But before the race and rally action, Formula 1 will grab the headlines as teams take the wraps off their new-car liveries. Ferrari is in pole position, with the launch of its new contender in Italy on Tuesday, with both Renault and Red Bull unveiling their challengers on Wednesday.
The launches come thick and fast, as McLaren conducts its big reveal on Thursday, with Mercedes-AMG and AlphaTauri (formerly Toro Rosso) both choosing a Valentine’s Day date on Friday.
But while F1 is all talk, a trio of major world series will be all action – and in the WRC and Formula E, with some relief after a trying couple of weeks.
The second round of the 2020 World Rally Championship will go ahead this week, but only just – and with some trepidation.
Rally Sweden is the WRC’s only true snow rally, a fabulous event that offers a unique challenge and spectacle. But only when there is actual snow.
An unseasonal lack of the white stuff left organisers with a terrible dilemma: cancel the rally at a huge cost when late flurries could still arrive anyway – or go ahead and risk a snowless rally on roads softened by weeks of rain that can be badly cut up by rally tyres. There are safety as well as local environmental concerns, for a rally designed specifically around being run against a traditional wintry backdrop.
For better or for worse, the organisers have taken the decision to press ahead and we shall see what weather awaits the crews when the action kicks off on Thursday evening. Eight stages have been cut and the route moved further north to chase the snow. A pair of stages – run on Friday and repeated on Saturday – will actually take place over the border in Norway, and with just 40 stage miles each on the first two days, and only 26 on Sunday, Rally Sweden will add up to just 106 across 11 special stages.
But if that sounds underwhelming, there is still much to keep us gripped – whether it’s run on snow or in slushy mud. Thierry Neuville took the initiative on the Monte Carlo Rally last month for Hyundai, his decisive victory putting a clear marker down to his new world champion team-mate Ott Tänak. How Tänak responds, especially in the context of his and co-driver Martin Järveoja’s lucky escape from a huge accident, will be a key point of focus.
Then there is Elfyn Evans, who kicked off his fresh WRC chapter with Toyota in fabulous form on the Monte. The Welshman could well have won were it not for Neuville’s stunning turn of speed on the final day, and appears to be a genuine challenger to new team-mate, six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.
If Evans can maintain such form in Sweden (and Norway), we might be tempted to wonder whether there’s a sniff of him becoming Britain’s first world rally champion since the late Richard Burns way back in 2001. Let’s see if he’s made of the ‘white’ stuff (sorry…).
Formula E resumes in Mexico City
Formula E is another series to have faced event uncertainty since its previous round, with the race due to be held on March 21st in Sanya on the Chinese island province of Hainan postponed without any foreseeable chance of being rescheduled. The Coronavirus left series organisers and race promoters with no option but to pull the race.
Further to the loss of Sanya, Formula E must also now source a new course in Jakarta after local authorities ruled against using a proposed track around the National Monument, for fear of putting the historically important site at a risk of damage. The Indonesian street race is due to be held in June, which should leave enough time for a new venue to be found – but it’s a headache the all-electric series could do without.
That’s why everyone involved in Formula E will be relieved to focus purely on track action this Saturday, as the third event of the 2019/20 season plays out in Mexico City. Ex-McLaren Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne leads the standings for Mercedes, but the German car giant has yet to win since joining Formula E for the start of this season. It is surely only a matter of time, and Vandoorne will be pumped to make a spot of history for the three-pointed star in Mexico.
He leads Saudi Arabia race winner Alexander Sims by just three points. The British factory BMW driver was an early casualty at the previous round in Santiago, so must rediscover the form that made him the man to beat before Christmas. Fellow Brit Sam Bird is next up, a further seven points back, ahead of BMW’s other driver, Maximilian Guenther, a first-time Formula E winner in Santiago.
Then on Sunday evening (UK time) NASCAR’s 62nd Daytona 500 will take place at the great Florida tri-oval, with a fresh face on the front row.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. secured his first pole position at Daytona and a third in NASCAR’s premier division on Sunday, on his first appearance for the JTG Daugherty Chevrolet team following a switch from Roush’s Fords. The 32-year-old set a speed of 194.582mph in 46.253 seconds on his one-lap qualifying run to secure the prestigious top spot. Alex Bowman was the next fastest to take his third consecutive front-row starting position at the 500.
Who will line up behind them and in what order is not yet certain. The rest of the stock car field will only claim their qualifying positions on Thursday, when they take part in the pair of Duel races that form the final grid.
As for Sunday, the main event is motorsport’s very own Super Bowl – and Stenhouse Jr., who has won at Daytona previously but only in the mid-season race held in July, will be giving everything to stay at the head of the draft and race into the 500’s illustrious history books.