Top ten great races you should have seen in 2012

Top ten

Formula One served up a great season of racing in 2012. But there was a lot more great motor sport action beyond those 20 races.

Here’s my pick of ten of the best races in other categories that F1 Fanatics should have seen.

10. Auto GP Morocco race one

You’d be forgiven for thinking the combination of seven-year-old ex-A1 Grand Prix chassis and a circuit composed mainly of bumps and chicanes would not make for a terrific race.

But the fifth race of the Auto GP World Series climaxed with a gripping wheel-to-wheel battle between Sergio Campana and Adrian Quiafe-Hobbes.

If this had been F1 DRS would have killed the battle dead immediately. Instead we were treated to Campana soaking up terrific pressure for lap after lap.

Time and again he sat it out with Quaife-Hobbes on the run down the long straights of the Marrakech street circuit and daringly out-braked him to cling to his lead. Although Quaife-Hobbes had to settle for second best, he went on to win the championship.

9. Superstars Mugello race one

The Superstars touring car series headed to Mugello in June and the first race was shaped by a pile-up at the first corner. While several drivers were eliminated, Andrea Larini emerged in the lead but his right-rear wheel was trailing sparks.

Ex-F1 driver Johnny Herbert emerged from the pack to chase him down but Larini clung on to take a remarkable victory despite some lurid slides in his wayward handling car.

8. IndyCar Auto Club Speedway

I could have justified filling my entire top ten with races from this year’s IndyCar championship but I restricted myself to just two.

The championship-deciding finale at the Fontana superspeedway (officially called the Auto Club Speedway) tingled with tension. Title protagonists Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay were swapping positions when Power’s Penske snapped out of control and slammed into the wall. Rapid repair work by his team got him back on the track long enough to be able to claim 24th place – meaning Hunter-Reay needed to finish fifth to claim to the title.

After a gruelling race pushing three hours in duration he made it, holding off Power’s team mate Helio Castroneves for fourth to win the championship. No wonder race winner Ed Carpenter was given a video of the race as part of his trophy.

7. European F3 Open Spa-Francorchamps race one

The European F3 Open series may not be the most prestigious of the Formula Three championships but it produced one of the most entertaining races I saw this year at the fabulous Spa-Francorchamps.

Gianmarco Raimondo scored a narrow win over Mans Grenhagen after a frantic slipstreaming contest around the classic Belgian circuit.

6. GP2 Valencia sprint race

It was not a vintage season for GP2, with several top talents switching categories to drive Formula Renault 3.5’s new cars.

Among the breakthrough new talents in the series was James Calado who gave new Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez a run for his money at Lotus ART.

Calado was robbed of victory in the Valencia feature race by the untimely appearance of the safety car. He looked set to make amends in the sprint race until he was hit by Rio Haryanto. Despite damage he continued to resist his attackers until Luiz Razia produced an incredible move to pass him and Fabio Leimer around the outside and win.

5. DTM Norising

Germany’s premier touring car championship was bolstered by the return of BMW this year. But the racing still too often erred on the dry and strategic side.

That was not always the case, and the series’ iconic Norisring venue produced easily the best race of the season in wet conditions. First championship leader Gary Paffett was knocked into a spin at the first corner and drove a battling recovery to fourth.

But that was nothing compared to the efforts of team mate and Norising specialist Jamie Green. He passed Bruno Spengler for second with two laps to go and then snatched victory from Martin Tomcyk at the very final corner.

Did Norbert Haug enjoy that one? You bet he did!

4. ALMS Road America

The Circuit of the Americas is great but I’d still love to see F1 racing at America’s answer to Spa-Francorchamps, Road America (Elkhart Lake).

That’s probably never going to happen, so sports prototypes like these is the best we’re likely to see on the great circuit.

This year’s four-hour race culminated in a brilliant battle for position between Guy Smith and Lucas Luhr, the latter having recovered four laps due to a water leak earlier in the race.

In a conclusion which couldn’t have been scripted better, Luhr fired his car down the inside of Smith’s at the very last turn. But he came off second-best – and there was less than a tenth of a second between them at the line.

