title.
Nissan, which joins the elite in 2015 with a revolutionary front-engined, front-wheel-drive car, has snared LMP2 star Harry Tincknell and promoted one of its GT stars, gamer-turned racer Jann Mardenborough. The Japanese marque’s arrival is a huge boost to the WEC and the car’s first appearance last week scored big PR points, as well as getting the armchair scientists salivating about how it will all work.
Porsche, which returned in 2014 to front-rank endurance racing after years of concentrating on GT-class competition, has handed one of its loyal hands, Nick Tandy, a dream ride in a third 919 Hybrid at Le Mans. With grand prix race winner Mark Webber joining the series last season after quitting F1 and staying put for 2015, not to mention current F1 racer Nico Hulkenberg coming out to play at Le Mans, there’s much to get excited about for fans of sportscar racing’s most evocative and successful firm.
Reigning champion Toyota, which guided Brit Anthony Davidson to the drivers’ title last season, as well as lifting the manufacturers’ crown, is back with the ex-F1 racer out to defend his title and help exorcise Toyota’s biggest demon: Le Mans 24 Hours failure. Davidson will be joined by countryman Mike Conway, a winner in the US IndyCar series, to try to bring Audi’s staggering run at La Sarthe to an end.
The World Endurance Championship is flying right now, so if you want to see why it all kicks off at Silverstone on April 12, the perfect place for British sportscar fans to get that warm-up fix ahead of the traditional pilgrimage to the big one: Le Mans.