Trying to compare this year’s best performing race and rally drivers isn’t an easy task. How, for example, does one gauge a bloke who’s shone in a two litre touring car against the F1 elite and sportscar aces?
Well I’ve tried my best and made an attempt to try and work it all out. So what follows is a list of drivers who have suitably impressed me this year. Well, the top ten at the very least. So here goes…
10. Jean-Eric Vergne – 1st British Formula 3
Jean-Eric Vergne dominated this year’s British F3 championship with 13 wins. The next three in the drivers’ standings took only 10 between them…
The Frenchman was a simply a class apart in 2010. He was out of the traps like a greyhound scoring a brilliant double win at Oulton Park, which was followed by a couple of below par performances at Silverstone and Magny-Cours. But, having received a stern warning from his boss, Vergne stepped up a gear and completely dominated the rest of the season.
Lack of competition? 13 wins, 11 poles, 13 fastest laps and 20 podiums – you can’t really take anything away from Vergne being consistently good at his trade, and if anything it was up to his rivals to improve and work hard to try and catch him.
One of the most dominant campaigns in British F3 history. He’s destined for bigger and better things.
9. Will Power – 2nd IndyCar Series
Will Power had a brilliant start to the season with two wins straight off the bat at Sao Paulo and St Petersburg, and from there he dominated as far as street courses were concerned.
Sure enough, he would bag five victories on road courses this year, along with a record eight poles, but his oval results fell short of expectation.
But forget the whole ‘he can’t win on ovals’ nonsense as the Aussie racer is still on a learning curve, and if he’s this good in his first full-time season in IndyCars, imagine how good he’s going to get.
8. Dario Franchitti – 1st IndyCar Series
A third IndyCar crown, to go with his second Indianapolis 500 victory, sees Franchitti joining the Indy greats with worthy comparisons to his hero Jim Clark.
His lack of mistakes brought him the championship this year.
“His strength is he never pushes the limit,” rival Will Power suggested. “He’s always just hanging there, especially if his car’s not good, but you know he’ll move up with a couple of stops. He wasn’t unbelievably quick or particularly dominant on the ovals, he was just there all the time. He’s very consistent and, coupled with his lack of mistakes, that’s what won him the championship.”
Calmness personified, few would bet against Franchitti taking on the mighty Penske-Power combination next year and coming out trumps again.
7. Sebastien Loeb – 1st WRC
Another year, another title – brilliant again.
Granted he didn’t win as many rallies this year (eight) as 2005, but what Loeb did do was score points in all 13 rounds and clinched his seventh title with relative ease.
He also delivered perhaps the finest single-day performance in the history of the WRC on the final morning in New Zealand, chasing an impossible result, trying to win from almost two minutes down.
Fast and utterly infallible, Loeb came insanely close to staging one of the greatest comebacks ever. The deserving win eventually went to Jari-Matti Latvala, but what it did show us is that Loeb still has the fire in his belly to pull something amazing out of the bag whenever he feels like it.
Still firmly at the top of the WRC tree. Still the WRC benchmark.
6. Jimmie Johnson – 1st NASCAR Sprint Car
The unbelievable reign of Jimmie Johnson continued this year when the Hendrick Motorsports driver won his fifth consecutive Sprint Car Series title.
His accomplishment now puts him third in the all-time list behind only Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, each of whom captured seven titles in their renowned careers.
Unlike Johnson’s four previous crowns, this year’s effort was perhaps even more impressive because he had to do it in come-from-behind fashion.
He trailed Denny Hamilin by 15 points heading into the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale, but in an impressive performance was able to eradicate that defecit and claim the title to become only the third driver in NASCAR history to come from behind in the last race of the year to win the championship.
That’s your lot for today. I’ll leave you all on tenterhooks until tomorrow when I’ll reveal my top five drivers of the year. Just who will be crowned numero uno?