As the year draws to a close, Sportscar365 takes a look back at the top sports car racing stories of 2014.
10. Mission 2014: Porsche Returns (and wins) –– Porsche returned to top-level factory prototype racing and impressed in its first season with the Porsche 919 Hybrid, scoring four poles, six podium finishes and a maiden win in the FIA WEC season-ending Six Hours of Sao Paulo. Mission accomplished.
9. Bentley’s Debut Success — The British manufacturer took the GT3 world by storm, with the new-for-2014 Continental GT3 scoring wins on three continents, including a runner-up finish in the Blancpain Endurance Series championship for the factory M-Sport squad and success in the U.S. with Dyson Racing in Pirelli World Challenge.
8. ACO Takes Over Asian Le Mans Series — After single-digit grids and no signs of significant improvement, the ACO has taken complete control of the struggling Asian Le Mans Series, formerly run by Mark Thomas’ S2M Group. As part of the restructuring plan, a reduced three-round calendar is in place for 2015, set to kick off in September.
7. Rise of Pirelli World Challenge — The North American-based GT and touring car championship saw massive growth in 2014, particularly with an array of FIA GT3-spec machinery joining the grid. New manufacturer interest from Bentley and the U.S. debuts of the McLaren MP4-12C and Lamborghini Gallardo made PWC one of the most-improved championships of the year.
6. Toyota Wins FIA WEC — The Japanese manufacturer enjoyed a dominant season, capturing five wins out of eight races en route to its first World Championship with drivers Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi. Only the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which went to Audi for the 13th time, eluded Toyota from having a perfect season.
5. Buhk’s Costly Suspension — A single-event suspension at the Slovakia Ring due to a previous incident at the circuit in a different series ultimately cost Maximilian Buhk the Blancpain GT Series Drivers’ Championship. The 21-year-old German also missed out on sharing the Blancpain Sprint Series title with HTP Motorsport teammate Maxi Gotz due to the forced non-start in Slovakia.
4. Nissan Steps Up to LMP1 — While only being made official in May, Nissan’s move to the LMP1 class for the 2015 FIA WEC season created a huge buzz within the industry all year. Nissan becomes the fourth manufacturer to compete in the top prototype class, adding further strength to the series, while leaving many people speculating on further, yet-to-be-released details of the program.
3. Chrysler Axes Dodge Viper Program — Less than 48 hours after winning the GTLM Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships, Chrysler announced the withdrawal of its factory Dodge Viper GTS-R program, following a successful three-year run, most recently in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. It came as a significant loss to the class, which now faces single-digit numbers for 2015.
2. Tom Kristensen Retires — The record nine-time Le Mans winner and 2013 FIA WEC champion announced his retirement from the sport shortly before last month’s season-ending Six Hours of Sao Paulo. It marked the end an end of an era for arguably sports car racing’s most successful driver of this generation, and the remaining active driver from Audi’s original generation of LMP1 pilots.
1. Year One of TUDOR Championship — There were highs and lows through a somewhat turbulent first season of the TUDOR Championship, with controversial calls and mistakes in race control, organizational hurdles and debates over Balance of Performance. Yet, by the end of the year, the racing improved, champions were crowned and teams will return for what promises to be a much more improved season two beginning in January.