This weekend is one of the biggest on the motorsport calendar, with no fewer than four FIA world championships in action.
Formula 1 is at the Shanghai International Circuit for the Chinese Grand Prix, the third race of the season. Nico Rosberg leads the championship after winning the first two rounds in Australia and Bahrain relatively easily.
That could be the case again this weekend as Rosberg’s Mercedes team-mate and main rival Lewis Hamilton faces a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Then again, maybe not if Ferrari can finally get its act together and put up a proper fight.
The World Touring Car Championship is at the Slovakiaring for its second round. Reigning champion Jose Maria Lopez heads the points table for Citroen, having won Race 2 last time out in France. Race 1 winner Rob Huff is third in the standings, behind his Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro.
Much interest will focus on the new Polestar Volvo team, which would have started on pole in France had Thed Bjork’s S60 not failed a ride height test. Reliability proved to be an issue in the races, though.
Montelegre in Portugal hosts the first round of the World Rallycross Championship. This season could be the most closely fought yet. Reigning champion Petter Solberg will once again provide the benchmark in his brand-new Citroen DS3. But the Norwegian ace faces stiff competition from a pair of incomers. Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb joins the series driving for Team Hansen Peugeot and Youtube sensation Ken Block will tackle a full season for the first time in a factory-backed Ford.
And let’s not discount the half-dozen or so other drivers who are more than capable of challenging for the title, among them last year’s runner-up Timmy Hansen; Block’s team-mate Andreas Bakkerud; factory Volkswagen pilots Johan Kristofferson and Anton Marklund; Audi pair Mattias Ekstrom and Toppi Heikkinen and former European champion Timur Timerzyanoz.
Closer to home, the World Endurance Championship kicks off with the 6 Hours of Silverstone. Competition will be fierce at the front of the field between the factory Audi, Porsche and Toyota squads. Audi and Toyota have completely new cars for this season, while reigning champions Porsche has a heavily revised version of its 919 Hybrid.
Battles in the other classes will be just as close. In LMP2, all eyes will be on a new outfit with F1 pedigree: Manor. Meanwhile in the GTE ranks, the new Ford GT makes its European debut; the Chip Ganassi-run machine has had a difficult time so far in the US and faces particularly stiff competition from the established Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche teams.
Elsewhere, Matt Neal hopes to extend his lead in the British Touring Car Championship standings in the second round at Donington Park; the British GT Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch with one of the most competitive fields seen in years; and the European Le Mans Series starts the year at Silverstone. There’s also NASCAR and IMSA Sports Car Championship action in the States.
All the action will be broadcast live on TV – check your listings – or on-line. There are few weekends in the year with so much motorsport to watch, so enjoy it. Better yet, get yourself to a circuit to watch the action live – we’re planning to be at Silverstone for the WEC.
By Only Motors