RejectWatch Recap 2018 – Part 2

2018 certainly proved to be rich pickings for former Formula One Rejects in other motorsport series, given this is the second part of our RejectWatch Recap. To quickly recount who counts as a ‘reject’ for these purposes, we’re including any driver who entered a World Championship round with the intention of taking part in the race who scored two points or fewer in a 10-6-4-3-2-1 system. In terms of drivers in the 2018 season, this includes Charles LeclercStoffel VandoorneMarcus EricssonBrendon Hartley and Sergey Sirotkin. With these ground rules established, let’s continue our journey observing the Reject wildlife in its natural habitat; the racetrack. 

Part 1 of the RejectWatch Recap 2018 can be found here. 

Blancpain GT Series

As we progress our trip through tin-tops and exhaust prototype series, the next logical step is GT racing, and there’s no better place to start than the premier grand touring championship in the motorsport landscape. Or possibly the two premier championships, it’s a touch on the fuzzy side. The GT Series is split between the Sprint Cup and Endurance Cup, both acting as separate championships, while the combined standings also serve as a championship itself.

Last year, it was Will Stevens who flew the reject colours highest in his full-time Sprint Cup campaign for Audi Team WRT with Dries Vanthoor. The pair scored four podiums in ten races, including a victory in Brands Hatch, leaving them fourth in the Sprint standings and Stevens ninth in the full GT standings. Markus Winkelhock competed for Saintéloc in both cups, variously sharing Audis with Christopher Haase, Simon Gachet, Frédéric Vervisch, Marc Rostan and Nyls Stievenart. Aside from fourth place at the 24 Hours of Spa, little success was to be had, although thanks to the drives shared with Stievenart, the pair won the Pro-Am Cup in both the Sprint Cup and wider GT Series.

Markus Winkelhock no doubt thinking of those halcyon days (or day) with Spyker in 2007. (Photo; Craig Robertson)

Markus Winkelhock no doubt thinking of those halcyon days (or day) with Spyker in 2007. (Photo; Craig Robertson)

Another driver to appear at the Spa 24 was Bernd Schneider in the HTP Mercedes co-driven by Kenny Habul, Thomas Jäger and Martin Konrad to 20th position. This left the team third in that race’s Pro-Am standings, enough for 15th place in the Endurance Cup Pro-Am championship.

Winkelhock had more success in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, a loose collection of long-distance GT races in which he was one of the protagonists. He varied his teammates as much as he did in the main Blancpain series, sharing cars with Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor, Christopher Haase, Kelvin van der Linde, Christopher Mies and Frédéric Vervisch. Unlike in 2017, only four cars per manufacturer could be eligible for points, and therefore he, Haase and Vervisch took the points for victory at the Spa 24 Hours despite finishing fourth on the road. Third place in Suzuka and second in Laguna Seca left Markus fourth in the championship.

Aside from Bernd Schneider’s aforementioned participation in Spa, two more rejects appeared in the championship, in both cases at the Bathurst 12 Hours. Pedro Lamy, with perennial teammates Lauda, Dalla Lana and two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Will Davison, finished 14th overall, eighth in class and tenth of nominated GT Challenge entries. In the same class, the Buik Lamborghini Gallardo of Yasser Shahin, Luke Youlden and Tomáš Enge completed 219 laps of Bathurst before retiring from the race.

Meanwhile, Alex Yoong eschewed the Audi R8 LMS Cup following his 2017 title loss and instead focused on Blancpain GT Series Asia, driving for Phoenix Racing Asia. Competing in the GT3 class with Keong Wee Lim, Marchy Lee, André Couto and the brilliantly-named Shaun Thong, his Audi success didn’t follow him. Only a handful of points finishes were there, seventh place in Fuji the best result, and he was only able to secure a paltry 23rd position in the standings, 12th in the Silver category.

24H GT Series

Perhaps discussing the series isn’t accurate, as all the relevant drivers competing in it only bothered with the 24 Hours of Dubai, but it’s symptomatic of the Creventic-run championship’s condition. Despite dozens of drivers regularly appearing for its events, only three drivers, all teammates, competed in each race.

In the January desert it was once again Markus Winkelhock who led the reject charge, taking his Audi to fifth place with Mike David Ortmann, Andreas Weishaupt, Ricardo Feller and Christer Jöns. With teams having permisison to run as many as five drivers in the same car, this provided an opportunity for the evidently-bored Bernd Schneider to take part in the race for two teams at once. In fact, once the first Mercedes he shared with Russell Ward, Bryce Ward, Christian Gebhart and former Sauber man Norberto Fontana had drawn its last rev, he could focus on the other Mercedes he was sharing with Alexander Hrachowina, Indy Dontje, Brice Bosi and Martin Konrad. That car finished a creditable ninth.