3. GP3 Monza race two

The outcome of the GP3 championship swung back and forth during a showdown race at Monza that was so intense there wasn’t time to blink. Mitch Evans held a 14-point lead heading into the race but lined up last on the grid while title rival Daniel Abt started eighth.

Evans made a gutsy attempt to climb through the field but when he went off in the Lesmo corners and Abt took the lead it looked as though the championship was lost.

Then, to Evans’ considerable gratitude, Tio Ellinas took the lead off Abt and claimed the win – sending the championship back to the Arden driver.

2. Formula Renault 3.5 Circuit de Catalunya race two

Another last-round title-decider, but this one boiled over into a controversial clash between the top two drivers.

Robin Frijns, Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird all went into the final race at the Circuit de Catalunya with a chance of claiming the title. With Frijns holding Bianchi at bay after the mandatory pit stops, it seemed the outcome was settled.

Then, in a blur of excitement, everything changed. Bianchi stunned Frijns, seizing his position at turn one. Now Kevin Magnussen loomed in Frijns’ mirrors and was poised to strike.

Frijns retaliated by diving down the inside of Bianchi. The pair collided and Bianchi was out.

It looked like an optimistic move and Frijns cannot have failed to realise that contact between the pair would guarantee him the title. That’s not to say he deliberately drove into his rival, but you’d have a hard time persuading Bianchi of that.

With Bird only managing seventh, Frijns was guaranteed the title even after the stewards slapped him with a post-race time penalty.

Meanwhile the deeply impressive Antonio Felix da Costa chalked up another win and RFR team mates Mikhail Aleshin and newcomer Aaro Vainio entertained with a no-holds-barred contest for second.

1. Indianapolis 500

There was an inescapably sombre air as the IndyCar field returned to Indianapolis for the 96th running of one of the greatest races in motor sport. Last year’s winner Dan Wheldon, who tragically lost his life in a crash in Las Vegas in October 2011, was honoured during the event.

Dario Franchitti suffered a setback early in the race when he was knocked into a spin by the incident-prone EJ Viso during a pit stop. He fell to last place, which was a prelude to a performance his friend Wheldon would have been proud of.

Contrary to pre-race predictions the Honda-powered runners such as Franchitti came on strong during the race. Franchitti arrived on the tail of Ganassi team mate Scott Dixon. Behind them was another Honda-powered driver in the running for the lead: ex-F1 pilot Takuma Sato.

With two laps to go Franchitti dived to the inside of Dixon at turn one and Sato followed him, the pair demoting Dixon to third. Beginning the final lap Sato was still in Franchitti’s slipstream and he tried to repeat his pass, drawing alongside Franchitti.

But Sato’s car got away from him and as he headed for the barriers Franchitti somehow avoided being collected. For the second year in a row the Indianpolis 500 was decided by a dramatic last-lap crash.

The race, which saw a record number of lead changes, ended with Franchitti crowned a three-times Indianapolis 500 victor.

Over to you

Though my significant other may not believe it, I cannot and do not watch every form of four-wheeled motorsport so no doubt there were many more great races during 2012 I didn’t see.

Now it’s time for you to tell me what great races I missed during 2012 in the comments. And, if you saw them, what you thought of these ten.

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67 comments on Top ten great races you should have seen in 2012

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  1. While i can’t say i’ve seen all these races i believe that there could be a case for the Bathurst 1000 to be included in this list. But i do think all of these races in the list showcased the very best of motor racing.

  2. Troy Longstaff (@troylongstaff) said on 27th December 2012, 11:30

    The final 30 laps of the Bathurst 1000 was some of the best motor racing all year! An underdog who hadn’t even won a race trying everything to pass a three-time (now four-time) series champion, with varying fuel strategies making it nail-biting stuff. Record crowds over the four days and retro liveries made it just an awesome race!

