What Tänak’s signing tees up is a salivating duel with precocious 22-year-old new world champion Kalle Rovanperä, who came of age in astonishing style for Toyota Gazoo Racing last term. Without Tänak’s presence and with Sébastien Ogier still refusing to commit to a full season in the WRC, fears were all too obvious that Rovanperä might be unchallenged on his way to a second crown. Thierry Neuville leading the line at Hyundai and a bruised Elfyn Evans, who failed to win a round last year, might still have something to say about that – and let’s hope they do. But Tänak looks the best hope for challenging the young master. The Estonian is demanding, as top-liners tend to be. But Wilson, team principal Richard Millener and the rest of the M-Sport crew must be rubbing their hands at the prospect. It all kicks off this month, on the Monte on January 19-22.
Formula E: everything’s riding on Gen3
Ahead of the Monte, Formula E’s new Gen3 era kicks off in Mexico City on January 14. More power, greater regen, smaller cars and fast charging (when the tech is ready) will shake up the electric-powered series, which remains an acquired taste. A new cast featuring fresh manufacturer interest from the likes of McLaren, Maserati and Cupra makes up for the loss of double champions Mercedes, while the reshuffled pack of drivers still offers a world-class grid – arguably the strongest below F1. Are you among the sceptics? Now would be a fine time to give Formula E another chance.
Goodwood’s anniversary promise
Closer to home, it’s a big year for Goodwood: the 75th anniversary of the Motor Circuit opening in 1948; 30 years of the Festival of Speed; and a silver jubilee for the Revival. The 80th Members’ Meeting kicks off the trio of Sussex motor racing highlights on April 15/16, featuring a celebration of the GT1 era – gaining deserved recognition as great relatively recent history – along with the return of pioneering pre-war behemoths racing in the S.F. Edge Trophy, the renamed Gordon Spice Trophy for saloon cars and the one-make Lotus Cortina bash for the Jim Clark Trophy. The Festival of Speed follows on July 13-16 and the Revival on September 8-10.
While Goodwood continues to set the standard for the best in motor racing entertainment, another key date for your diary must be the Silverstone Festival, formerly known as The Classic. The world’s largest historic race meeting is sticking with its new August bank holiday slot (August 25-27) and while Silverstone lacks the old-world charm and natural style of Goodwood, its event’s scale and breadth of historic racing remains unrivalled.
F1’s new initiative for women racers
We’re also intrigued to see what happens next for women in motor sport. W Series hit the financial skids last year, but insists the dream remains alive for this season. Meanwhile, Formula 1 has taken direct action to ensure young women with ambition and talent have somewhere to race, whatever the future for the privately funded W Series. Whether the so-called F1 Academy helps or hinders Catherine Bond Muir’s valiant attempts to keep her vision going is debatable. But she’s certainly lost her unique selling point status.