We start this week with the Bathurst 12 Hour, an endurance race that seems to grow in stature year on year. Few events capture the imagination like the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which starts in full darkness at 5:45 am before the sun gradually rises over 6.2 km of the best tarmac in Australia. A world-class entry drawn from across the globe was attracted to tackle this year’s event – the first open to all-Pro entries – including some of the biggest names in the Australian Supercars championship. Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen may be team-mates in that series, but they certainly weren’t about to go easy on each other as the race entered its decisive closing stages…
Just across the Tasman Sea at the Bruce McLaren Motorsports Park in Taupo, New Zealand, we join the young stars of tomorrow in the Toyota Racing Series. With just two rounds to go, the stakes are raised once again, as the pressures of contending for a championship begin to tell. Dutch rookie Richard Verschoor made an ultra-consistent start to the season with two wins in the opening two rounds, but after a middling weekend at Hampton Downs, would Australian Thomas Randle and second-generation racer Pedro Piquet usurp the points leader?
There’s plenty more single-seater action in store from the MRF Challenge at the Buddh International Circuit, which hosted the Indian Grand Prix between 2011 and 2013. Unlike the TRS Series, which takes place on five consecutive weekends, MRF had a winter break after the opening two rounds in Bahrain and Dubai, where Joey Mawson and Mick Schumacher reprised their ADAC F4 rivalry. Mawson’s 100% finishing record has given him the edge so far, but could Michael’s boy mount a fightback?
Next, join us for highlights of last week’s Rally Sweden, which saw Jari-Matti Latvala take Toyota’s first FIA World Rally Championship win since China in 1999, when the aforementioned Schumacher was aged just seven months. In only Toyota’s second rally back in the WRC, Latvala swept to his first victory since Mexico last year, as Ott Tanak outshone illustrious team-mate Sebastien Ogier. Catch up with all the drama as Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville suffered heartbreak for the second rally in a row and Citroen’s struggles continued.
Continuing the chilly theme, don’t miss the Monte Carlo Historic Rally, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Revel as retro Opel Ascona and Renault 5 Turbo machines get a run out on the snow and ice where they were written into rallying folklore back in the 70s, with 14 special stages sure to provide a stern test of the crews’ bravery and skill.
Finally, we return to New Zealand for the penultimate round of the Toyota 86 Championship at the Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, with Ryan Yardley hoping to take his first series title. But if there are two things we can guarantee, it’s that Valentine’s Day comes around every year on the 14th and in saloon cars, nobody is safe from disaster…
Saturday 18th February
09:00 – Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, Rd 7 Estero Beach – Pro Lite & Pro 210:05 – Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, Rd 7 Estero Beach – Pro 4 & Pro Buggy11:05 – FIA World Rally Championship Best-Of, Rd 2, Rally Sweden12:40 – Asian Le Mans Series, Rd 4, Sepang 4 Hours13:40 – Bathurst 12 Hour15:50 – Toyota Racing Series NZ, Rd 4, Taupo16:50 – Toyota NZ 86 Championship, Rd 5, Manfield18:55 – Rally Monte Carlo Historic20:00 – FIA World Rally Championship Best-Of, Rd 2, Rally Sweden
Sunday 19th February
09:00 – Toyota Racing Series NZ, Rd 4, Taupo10:05 – Toyota NZ 86 Championship, Rd 5, Manfield11:05 – MRF Challenge, Rd 3, Greater Noida15:45 – Bathurst 12 Hour20:30 – Rally Monte Carlo Historic