For fans on this side of the Pacific, there is a special reason to be excited, of course, because the V8 Supercars will be arriving on our shores in May to compete at Circuit of The Americas. It should be a thriller. To book tickets, go to http://circuitoftheamericas.com/v8-supercars/ and if you're a tin-top nut, then there's another reason to be there. America's own sedan stars will be on the support bill, in the form of the SCCA's <B>Pirelli World Challenge<B> – a series that appears to be really gaining momentum, with a great variety of cars and some top class drivers.
It's inevitable that the battle between the rumbling Cadillac CTS-Vs and the nimble Volvo S60s steals the show, but I hope to see the Porsche 911 GT3s of Lawson Aschenbach (a race winner last year) and Steve Ott, along with the Nissan GTR of Mike Skeen (twice a winner last year) and Corvette of Tony Gaples, mixing it among them regularly enough to be title contenders. In GTS class, Peter Cunningham, the most successful driver in World Challenge history, is a favorite for the crown once more in his Acura TSX but some of the most successful equalization measures in U.S. motorsports are applied in this class, so he should once more face opposition from a Chevrolet Camaro (Andy Lee), a Porsche Cayman S (Jack Baldwin) and a Nissan 370Z. Now that's variety! I also hope to see the handsome Kia Optimas of Michael Galati and Mark Wilkins keep up their momentum which resulted in two victories in 2012.
In the Touring Car class, the Mazda 3 of Michael Cooper held off the Honda Civic and VW Jetta/Golf hordes to win the 2012 title quite comprehensively with six wins, so I want to see that gap closing. Todd Lamb's clearly capable of it if his car is, and I hope to see Jeff Altenburg have a full season in this category; he's still a very good pedaler. As for the Touring Car B division, this should have real potential. The champion, Jonathan Start, drives a Fiat 500, but the 2012 manufacturers' title went to Honda. If Kia, Ford and Mazda cars remain involved in the category, a titanic scrap between five big companies with little cars should ensue. Here's hoping.
At the other end of the scale, the issues facing Formula 1 right now make the “Max Mosley vs the teams” arguments of a few years ago look like squabbles over candy in the schoolyard, and I'm afraid the F1 track action we watch on NBC Sports Network this season will be the eye of a constant storm. I trust it won't hurt the competition – this year, at least – but it's a forlorn hope that it won't affect the participants, directly or indirectly, at several levels of the sport.
Don't think I'm being unreasonably gloomy. Has there ever been an F1 season when, with just eight weeks to go before first practice for the opening round, there were so many huge question marks and such a sense of unease? How many races will there be this year – 18, 19 or 20? When will a new Concorde Agreement be signed? Is the resource restriction cap still in place, despite the last Concorde Agreement having now expired? If not, how the hell are the midfield and small teams going to survive? When are the technical regs for the 2014 season – testing for which will start in less than a year – going to be issued, argued over and then finalized? If any of Bernie Ecclestone's court cases go against him, how will this affect all teams and their agreements with CVC Capital Partners, the commercial rights holder against whom a case has also been brought? If wrongdoing is proven, how far will the tendrils of complicity stretch? And even if Bernie and anyone directly involved in the sport (including CVC) are cleared, will the stench of aired dirty laundry, an inevitable by-product of these court cases, ever fully leave the F1 paddock?
We are right to worry, too, for the medium and long term. People on the boards of car manufacturers and big-name sponsors, even those currently involved in Formula 1, will not all be as in love with this sport as you or I: they will see it as a business, a hugely expensive business, and a hugely expensive business that sometimes takes its show to places where no one goes to watch. If those board members then also see this financially draining enterprise portrayed in the general media as being infested with greedy, underhanded, manipulative bullies – and trust me, such sweeping generalizations are a cornerstone of non-specialized and non-investigative media – then how long will they take to decide they don't want their company associated with the series – A couple of weeks? A couple of days? A couple of hours?
And how much warning of their withdrawal will they provide their F1 partners who rely on their investment? Er…less than a year, if we use the actions of BMW, Toyota and Honda as a recent guide. And you better believe that potential replacement investors, on seeing automotive manufacturers deserting the pinnacle of automotive competition, will question its validity to hold this assumed mantle – and laugh with outrage at the current costs of participation.
In that atmosphere of foreboding, the typical weekend-to-weekend bickering between teams will seem quite welcome, because at least that's usually about the very roots of motorsport – competition. Who's got a quadruple DRS? Who's put too many holes in their floor? Whose over-elaborate exhaust is pointing the wrong way? Who's just blowing hot air? So long as these arguments evolve and don't drag out, I find them oddly entertaining because they involve ingenuity, cunning, competitive spirit and, quite often, a hilariously obtuse interpretation of the rules. And it's always those who are caught off-guard by a rival's boldness who then start fuming about it to the media, thereby losing both their dignity and the fans' sympathy. That too, is satisfying.