It’s the time of year for season reviews, awards – all that jazz – so I’ve given some suitably haphazard thought to the best of the season just gone. These are that.
Best Race Win: Williams F1
It’s not often that motorsport – or anything else for that matter – gets me close to tears; I’m pretty much dead inside. But when Williams won their first race for more than seven years at the Spanish Grand Prix, a certain moistness around my eyes was notable. I was pleased for Pastor Maldonado, of course, but I was bloody delighted for the team.
My attachment to Williams dates back to the mid-’90s, when I was in my teens and Williams were winning championships all over the shop – the most significant for me being Damon Hill’s 1996 drivers title. That attachment has been maintained by the presence of Frank Williams, who continues to be one of the most remarkable people in Formula 1 – a point reinforced by his reaction to the pole position, the victory, and the unfortunate pit fire the team suffered almost immediately afterwards.
Best Bowing Out: Casey Stoner
You couldn’t have written a better story than Casey Stoner’s retirement from MotoGP. It came completely out of the blue, and he was openly critical of the sport both in and after his announcement. So as early as May, we knew that 2012 would be Stoner’s only chance to add a third world championship.
That chance disappeared entirely when he was forced to miss three races following his crash in Indianapolis. That didn’t put an end to the story though, as it became a battle to come back from injury and win at Phillip Island, which would make it six in a row at his home race.
Amazingly, he did just that. Only once in his time in the premier class did he not win the Australian Grand Prix, and that was in his first season, on a satellite Honda.
It was a suitably impressive end to a regrettably short, but brilliant MotoGP career.
Best Person: Alex Zanardi
Okay, so his achievements this year weren’t directly motorsport related, but it’s safe to say that Alex Zanardi has a place in every motorsport fan’s heart. How could he not? Formula 1 driver and twice CART champion in his first motorsport career, and after losing of both legs in a massive CART crash, multiple WTCC race winner in his second.
His two hand-cycling gold medals – and a silver – at the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer, then, were utterly remarkable, yet almost inevitable given his character. And it’s not just motorsport fans who celebrated his achievement: the IPC considered him among the twelve most outstanding athletes of the Games.
That’s not all. The tale of Zanardi helping a 17-year-old complete the Venice Marathon in October, making use of rope scavenged from a bin and good old-fashioned sticky tape along the way, cemented his reputation as World’s Most Determined Man.
You can throw a DTM test for BMW in there too. What a year.
Best Championship: Moto3
Moto2 seemed like brilliantly chaotic madness when it was introduced in 2010. Moto3, new for 2012, made that seem positively tame.
There was close racing all season, but Assen comes immediately to mind as a highlight – particularly the feisty battle between KTM team-mates Sandro Cortese and Danny Kent.
The leading pack had been relentlessly passing and repassing each other, and the race went right down to the final corner: Luis Salom was leading but slow out, leaving Maverick Vinales to take advantage and the win; Cortese finished 2nd, 0.011 seconds ahead of Kent in 3rd; Salom was only 0.001 second behind Kent in 4th. You can relive the final five laps here, in glorious German shaky-vision.
That was Kent’s first podium, but he went on to take a pair of wins, the Brit ending the season 4th in the standings. Good stuff.
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