  3. Troy Longstaff (@troylongstaff) said on 27th December 2012, 11:30

    The final 30 laps of the Bathurst 1000 was some of the best motor racing all year! An underdog who hadn’t even won a race trying everything to pass a three-time (now four-time) series champion, with varying fuel strategies making it nail-biting stuff. Record crowds over the four days and retro liveries made it just an awesome race! Btw, a great selection of races Keith, well done!

    • Trido (@trido) said on 27th December 2012, 22:25

      Four time series champion who got trounced by everyone at the ROC. Goes to show V8 drivers aren’t that good.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th December 2012, 2:54

        V8 Supercars are unlike anything used at the Race of Champions. The closest thing to a V8 Supercar was a Euro Racecar, which is more of a NASCAR than anything we have down here. On top of that, it was left-hand drive, incredibly heavy, and had to be driven around a circuit that was just 1.4km long. The whole thing was about as far removed from V8 Supercars as you can get.

        • Trido (@trido) said on 28th December 2012, 5:24

          Yes, this is true but has not stopped anyone before. It didn’t stop Kovalainen from winning in 2004 when previous to that he only had professional experience in carting as well as 2 seasons in open wheelers. Or Sébastien Loeb in 2005 and 2008 and Sébastien Ogier last year who obviously drive VERY different cars to the ones used in the ROC.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th December 2012, 10:10

            Or Sébastien Loeb in 2005 and 2008 and Sébastien Ogier last year who obviously drive VERY different cars to the ones used in the ROC.

            But who are also very used to driving on circuits like the ROC track, because they are modelled on the super-special stages that every other rally seems to have these days.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th January 2013, 8:15

          I would say that a small twisty track like that is always going to hurt big engined touring cars most of anything. And you are right to highlight, that changing from right to left hand drive even stresses that.

      • Jeff Bird (@jedoublef91) said on 20th January 2013, 4:15

        Do I have to remind you about Jacques Villeneuve at the Townsville 400?

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th December 2012, 2:51

      It would have been better if Reynolds had actually caught Whincup and/or Courtney had managed his fuel and tyres properly and kept himself in contention. As it was, Whincup barely looked troubled by Reynolds and Courtney minced his tyres within about five laps of getting them.

    • TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 30th December 2012, 12:47

      Can’t believe that underdog didn’t try and pass. Such a fail.

  4. PaulT (@pault) said on 27th December 2012, 11:34

    @keithcollantine This article says it all.

    I have not yet viewed all of the Top Ten great races but I’m already blown away by the depth of analysis offered to F1Fanatics. Do you really follow all of these categories, or is there a cast of hundreds working tirelessly behind the scenes on your behalf (Santa’s elves, as it were)?

    At the lowest point of the motor racing season, you are still pumping out interesting and innovative articles that save us all from terminal boredom. Thank you.

  5. andae23 (@andae23) said on 27th December 2012, 11:37

    I’ve been very fortunate to have watched numbers 1, 2, 3 and 6 live. The Indy 500 race was one of the best races of the year for sure. I remember the GP2 race in Valencia particularly well for the shear amount of nonsense that went down in that race. Though I must say, the Formula 3.5 finale wasn’t that great. It was filled with controversy and it definitely encouraged debate, but apart from that incident and the fact that Da Costa won (obviously), I don’t remember anything noteworthy from that race. My guess is that you wanted to include an F3.5 race.

  6. JPedroCQF1 (@joao-pedro-cq) said on 27th December 2012, 11:48

    I watched all of the races on this list. This was the first year I accompanied the Superstars championship, I’ve always liked DTM and Formula Three, I also like IndyCar. This year I watched GP3 mostly because Antonio Felix de Costa was there, and I had already watched a few FR3.5 races, but only when Felix da Costa entered that championship I began watching it every time it was on.

  7. Girts (@girts) said on 27th December 2012, 12:22

    These are my top three non-F1 races of the year:

    1. The DTM season finale at Hockenheim. It didn’t involve a lot of overtaking but offered a great race-long battle for the win and the title between Spengler and Paffett, two of the very best touring car drivers in the world.

