Motorsport: Highlighters and headliners

By Eric Thompson

There were plenty of great moments in the past 12 months - and 2012 may bring even more Predictions for 2012

Christmas is upon us, and although there is probably some motorsport happening somewhere in the world, let's look at five random things that happened in the past year, followed by five random predictions for 2012.

What follows has no rhyme or reason to it, nor any analytical, empirical evidence, or robust rationale. Just some thoughts on what has struck me about the past 12 months of motor racing and what may, or may not, happen in 2012.

Best racer of 2011

In my book, it has to be MotoGP rider Casey Stoner. In the past he'd be pilloried for being a one-championship wonder and a bit of a wimp who suffered from a touch of the vapours. Most definitely not. The bloke suffered a serious illness before making a late run for the 2010 world champs and got more out of a bike Valentino Rossi couldn't, then won his second world championship with a new manufacturer.

Best NZ racer of 2011

Without a doubt, it has to be Production World Rally Champion Hayden Paddon. He's the first New Zealander and first driver from the Southern Hemisphere to win a world rally title.

There have been a few Kiwis in the past who played on the world rally stage, but Paddon, along with co-driver John Kennard, is the first to get an invitation to the FIA's annual bash to pick up a world rally gong.

Favourite international race of 2011

The Indianapolis 50. It's the only race other than the Bathurst 1000 during which I tell everyone I don't exist. This year's race lived up to expectations, with a finish no Hollywood scriptwriter could have imagined. And, more poignantly, the bloke who won the race - having not competed all season - was to die a few months later in a monster accident.

Best motor-racing film of 2011

It's not often you get a couple of racing movies come out in the same year. For me, the best was TT3D: Closer to the Edge. Some will have gone for Senna. However, it's a bit like watching Titanic. You know how it ends - badly. With Guy Martin and co fizzing around the country backroads of the Isle of Man, it's heart-in-the-mouth stuff.

Best personal motorsport moment 2011

My time at the Elite Academy of Motorsport in Dunedin, where I got the utmost joy at seeing, and helping in an extraordinarily small way, the next crop of young New Zealand racing talent.

New Zealand driver most likely to set the world on fire in 2012

I've discussed this with Bob McMurray, who spent 30-odd years in Formula One, and we sort of agree, but I'm a bit more of a fence-sitter here. Richie Stanaway has won two European championships as a rookie and has moved into another class. If he wins again, he'll make headlines. Mitch Evans is contesting the same category as last year and, if he grabs the title, he'll be moving on as well.

V8 SuperTourers or BNT V8s to survive in 2012

Absolutely no idea, as I have not seen a grid of either series ready to race. Both factions have had their new cars on display and fizzing around various tracks. Personally, I'd like to see the various parties get around the table over Christmas and New Year with copious red wine and sort things out.

F1 driver to make biggest impact in 2012

Kimi Raikkonen, as he'll either make the biggest impact by winning the odd F1 race, or by having some of the biggest crashes. He's a former F1 world champ who went rallying and had a number of spectacular altercations with pine trees.

Scott Dixon to win another IndyCar series in 2012?

If things go to plan - without a doubt. Just look at his stats. He's won two already, in the best team, and has an Indy 500 trophy. Also, he's been in the hunt for the past three years.

Will there be a female driver/rider who wins an international title in 2012?No. Because there are not enough women racing at the elite level to compete with the blokes.

- NZ Herald

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