On top of Winkelhock, Schneider and Fontana though, we also want to bring up a borderline case. Depending on how close to a bona fide entry you consider Larrousse’s attempt to compete in 1995, you may not think of Christophe Bouchut as a reject. The Frenchman drove a Lamera Cup in the SP2 class with Philippe Marie, Pierre Couasnon and Wilfried Merafina without much to write home about, so why the controversial inclusion for a seemingly minor blip in 2018’s motorsport landscape? The answer will reveal itself in due time.

International GT Open

In the meantime, you’re not having a case of déjà vu, the International GT Open is totally separate from the Intercontinental GT Challenge. This particular series is purely European and occasionally attracts some of grand touring’s finer drivers. In 2017, it was Vitantonio Liuzzi, but last year a much more hallowed name of the reject pantheon arrived: Andrea Montermini.

Wait, is that Andrea Montermini LEADING a race?

Wait, is that Andrea Montermini LEADING a race?

The only man to drive for the holy trinity of Simtek, Pacific and Forti shared a Ferrari 488 with Daniele Di Amato for much of the season, and the RS Racing duo duly took pole in Monza, victory at Paul Ricard and three further podiums. Missing out on the Hungarian round left 54-year-old Andrea to finish the year eighth in the championship.

ADAC GT Masters

2018 was Markus Winkelhock’s third full season in Germany’s premier GT series, and after two rocky attempts, he finally managed to pull together some decent results. Paired with Mike David Ortmann, the Audi driver and noted Grand Prix leader scored his first podium in the championship at the Nürburgring. A string of points finishes followed, securing 14th position in the championship for the pair.

Porsche GT3 Cup Brasil

This series’ most notable reject participant was undoubtedly three-time champion Ricardo Rosset, at least until his recent retirement from racing. No one from the reject ranks has stepped in to take his place just yet, but some names have appeared as co-drivers in the Endurance Series portion of the 2018 season. In the Endurance 4.0 class, Lucas di Grassi finished third in the first Interlagos round with Ricardo Baptista, while Max Papis teamed up with Enzo Elias at Goiânia to finish seventh.

Super GT Series

The shift to national GT championships takes us seamlessly to Japan and its almost notoriously self-contained motorsport culture. The country’s best drivers tend to stick to Super GT and Super Formula, creating deceptively-stacked fields to the untrained eye. Behind the title-winning duo of Jenson Button and superstar Naoki Yamamoto, the top reject was a man who has got his name splashed around this year’s RejectWatch already: Kazuki Nakajima. After skipping the first Fuji race in 2017 and scoring one win to finish sixth in the standings with 47 points, Kazuki skipped the first Fuji race in 2018 and scored one win to finish sixth in the standings with 47 points. The differences between the two seasons boiled down to Kazuki scoring one more podium and swapping James Rossiter as teammate for Yuhi Sekiguchi.

While Nakajima was troubling the front-runners in the lead GT500 class, the GT300 class had another name familiar to aficionados of F1 from the second half of the 00s: Yuji Ide. The Saitama native’s second season in a Bentley with Ryohei Sakaguchi wasn’t a marked improvement on his first, scoring results reminiscent of his all-too-brief F1 foray with Super Aguri. A best result of 13th in Fuji was a far cry from his last win in the series, back in 2010.

Yuji Ide at work. The motorsport world is a richer place with him around.

Yuji Ide at work. The motorsport world is a richer place with him around.

A pairing with similarly lacklustre results was the Team Taisan Audi of Shintaro Kawabata and Shinnosuke Yamada, who were joined for both Fuji rounds by former Prost and Minardi man Shinji Nakano. Only an alternate for the first race, a retirement was all there was to take for Nakano, who enjoyed his second brief return to the series since his only full season in 2004. That doesn’t mean he’s been totally inactive since then, however…

Super Taikyu Series

This championship features eight more-or-less well-represented classes ranging from GT machinery to touring cars of various performance levels. The TCR class was Shinji Nakano’s main stomping ground in 2018, as it had been in 2017. Sharing a Honda Civic Type R with Tadao Uematsu, Hiroki Otsu and Takashi Kobayashi all year, Shinji took three class victories in six rounds to secure the title he’d so narrowly missed the previous year.

In the ST-3 class, it was Naoki Hattori who represented the reject colours in a Toyota Mark X shared with Shigekazu Wakisaka and Takayuki Hiranuma. The team regularly finished well, including three podiums and a class win in Fuji, leaving them third in the title race just 10.5 points behind the title-winning Lexus.

Finally, in the most powerful ST-X class, the Blancpain Asia duo of Alex Yoong and Shaun Thong partook in the first four races, joined by Alex Au. The team was set back by disqualification from the first two rounds, but eventually finished third at Autopolis.

Super Formula

Very much the open-wheel equivalent of Super GT, the series formerly known as Formula Nippon and Japanese F3000 has recently become an unconventional stepping stone for GP2 champions without a free space to start off in F1, as seen by the experiences of Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly. Other luminaries now plying their trade in the series include Jordan and HRT stalwart Narain Karthikeyan and Kamui Kobayashi, as well as 2012 and 2014 champion Kazuki Nakajima. Evidently Kazuki focused on his other commitments last year, as only a single podium in Sugo kept him in sixth place by the end of his least successful year in the category.

