July Highlights July Highlights

Blancpain GT Series
Dating back to 1923, the Spa 24 Hours is the biggest GT3 race in the world bar none, the jewel in the crown of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and Intercontinental GT Challenge. With over 60 cars from 11 manufacturers on the grid, the competition is as fierce as the weather is unpredictable, and that’s even before considering every endurance racer’s worst enemy – themselves. With points awarded at the six, 12, 18 and 24 hour points, success at Spa is prized both in terms of championship points and a place in the history books, joining a roll of honour including Spa master Jacky Ickx, Tom Walkinshaw, Gerhard Berger and Sebastien Bourdais in 2002. The nephew of four-time winner Jean-Michel, Belgium’s Maxime Martin took a long-overdue victory last year to give BMW their second win in as many years, but can the Bavarian marque make it a hattrick? To do so, Martin and his ROWE Racing crew will have to overcome the all-conquering Grasser Racing Lamborghini team, winners of both the opening Endurance Cup rounds at Monza and Silverstone with factory drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and Andrea Caldarelli, but will take heart from the fact that the Huracan has yet to deliver the goods across 24 hours. Will BMW make it a Spa trip to remember, or will Bentley claim revenge for their defeat last year?

• LIVE Endurance Cup Rd 4, Spa 24 Hours – Saturday 29 July at 15:00 to 22:35 and from Saturday 29 July at 23:00 to Sunday 30 July 15:50

FIA World Endurance Championship
Following the drama of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the FIA WEC reconvenes at the Nürburgring for round four, with Porsche hoping their decision to delay the homologation of their high-downforce package pays dividends. Porsche has traditionally been the team to beat at their home event, with Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber winning in both 2015 and 2016, but will not be taking anything for granted this time around after Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima cleaned up at Silverstone and Spa. Germany was also the scene of the best inter-marque battle in the GTE-Pro class last year, as Ferrari won out in a tense duel with Aston Martin. Could the British team turn the tables and score their first win of the year?

• LIVE Rd 4, 6 Hours of Nürburgring – Sunday 16 July at 11:45

FIA World Rallycross Championship
One of the most technically challenging circuits anywhere in the world, Holjes is a perennial favourite on the World RX tour, with passionate fans coming from all over Europe to see the iconic first corner, massive tabletop jump and the iconic Velodrome corner. Sweden isn’t short on home grown talent either, with reigning champion Mattias Ekstrom following up the Audi S1’s maiden win in 2014 with another in 2015, albeit only after Timmy Hansen’s final-corner move was penalised by the stewards. The son of Peugeot-Hansen team boss Kenneth, the most successful driver in rallycross history, Hansen will be hoping to bounce back from a final lap puncture in Belgium which cost him a first win since Canada last year, but don’t discount PSRX man Johan Kristofferson either. Another second-generation Swede, Kristofferson became the first man to beat Ekstrom this season in Belgium and will look to lead VW’s charge.

• LIVE Rd 7, Holjes – Sunday 2 July at 13:00

Australian Supercars
The streets of Townsville will play host to round seven of the championship as the battle royal between two of the championship’s most storied teams continues to take shape. Founded in 1980, Dick Johnson Racing fell on hard times after James Courtney’s title success in 2010, but that all changed after Roger Penske bought a controlling stake in the team in 2014. Since then, the newly renamed DJR Team Penske’s fortunes have turned around, with Fabian Coulthard heading the points standings and new signing Scott McLaughlin taking three wins from four races across Barbagallo and Winton. However, the Queenslanders certainly won’t have it easy on their home patch, with defending champion Shane van Gisbergen and six-time champion Jamie Whincup also in the mix. The pair shared the spoils between them 12 months ago and with neither Coulthard nor McLaughlin having won at Townsville before, will fancy their chances of a repeat. In this classic Ford versus Holden duel, who will prevail?