    2. The GP2 Series sprint race at Spa. I saw it from the stands and saw some good passes and bad spins at Chicane. Razia and Valsecchi, both title contenders, collided on the first lap and next year’s F1 rookie Chilton was out of contention, too. Kral won his first ever GP2 race and Nasr overtook Calado for second in the last metres before the chequered flag.

    3. The WTCC Race of Austria at Salzburgring, race two. All three Chevrolet drivers suffered punctures in the last stage of the race and privateer d’Aste took an unexpected win.

  8. AMG Fan (@amg-fan) said on 27th December 2012, 12:22

    The last lap at Watkins Glen International for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The winner looks almost certain, until the 47 Toyota starts dumping oil on the circuit, creating an almost un-driveable surface, as shown by all the off-track excursions and sliding. Controlling a 900 horsepower car with little downforce must be hard enough.

    Kyle Busch gets nudged by Keselowski on the final lap, leaving Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose to battle for the victory. Both drivers are still slipping and sliding, and beat and bang literally until the start/finish line. If this race didn’t happen, the Indianapolis 500 would have been the race of the year, but this just topped it:

  9. Adam Blocker (@blockwall2) said on 27th December 2012, 12:36

    A couple of the MotoGP races were very good as well. Lorenzo and Pedrosa’s last lap fight at Brno, and the crazy wet Valencia Grand Prix.

  10. AMG Fan (@amg-fan) said on 27th December 2012, 12:49

    NASCAR Nationwide Series at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve.

    NASCAR at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve had built up a reputation for being a bumper banging, fender crunching brawl, but few could see this year’s edition playing out. A spectator threw a shoe onto the track, damaging Danica Patrick’s radiator grill. There were a total of eight Safety Car periods in just a 200 mile race, which indicates the madness that went on.

    This race was scheduled to run 74 laps, but due to a spate of late-race retaliation and wrecks, the race went into “overtime” and the use of a “Green-White-Checkered” finish. Cars pit, run out of fuel and the race eventually finishes at 82 laps with two GWC needed.

    Jacques Villeneuve dumped his compatriot Tagliani, but on the final lap, Villeneuve got a taste of his own medicine when the 31 car of Allgaier put the bumper to Villeneuve, sliding him wide.

    It was a crazy race that left my brain frazzled; you can only laugh at the mayhem and revenge. Full race in this link:

  11. AMG Fan (@amg-fan) said on 27th December 2012, 13:01

    The Daytona 24 Hours was also a corker. In recent years, this has become a 24 hour sprint race, not only in terms of the pace of the race, but also with the close gaps between cars even after half way.

    This year’s edition of the famed enduro saw a classic head-to-head battle between AJ Allmendinger and Allan McNish. Being a veteran in sportscar and road racing, you might expect McNish to trounce Allmendinger. McNish eased AJ wide on the exit of turn 1 when the latter tried to pass, but it wasn’t over. On the high banking, both drivers traded paint and banged bodywork, with AJ eventually winning the dual.

    All this battling in an endurance race – it look the term “endurance” to a whole new level.

  12. xivizmath (@xivizmath) said on 27th December 2012, 13:49

    World Superbike Silverstone round Race 1. The moment it ended I knew it will be this series’ all-time classic race.

  13. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 27th December 2012, 15:15

    Τhank you very much @keithcolantine. Now I know what I will be doing tomorrow!

    I want just to add Bathurst 1000 () and pretty much every Moto3 race.

  14. List lacking in any MotoGP races, especially the Moto2 and Moto3 races which were amazing to watch at every circuit this year.

    Marquez first lap of Moto2 @ Motegi was just ridiculous :) (vid:

  15. Brace (@brace) said on 27th December 2012, 16:27

    I’m impressed by the guys in Auto GP. First of all no one collected the guy stalling on the pole position and after that, in a rather tight, completely walled street track no one messed up in all those chicanes and caused a contact, let alone a crash. Quite amazing. Even in F1, there’s almost inevitable mess on first lap, whenever we are in Monaco or Valencia.

    Really impressed.

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