As well as the five reader-voted awards in the RACER of the Year presented by Mobil 1, a panel of RACER and RACER.com's editors also choose a number of awards, including Racecar, Race and Team of the Year.
As always, the selection process quickly deteriorated from robust debate to arguments, abuse and petty scuffles, but that's because there are so many worthy candidates in each category. So, after consensus was finally reached, here are our winners…
Racecar of the Year: Red Bull RB7 (Formula 1)
Negatives first: RB7 lacked top speed relative to its main opposition, and its KERS energy recovery system was not the beefiest, thanks to a reduced battery capacity (the result of design genius Adrian Newey's endless quest for perfect packaging).
Those minor foibles aside, 2011's iteration of the theme initiated by 09's RB5 was Newey's most dominant design since his Williams-Renault FW14B of 1992.
Once again, its incredibly effective blown-diffuser treatment was the impetus for so many other elements of the aero package working well – for example, the ability to run a high level of rake, which allowed the front wing to run low in ground effect and also improved airflow to the center of the rear diffuser. As a package, it was one of those designs where the sum is so much greater than the parts. Car of the year? You bet.
Race of the Year: 2011 Indianapolis 500
Qualifying suggested the Centennial Indianapolis 500 could see an unusual outcome. Alex Tagliani took pole for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Oriol Servia put Newman/Haas Racing onto the front row, Will Power was the only Penske driver in the Fast Nine and mistakes had prevented the Target Ganassi cars showing their full potential. Weird stuff.
Nevertheless, through the majority of the race, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti looked like the probable winners albeit with first Tagliani and then Servia troubling them. But the final 35 laps staying green wrecked a lot of the frontrunners' strategies, and so, with three laps to go, rookie JR Hildebrand, instructed by Panther Racing to save fuel just a couple of laps into his stint, moved into the lead.
Hildebrand winning would have been a startling enough result. But, on the final lap, Dan Wheldon's Bryan Herta Autosport car, which had run in the top six all day, was looming behind, a backmarker was looming ahead, the wall was looming to the right and…and...you know what happened next. It was an amazing, ultimately poignant climax that made the Indianapolis 500 headline news around the world.
Team of the Year: Bryan Herta Autosport (IZOD IndyCar Series)
There was one other team in contention for this – Red Bull Racing – but with the combined talents and experience of Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel and with a budget like Red Bull has to splash about, it could hardly fail.
By contrast, for Bryan Herta Autosport to win the 2011 Indianapolis 500 was astounding. Hiring a previous winner of Dan Wheldon's caliber was one major part. But to have a car capable of qualifying sixth and to then employ the right race strategy when the big-name teams didn't – that's amazingly impressive for a part-time team of 12 staff in only its second ever IndyCar race.
No wonder Herta looked so shocked in his post-race interview on ABC TV. “We just won the Indy 500,” he stammered. “Can you believe that? I mean, we came here to win and we kept saying ‘We're here to win' but…we actually won!”
For more in-depth coverage and analysis of the 17th annual RACER
of the Year presented by Mobil 1, including reaction from all of our big winners and our Editors' Choice Awards results, make sure you check out the March issue of RACER
magazine. Not a subscriber? To start receiving the world's fastest magazine, CLICK HERE
This year, we are proud and excited to once again welcome Mobil 1 as the presenting partner of RACER of the Year.
Like all of the candidates for RACER of the Year, the family of Mobil 1 fully synthetic lubricants is competition proven in the most challenging race series in the world, including Formula 1 and NASCAR.
Mobil 1 competes not just to win races, but to test its lubricants in the most demanding environments in order to develop cutting-edge products that benefit customers in their everyday road cars. Mobil 1 is designed to exceed industry performance specifications and continues to set new standards in lubrication technology.
To find out more on Mobil 1 in racing, and how its lubricants can benefit your road car, go to mobil1.com.