Record-breaking response to 2014 AUTOSPORT Awards‏

British drivers hotly-tipped for success on star-studded nightWorld Champions and race-winners set for glittering London ceremonyHot on the heels of a sensational Formula 1 World Championship finale in Abu Dhabi last weekend, voting has closed for the AUTOSPORT Awards 2014 in association with Mercedes-Benz – with a record-breaking response from motor sport fans.Held annually since 1982, the star-studded AUTOSPORT Awards brings together the great and the good from every discipline of the sport, with a glittering ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane that this year will take place on Sunday, 7 December.Of the 12 key awards, eight are chosen by readers of AUTOSPORT – the world’s leading weekly motor sport magazine and website – with thousands of votes cast.Following his 11 grand prix victories this season – culminating in his second World Championship title – Lewis Hamilton should be a leading contender for the International Racing Driver accolade.The F1 season might have finished, but the fight between Hamilton and his Mercedes GP team-mate Nico Rosberg isn’t over. Rosberg is also shortlisted for International Racing Driver, along with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams’ ‘Flying Finn’ Valtteri Bottas. They face strong opposition from non-F1 drivers including Audi sportscar ace André Lotterer – fast becoming a Le Mans legend following his third win at La Sarthe last summer – and Will Power, who finally banished his bridesmaid tag by dominating the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2014. And that is to name just a few.Whoever does lift the International Racing Driver laurels will follow in the wheeltracks of some true icons of the sport, including F1 World Champions Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Mika Häkkinen, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton himself.Hamilton and Rosberg’s Mercedes W05 was the class of the F1 field in 2014, but it has strong rivals for Racing Car of the Year from the F1 grid and beyond. Toyota’s world-beating TS040 Hybrid sportscar is a major contender, as are the Red Bull Racing RB10 and Williams FW36 F1 cars, Citroën’s all-conquering C-Elysée from the FIA World Touring Car Championship and BMW’s M4 DTM beast.There is a wealth of off-road talent vying for International Rally Driver of the Year, led by two-time World Champion Sébastien Ogier – but the Frenchman will undoubtedly face a fight from Volkswagen Motorsport team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, Citroën’s resurgent Kris Meeke, fellow homegrown hero Elfyn Evans and Hyundai No.1 Thierry Neuville.By the same token, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Citroën DS3 WRC, Ford Fiesta RS WRC and Hyundai i20 WRC will be up against MINI’s fearsome and fearless Dakar winner and the evergreen and ever-popular Porsche 911 amongst others in the Rally Car of the Year category.Hamilton is also in the hunt for the British Competition Driver of the Year trophy – an award he has claimed twice before – but following a magnificent campaign for the Brits, five-time winner Jenson Button, GP2 Series Champion Jolyon Palmer, GP3 Series Champion Alex Lynn, FIA World Endurance Champion Anthony Davidson and IndyCar race-winner Mike Conway are all similarly well in contention in one of the most fiercely-disputed categories.Befitting of the series’ headlining status, Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship stars dominate the National Driver of the Year shortlist, from Champion Colin Turkington to leading rivals Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden and Andrew Jordan, alongside Martin Cao – ostensibly the final British F3 title-winner – and Super GT front-runner James Rossiter. The accolade has gone the way of a tin-top protagonist for the past five years, but could that change in 2014?British Club Driver of the Year recognises budding young talent and stretches its net far and wide. Previous winners to have gone on to global glory include Eddie Irvine, Allan McNish, David Coulthard, Dario Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Hamilton. This year’s front-runners are Ben Barnicoat (Formula Renault 2.0 NEC), Mike Bushell (Renault UK Clio Cup), Joe Fulbrook (Volkswagen Racing Cup), Charlie Robertson (Ginetta GT4 Supercup), George Russell (BRDC Formula 4) and Josh Webster (Porsche Carrera Cup GB) – champions all.The Rookie of the Year award has in the past been collected by the likes of Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Meeke, Dan Wheldon, Mark Webber and Juan-Pablo Montoya and – poignantly – was last year bestowed upon Jules Bianchi, who will surely be in everybody’s thoughts on the night. F1 new boys Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat, FIA Formula 3 European Championship standouts Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen, GP2 Series race-winner Stoffel Vandoorne and NASCAR newcomer Kyle Larson are all hotly-tipped this time around.Awards not voted for by readers include the Pioneering and Innovation Award and John Bolster Trophy for technical achievement – previously won by motor sport geniuses Patrick Head, Ken Tyrrell, Roger Penske, Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey.Former recipients of the Gregor Grant Trophy for lifetime achievement include greats Mario Andretti, Murray Walker, Colin McRae, Alain Prost, Emerson Fittipaldi, Dale Earnhardt, Alex Zanardi, Sir Frank Williams, Carlos Sainz, Tom Kristensen, Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Stirling Moss, Sébastien Loeb and Sir Jackie Stewart.Arguably the most eagerly-anticipated and highly-coveted accolade of all, however, is the McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award, which is renowned for setting talented young drivers on the fast track to a successful motor sport career – as Coulthard, Franchitti, Button, Davidson and Paul di Resta can all attest.This year, the six finalists are Alexander Albon (Formula Renault Eurocup), Ben Barnicoat and Seb Morris (Formula Renault NEC), Harrison Scott (Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain) and George Russell and Sennan Fielding (BRDC Formula 4). Whichever of the sextet clinches the illustrious prize will not only win £100,000, a McLaren F1 test, full membership of the British Racing Drivers' Club and an Arai GP-6 RC carbon helmet – but will also firmly establish himself as a bona fide star of the future.

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