Simon Pagenaud, IndyCar, Iowa, 2012

Top ten great races you should have seen in 2012

Top tenPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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”

  1. The Auto GP final few laps were wonderful to watch.

    If this had been F1 DRS would have killed the battle dead immediately

    Once again I feel my blood boil when I think about DRS. It’s like a bad recurring dream with Paddy Lowe whispering the words ‘two zones’ under his breath. Oh how I wish you would go away DRS and all that sing its praises. Please oh lord, make it stop.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. watching the auto-gp race & some of the indycar stuff just reminds me of how much good racing I feel DRS has been robbing us of.

    How many easy DRS passes would have ended up been totally awesome, thrilling battles for position resulting in a truly exciting overtake had we not had DRS.

    You could also easily look back over history & see which great moments we would have lost had DRS been in place back then.
    Alonso/Schumacher @ Imola 05/06 likely would not have happened in the drs style f1, Mansell/senna @ barcelona 1991 would not have given us that thrilling wheel to wheel duel with drs/kers. hakkinen/schuamcher @ spa 00 would have been an easy drs pass the lap mika got to schumi & we would not have seen that great overtake by mika.

    maybe drs is just a sign of modern life. everyone wants to take the easy route rather than actually have to really work hard for something & earn it.

    1. Yeah, that’s 3 battles over the course of 15 years. That’s not good enough and we all know it.

      What about the great battle between Schumacher/Hamilton at Monza in 2011.

      I’d rather stick with DRS style F1

      1. I only listed 3 but could have easily listed a lot more.

        Schumi/Hamilton at Monza last year was a great fight & I did indeed thoroughly enjoy it, However great racing fights like that have been few & far between the past 2 years & in every case any eventual pass has been completely a complete anti-climax because tyres have fell off the cliff making it easy or DRS has eventually worked & generated an equally unexciting pass.

        For me watching drivers get into a specific gap in a specific ‘passing zone’, push a button & then be driven easily & un-excitingly past with the leading driver completely defenseless is boring. I don’t enjoy watching that & I don’t consider it racing.

        Watching those prolonged racing duels & watching those truly exciting overtakes is to me what racing is all about, Its what drew me in back in the 70s & whats kept me hooked all these years.
        If we had the current DRS formula back in the 70s I almost certainly would never have become a fan.

  3. I think there was proabably 3 V8 supercar races this year worthy of a spot in this 10. First of all obviuosly the Bathurst 1000 was amazingly intense in those final laps: Also the race in western Australia earlier in the year was really good, the race leader will davison was on worn soft tyres and he was rapidly being caught by championship rival Jamie Whincup and team-mate Mark Winterbottom. As Whincup tried to push his way past on the last lap the team-mates ganged up on Whincup to ensure a fabulous finish: Also the Race in New Zealand in the ealy season was a cracke rwith Winterbottom holding off a hard charging Whincup who was throwing his car around so hard, grazing walls and having big slides. At the begining of the finbal lap they made contact and were battling all the way around the next couple of corners:

  4. I watched all those which I could watch on TV here in my country. Those were the Monza round at GP3, where I was rooting for Abt and he disappointedly just fell short, then the DTM round at Norisring(although I only saw that in the post-season reruns) and the GP2 Valencia round, where Razia made monkeys of everyone. It was frustrating to see his lack of outright pace throughout the season, otherwise with his racing heroics he would certainly have won the GP2 series title this year.

  5. All Moto3 race is great!

  6. There´s some great racing in those videos for sure and i´m going to add the BTCC championship which is absolutely amazing, it´s action from the first lap till the end, also a few more indy races ( just like Keith said ), Daytona 24h especially the end, the Grand-am race in Belle Isle ( Detroit ) had it all and the best finish of the race of all year goes to nascar´s Watkins Glen road course race between Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Buch and a slipery track full of oil.

  7. Great article Keith, I’m always looking at getting into different motorsports and it’s articles like this which provide the inspiration. Just a shame that GP2 Asia isn’t on over the winter anymore to fill the F1 sized void until March.