• LIVE Rd 7, Townsville – Saturday 8 July at 06:55 (Race 1) and Sunday 9 July at 06:55 (Race 2)

FIA World Rally Championship
After a wildly unpredictable opening to the season which produced four different winners from as many constructors in the first four rounds of the season, two men have stepped up to the plate to contest the championship battle. Naturally, one of them is Sebastien Ogier, the Frenchman going in pursuit of his fifth straight title and his first since switching to Malcom Wilson’s M-Sport Ford team. Ogier won the first rally of the year in Monte Carlo after Thierry Neuville broke his suspension while leading, then took a run of three straight podiums before bouncing back from an off-colour Argentina with victory in Portugal. Hyundai team leader Neuville threw away another win in Sweden with another mistake, handing an unexpected win to Jari-Matti Latvala in the new Toyota, but showed his mettle by winning both in Corsica and Argentina, where he denied Elfyn Evans a maiden WRC win by just 0.7 seconds with a steely run through the Powerstage. Neuville’s next task will be to prove he can be a genuine title contender, and where better to do so than in Finland, the fastest event on the calendar and traditionally a haven for Scandinavian drivers. Ogier became only the fifth non-Scandinavian to win there in 2013, ironically beating Neuville – can he turn the tables this time?

• Daily Highlights Rd 8, Rally Poland – Saturday 1 July at TBC, Sunday 2 July at 22:35
• Daily Highlights Rd 9, Rally Finland – Friday 28 July at TBC, Saturday 29 July at TBC and Sunday 30 July at 22:35

FIM World Motocross Championship
The FIM MXGP championship returns to Portugal in July for the first time since 2013, with championship leader Tony Cairoli hoping to carry on where he left off by scoring another victory. The Italian eight-time world champion has won or finished on the podium every year MXGP has visited Portugal dating back to 2005 and at 31 is showing no signs of slowing down in his quest to overhaul Stefan Everts as the most successful rider of all time. With wins in Qatar, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, Cairoli has forced reigning champion Tim Gajser to up his game and the young Slovenian has shown signs of cracking under pressure, crashing out in Latvia and again in Germany. Gajser’s drop in form has coincided with the rise of Cairoli’s KTM team-mate Jeffrey Herlings, who swept the board in Latvia and added another win in Germany. A double-winner in the MX2 championship the last time Portugal was on the calendar, could Herlings be the perfect complement for Cairoli’s title challenge?

• Delayed-as-Live Rd 12, Portugal – Sunday 2 July at 15:00 (Race 1)
• LIVE Rd 12, Portugal – Sunday 2 July at 16:00 (Race 2)
• LIVE Rd 13, Czech Republic – Sunday 23 July at 12:00 (Race 1) and 15:00 (Race 2)

European Le Mans Series
Already a popular fixture on the European sportscar racing landscape with three different classes scrapping on track at once, the introduction of the latest generation of LMP2 cars has elevated the stature of the ELMS still further. Pushing 300 km/h on the pit straight at Monza, the new cars are faster, more physically challenging to drive and far harder on the tyres, as G-Drive Racing’s Ryo Hirakawa discovered to his cost at Silverstone. The Japanese survived a late drive-through penalty to beat Dragonspeed team-mate Ben Hanley to victory at Monza, but the Red Bull Ring poses an entirely different challenge altogether to the Italian ‘Cathedral of Speed’. The deceptively simple layout has a range of elevation changes, different cambers and several long corners that should put a premium on tyre-wear and allow the United Autosport Ligier a shot at victory after it struggled for straight-line speed at Monza. Meanwhile in the LMP3 class, the championship is finely-poised, with Silverstone winners Sean Rayhall and Jon Falb enduring a nightmare run in their Ligier as Ricky Capo and Erwin Creed gave Norma it’s first ever win. Consistent scoring means the French-entered Ultimate crew sit atop the standings, but have M.Racing YMR just five points behind. The GT class will also be back in full force, with JMW Motorsport giving their new Ferrari 488 a first outing in the ELMS after bidding farewell to the venerable 458 with an emotional victory at Monza.

• Delayed-as-Live, Rd 3, Red Bull Ring – Tuesday 25 July at 22:00

TCR International Series
With six winners from the first eight races of the season, the TCR International Series is wide open heading to Oschersleben. Roberto Colciago (Honda) and reigning champion Stefano Comini (Audi) became the first double winners of the season at high-speed Monza, a circuit which didn’t suit the SEATs. However, the Spanish cars are expected to be right back on pace at the tight and twisty Oschersleben, where Pepe Oriola and Mat’o Homola shared the spoils last year. Slovakian Homola now races with Opel, the only manufacturer yet to win a race this year, so could a return to Germany spark a revival in form? VW man Jean-Karl Vernay leads the points despite only winning once, but with Colciago and Comini on his tail, the Frenchman cannot afford to let momentum slip…

• Delayed-as-Live Rd 7, Oschersleben – Saturday 9 July at 14:50