The 18th annual RACER of the Year Awards presented by Hawk Performance saw readers vote in unprecedented numbers for overall RACER of the Year (Ryan Hunter-Reay), Road Racer of the Year (Hunter-Reay), Oval Racer of the Year (Brad Keselowski), Drag Racer of the Year (Antron Brown) and Rookie of the Year (Courtney Force).
Inevitably, though, RACER's editors find themselves wanting to have a say in proceedings, and so here are a few other awards – a couple are traditional, the others simply created on the fly.
The statistics are astounding in themselves: 77 wins from 165 World Rally Championship starts, and nine consecutive WRC titles, beginning in 2004. But it's the way that Sebastien Loeb is choosing to close his monopolization of the WRC that is truly impressive – with his speed, reputation and dignity all fully intact and functioning.
Legend has it that Alexander the Great wept when he saw there were no more worlds for him to conquer. For Seb the Sublime, it was probably just a Gallic shrug when he had his own epiphany and realized that a 10th WRC crown with Citroen wasn't the motivation he sought at this point in his illustrious career.
Instead, he's chosen just four WRC rounds to compete on in 2013. The first, Monte Carlo (BELOW), earned him win No. 77; the second, snowy Sweden, saw him finish second to the driver most likely to assume his mantle, Sebastien Ogier. Argentina and France follow later in the season, and then it's time for Loeb to concentrate on other things, like his own GT team and maybe a World Touring Car Championship program with Citroen – his choices, his terms.
Maximum respect to a true legend.
CAR OF THE YEAR
Toyota TS030 LMP1 Hybrid
Peugeot's decision to pull the plug on its LMP1 Hybrid program just weeks before the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship cranked into life could have been the death knell for sports car racing's return to a true world stage. The French manufacturer's exit left Audi to race itself and the WEC on its knees before it even began.
Or that was the theory. The reality is that Toyota's all-new TS030 LMP1 Hybrid, a car expected to slowly play itself in following a belated debut at Le Mans (which masochist decided that?), not only won third time out (ABOVE, in Sao Paulo), but so exceeded its brief that it was the yardstick by year's end.
In the war of the hybrids, Audi's R18 e-tron quattro was a diesel that released its stored energy through the front wheels, effectively making it all-wheel drive for parts of every lap. In contrast, TS030 was gasoline-engined and sent its recovered energy to the rear wheels – conventional (in the hybrid technology sense, anyway), but ultimately more effective.
But it's not because of its tech that we're making the Toyota TS030 our Car of the Year; it's because it saved the WEC. And that's a pretty big deal.
RACE OF THE YEAR:
Brazilian F1 Grand Prix
It was a close-run thing between this and the Indy 500 which featured 34 lead changes among 10 drivers. But the Sao Paulo event gets the nod because there were two winners – race winner Jenson Button and champion Sebastian Vettel. The German overcame a first-lap clash and spin to storm back through the field to take sixth place and beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to his third title. The cameo roles by Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton were the icing on the cake.
TEAM OF THE YEAR:
Team? Organization? Program? Doesn't matter. Fact is, after 20 years away, BMW came, saw and conquered in the ultra-competitive DTM, making series stalwarts Audi and Mercedes look pretty ordinary.
Did the introduction of a new generation of DTM car make it easier for BMW? Probably not. The high-downforce DTM is unlike any other touring car series, and BMW was on the steepest of learning curves. Taking Canada's Bruno Spengler (ABOVE) to his first DTM title was a stunning achievement.
Our HARSH REALITY Award goes jointly to Timo Glock, Kamui Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen, three guys who deserved their seats in F1, but couldn't/wouldn't bring the cash to pay for them.
BREAKTHROUGH or FEELGOOD STORY of the Year? Either one works for Erica Enders, who finally became an NHRA Pro Stock winner (four times over), seven long years after reaching her first final.
The NEVER GIVE UP Award goes to Fernando Alonso, who j-u-s-t failed to land the Formula 1 World Championship, despite racing a Ferrari that, at times, couldn't get out of its own way. Imagine if he'd had a decent car....
BEST DECISION of the year goes to Grand-Am and IMSA for the merger of the Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series that will see just one top-level sports car series in the U.S. in 2014. It makes sense on all levels – and we can't wait!
Hands up if you thought Austin's Circuit of The Americas would never be built/host a grand prix. It was, and it did – spectacularly well. The first U.S. F1 race since 2007 gets our vote for EVENT of the Year.
COMEBACK of the Year has to be Kimi Raikkonen, back to Formula 1 with Lotus in 2012 after two years in rallying. Still fast, still taciturn, the radio “chat” during his drive to victory in Abu Dhabi is the stuff of legend.
And if you don't agree, leave us alone; we know what we're doing ;-)
The Spring 2013 issue of RACER
includes full coverage of RACER of the Year presented by Hawk Performance, a wide-ranging interview with Hunter-Reay and the man he replaced as IZOD IndyCar Series champion, Dario Franchitti. The issue also features previews to the 2013 IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, ALMS, Grand-Am, WEC and NHRA seasons.
is beginning its 21st year of publication and is offered in print and digital editions and also in iTunes, Kindle and Android apps. It is also available at national bookstore newsstands in the USA and Canada. Visit www.racer.com for all the latest racing news and subscription offers.
● Paul Pfanner, Founder and Executive publisher of RACER
, announced that Hawk Performance is now the presenting sponsor of the annual awards that will be expanded in 2013 to also include an “Amateur Racer of the Year presented by Hawk Performance” category. Pfanner commented, “Hawk Performance is the ideal partner for our RACER of the Year, and their commitment to excellence is reflected in their high-quality products that are used by leading amateur and professional racers.”
He added: “Hawk's devotion to racers everywhere is exemplified by their 12-year partnership with the 40,000-member Sports Car Club of America. Our company has had the honor of publishing SportsCar
Magazine since 1984 and it was the Hawk team's shared passion for amateur racers that was the impetus for expanding our awards to honor their achievements.”
● THE HAWK ADVANTAGE
Hawk Performance provides unbeatable braking performance for racers.
Hawk Performance has dominated the motorsports market since 1990, offering a wide variety of highly engineered friction products with features designed to exceed the demanding environments found in nearly every type of racing, including open-wheel, sports car/GT, club, and Autocross competition.
Decades of experience in developing friction materials for aerospace, industrial, military, automotive and motorsports applications give Hawk an advantage over the competition.
In motorsports, we're committed to understanding the specific needs of the racecar, the driver and the demands of the environment in which they perform. Continuous research, development and testing assure the constant improvement of our line of brake materials and offer racers unbeatable braking performance.
Hawk is the Official Brake Pad of the Pirelli World Challenge and the Official Brake Products of the SCCA for a 12th straight year.
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