With the holidays upon us, it's time for a Christmas wish list for Canadian racers and racing fans.
James Hinchcliffe: Balance
There's no doubt that Oakville, Ont. native Hinchcliffe had a great start to the 2013 IndyCar season, scoring an impressive win in the opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Unfortunately, his next two outings saw him finish in 26th place.
He bounced back to take his second win in four starts with a sensational last-corner pass on the street race in São Paulo, Brazil, but again finished the next race mired at the back of the field in 21st spot. That’s how the year went for the 27-year-old racer who for could not put a string of good finishes together due to a combination of bad luck, some interesting team decisions, and a couple of mistakes.
The good news is that Hinchcliffe ended the year with two top-5 outings and took six top-10s in the last eight races. Continuing into 2014 would be a welcome gift for the likeable Andretti Autosport driver.
Canadian Grand Prix fans: A deal for the race
Those who love to make the annual trek to Montreal for this country's grand prix weekend might want to ask Santa for a contract renewal. Race promoter François Dumontier has been angling for a 10-year extension when the existing one runs out following the June 2014 event.
While a deal from 2015 to 2024 would give the race a solid long-term spot on the grand prix calendar, F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone hasn't been warm to the idea. He wants to see the New Jersey event get up and running, and finally realizing his dream of a race in the New York market. Whether the plan includes races in New Jersey, Austin, Tex., and Montreal remains to be seen, but a deal sometime soon would be good news for F1 fans in this country.
For Formula One fans: A competitive car for Fernando Alonso
In the four seasons since the sublimely talented double world champion joined Ferrari, the team has failed to give him a car capable of winning the title. Nevertheless, Alonso took the fight down to the last race of the year twice, losing to Sebastian Vettel by a grand total of seven points in those battles (four in 2010 and three in 2012).
Arguably, it has been at least eight seasons since Ferrari consistently had the quickest car on track, going back to 2006 when the team gave Michael Schumacher an eighth shot at a championship. Ironically, the man who beat the German to the crown that year was none other than Alonso.
The Scuderia did get the 2007 title with Kimi Räikkönen, but that was more due to the infighting between the McLaren duo of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who split the points in the faster car and allowed the Ferrari man to drive up the middle.
Ferrari must find a way to offer Alonso a mount worthy of his talent, and give him the tools he needs to have a fair fight with reigning four-time champ Vettel and his much quicker Red Bull ride. There could be no better gift to F1 fans in 2014 than to see those two massive talents fighting in equal cars.
Ron Fellows: One more shot
Yes, the veteran Canadian road racer isn't getting any younger and he's been focussing more on his co-ownership Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, but it would be nice if someone put one more road course drive in a competitive Sprint Cup car in his stocking.
The 54-year-old has tried to get an elusive Cup win 25 times over the past 18 years, including two starts in 2013 that found him frustrated again. He battled handling problems and crash damage in the June race in Sonoma, Calif., ending the day 22nd, while getting caught up in an accident late in the August stop in Watkins Glen, NY, ruined his chances of a good result.
Agonizingly, Fellows has finished second twice in Cup, including an incredible passing clinic from 42nd on the grid to runner-up at the flag at The Glen in 2004. A Cup win would be a great way to end one of Canada's most impressive racing careers.
Robert Wickens: A friend in Formula One
News earlier this week that Victoria's Teddy Yip, Jr., is looking at getting into Formula One may be fantastic news for Wickens. Yip Jr. is the son of the late F1 Theodore racing owner Teddy Yip, Sr., one of only a handful of Canadians to own F1 teams. He is also a huge supporter of Wickens.
The Guelph, Ont., native raced for Yip's Status Grand Prix team in the GP3 Series. He finished second overall in GP3 in 2010 in the strength of three wins, one pole and seven podiums in 16 starts. Wickens and Yip Jr. were last spotted in the F1 paddock in 2011 when the Canadian was a test and reserve driver for the Marussia Team.
For now, Wickens returns to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters Series for a third season with Mercedes in 2014 after finishing fifth overall in points this year with one victory.
For young racers: A successful Formula 1600 Super Series
It didn't get much attention when it was announced in November, but the move by the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship promoter Jason Sharpe and his Formula Tour F1600 Championship counterpart Marcel Lafontaine to create an Ontario-Quebec championship should be seen as an early Christmas present for young drivers.
Two races from each F1600 championship will make up the Super Series next year, with the only points from those four events counting toward the title. The cooperation between the Ontario and Quebec series is significant, as it may signal a move toward having some sort of national development series where all the top young prospects battle on the same track rather than in the fractured way F1600 now operates. The Super series is a great start and it's hoped a successful 2014 will lead to bigger and better things.
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