We may remember 2020 as not exactly the best, while in the future, others looking back in history may think otherwise. For Kiwi motorsport, it has been a mixed bag. The NZ Rally champs never got off the ground, neither did the TCR NZ Series! Fortunately, we saw the complete 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series before the year started going pear-shaped! Here’s my five highlights from 2020.
First of all, history will show that Formula One, IndyCar, Super GT, WRC, Super Formula, Formula 3, Formula 2, IMSA, NASCAR, Supercars, TRS and many other championships, despite the affects and restrictions from the coronavirus, all held competitive series’ of races and crowned their champions. Include in that the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500, both went ahead. Collectively we showed that organisers, drivers, teams and spectators (even though very few were allowed) adapted well to the changing environment.
Second, it has been a year of the two great Scott’s. Both Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin are head and shoulders better than others on their respected 2020 grids. Dixon dominated the revised 2020 NTT IndyCar Series, winning the title for a sixth time. McLaughlin won the Australia Supercars Championship title for the third consecutive time.
Now, in 2021, we will see them on the same grid when the NTT IndyCar Series gets underway on the streets of St Petersburg in Florida, 7 March. This is a most exciting step up for McLaughlin into single seater racing so I won’t be expecting race wins straight off, but he will improve over the season and give a few other drivers a fright.
Third highlight – My fellow Talkmotorsport writer, Ross MacKay rated Shane van Gisbergen as his top driver of 2020 and it is hard to argue with that. At last, he got his well-deserved first Bathurst win and that must be the start of many more. As Ross pointed out, he then jumped the ditch, got into a borrowed rally car and won the inaugural Repco Battle of Jacks Ridge. No matter what he gets into drive, van Gisbergen will be competing for a race win. He is a class act and now with McLaughlin’s move to the US, expect van Gisbergen to shine in the 2021 Supercars season.
Fourth highlight – Kudos to all our NZ domestic motorsport event/series organisers. That is a position I would not like to be in. The uncertainty over potential COVID-19 outbreaks and lock-downs and the planning and financial commitment required, provides a thank-less task for all involved. Some decisions were made not to proceed, while other decisions have been made to work with the changing variables as 2020 has gone on.
Fifth highlight – My quiet achiever award goes to Canterbury’s James Penrose. You might not have noticed that competing in the 2020/21 South Island Formula 1600 Championship, Penrose has put his Formula Ford on pole for all nine races, led every lap and won every race. With three more rounds (nine races to go), this young man will be hard to beat. Let’s hope he turns up on the grid for the three-round NZ Formula Ford champs that gets underway in February. Give this man a FT60 as he is one driver who should be on the grid of the NZ Grand Prix in January.
As we head into 2021, the world is a more dismal place than 12 months ago. What we have proved is that despite the effects of COVID-19 and the restrictions it has placed on event organisers, both top level international and domestic competitions did complete a successful season of racing, and, can do it again. 2020 may have been a horrid one, yet it may be a year that we reflect on for many varied reasons and think that it wasn’t all bad after all.
For 2021, keep an eye on Liam Lawson and don’t be surprised.
More industry news: McLaughlin secures third Supercars title