  8. How about the BTCC; Race 3 at Silverstone was amazing by Plato, although, having written that, there were probably many more races like that in the BTCC; maybe because I’m a Plato fan that sticks in my mind…

  9. What, no Macau Grand Prix, Keith? :)

    1. @sergio-perez Sorry but I didn’t see it – it never seems to be on live here in the UK :-(

  10. Maybe I’m an idiot, or maybe I have the wrong end of the stick, but I’m going to weigh in on the whole DRS issue (again! It certainly always get’s people talking that’s for sure!!)

    I was always under the impression that due to the ability of designers to maximise driven air at the back of the car over aero components meant that those components were able to disrupt the air substantially behind for some distance, and that, as aero grip and efficiency were the key points for turning and accelaration for F1 cars in their current make-up, that this had the effect of making up the last few hundred yards to a competitor increasingly dificult. DRS was introduced to reduce the dag co-eficient further than what would be considered either possible, or safe for a car travelling all the way around a circuit to allow cars that had the straiht line speed to easily pass the car in front, but one that was being held up by turbulence. Hence, I don’t consider DRS passes as overtakes. They are something else instead, and i do think that they are starting to work. The HAM/VET incident being the obvious good example on how DRS should work. It should not allow you to overtake a faster or similar paced car and escape, but should allow you to easily get in front of a car that’s a few tenths slower without having to worry too much about it. I genuinely believe something like this is needed, not because the drivers are rubbish and can’t overtake, but because F1 is just TOO aero, and it’s too easy to disrupt the airflow behind your car. I remember an interview I remember someone complaining that he was driving flat out and a car moved across in front of him and he said it felt like the car lifted on skates or something similar. Losing that level of grip and retaining a high drag is just too destabilising for consistentcy. Anyway, as an aside to the top ten great races, what I can also say is that while I have watched at least as many “other” races as I have F1, the most boring races have all been F1. Other classes, either in their amateurish-ness, or closer racing, or for some other reason (Such as just enjoying the Bathurst and Laguna Seca tracks!) have never bored me in quite the same way F1 can when it turns into a procession, although this year has been generally good in avoiding boredom, and seems to be on an upward trend over the past few years. How much of this is down to DRS is probably tiny, but it seems sily to mess with a winning formula. One last thing to say to @keithcollantine & everyone else is have a great festive season, and make it a new years resolution to go and see some VLN next year to support the Nurburgring if you at all can, or even better, take a car and go and drive it (The ring I mean, or indeed the VLN if you have the relevant car/licence). In fact, take a car, and tour europe and drive the classic circuits. Or just send them money. Support Motorsports at all levels by supporting your local circuit and national classic circuits. Get involved. I guarantee there’s a motor sport club near you, and if I’m wrong may I be called an Elephant Seals behind whilst you form your own….

  11. I saw the Indy 500. Absolutely fantastic!

  12. kubica fan ireland
    29th December 2012, 19:34

    You have to include the finish to the Watkins Glen nascar race in any list this year Keith. Just would like to know as a fan of nearly all motorsports , both 2 wheel and 4 why you have very little interest in NASCAR as you have mentioned before when doing articles about other forms of motorsports. Keep up the good work , love the site all work is greatly appreciated

    1. I did mention the NASCAR Watkins Glen race at the time:

      Video: Ambrose takes win in dramatic last lap at Watkins Glen

      I don’t follow NASCAR very closely because there are simply so many races that it isn’t practical for me. And the way the championship is structured much of most of them is irrelevant as the series is only decided once they get to the chase.

      But mostly it’s because it just doesn’t excite me the way, say, IndyCar or Formula Renault 3.5 has this year.

  13. Indycar getting some love! It was a great season!

  14. After watching those videos I would say there’s a good case to be made for Will Buxton being one of the best motor racing commentators out there. He injects so much humour, excitement and enthusiasm into the racing.

    Glad he’s not out of a job next year and that NBC have snapped him up.

    1. @dirtyscarab Wow, I could not disagree more! He irritates me so much that I have to mute my television if he’s talking for too long. (I think you are in the majority in your opinion of him, though.)

  15. I think Le Mans is a race that anyone should watch, so special.

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