World Touring Car Cup

The series counter-intuitively known as WTCR took its first steps in 2018 after the ailing WTCC switched to TCR regulations, rendering the TCR International Series redundant. The split between the two series had diluted the talent pool somewhat, leaving the door open for the elder statesmen of touring car racing to carry on in force. Four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller challenged for the title all year long, but thanks to five race wins, it was Hyundai driver Gabriele Tarquini who came out the victor. The man whose F1 portfolio includes stints at Osella, Coloni, AGS and Fondmetal could add another title to his British, European and World Touring Car Championship trophies. At a sprightly 56 years old, Gabriele also smashed the record for oldest FIA champion, an accolade previously held by, erm, a 47 year old Gabriele Tarquini in 2009…

The absolute boy Tarquini. You;d probably get good odds on him still doing this in 2028. (Photo: WTCR)

The absolute boy , GabrieleTarquini. You’d probably get good odds on him still doing this in 2028. (Photo: WTCR)

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters

After his stint with Sauber failed to produce the desired results, Pascal Wehrlein was left in the lurch in 2018. Through his Mercedes ties, he returned to the championship he’d won in 2015. Three years on, he was a regular presence in the points and scored a podium at the Lausitzring to finish the season in eighth place.

This probably isn't the Silver Arrows Pascal was hoping to drive in 2018. (Photo: Tamara Aller)

This probably isn’t the Silver Arrows Pascal was hoping to drive in 2018. (Photo: Tamara Aller)

That said, the real story of the 2018 DTM season was the return to the cockpit of Alessandro Zanardi in a specially-modified BMW at the Zandvoort round. As a guest driver, Zanardi wasn’t eligible for points, and indeed neither Sébastien Ogier nor Mattias Ekström finished in the top ten in their guest outings last year. The situation was different for the Paralympic gold medallist, who finished the second race in a fifth position he didn’t believe himself, notably ahead of Wehrlein! Another notch in a remarkable career for the Italian, who will soon compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Stock Car Brasil

While we’re on the subject of national silhouette series, it’s time to delve into the old stomping grounds of the since-retired Ingo Hoffmann. A hallowed refuge for the South American contingent, the 2018 season featured more than just rejects as the likes of Rubens Barrichello, Ricardo Zonta and Nelson Piquet, Jr. all completed quasi-full seasons. Joining them for the entire ride was Lucas di Grassi between all his other commitments. When he wasn’t excelling in Formula E, the Manor refugee scored victories at Curitiba, Londrina and Cascavel though a lack of other podiums relegated him to 12th in the standings. At the very least he did better than Antônio Pizzonia, who only finished in the top ten thrice with a best result of fifth in Curitiba.

Besides this, the opening round at Interlagos attracted some international talent and less regular local drivers as wildcards in the endurance race. In the reject department, this included most prominently Jérôme d’Ambrosio, who finished 11th with Atila Abreu, but also the returns of Tarso Marques (22nd with Fernando Croce) and Luciano Burti (retired with Diego Nunes).

Copa Truck

Truck racing has historically – Slim Borgudd excepted – not been a refuge for the former Grand Prix driver. This is still true, as there were no full-time entries by such drivers in the second season of Brazil’s new truck racing championship. However, when Felipe Giaffone took a leave of absence from the RM Competições Volkswagen at Interlagos, it was Luciano Burti who was hired to fill his place. The erstwhile Prost driver had no trouble filling the racing boots of the former Indy Racing League race winner, finishing the two races third and second and scoring fastest lap in the second for good measure.

Turismo Carretera and co.

Argentina’s 81 year-old touring car championship is motorsport’s long-lost great-grandfather: seldom discussed and little-known by most, but ultimately gave birth to someone very important in the family history. In this metaphor, the important baby is Juan Manuel Fangio, but in 2018 the level of F1 drivers is rather tamer. As in previous years, Norberto Fontana and Gastón Mazzacane competed in the series as an ex-F1 duo since Esteban Tuero’s retirement. Similarly to 2017, Mazzacane was by far the more competitive of the two, scoring a podium at the season opener in Viedma. A series of strong finishes put him ninth in time for the play-offs, but a drop in form relegated him to 15th by season’s end.

Mazzacane aptly demonstrates Turisimo Carretera's approach to liveries: pretty much March at Montreal 1992 on steroids.

Mazzacane aptly demonstrates Turisimo Carretera’s approach to liveries: pretty much March circa Montreal 1992 on steroids.

At least he’d done better than Fontana who, barring fourth place in Uruguay, rarely troubled the top ten. Nonetheless, he was regular enough to finish the year 18th, a feat he did not achieve in his handful of outings in the rival Turismo Nacional championship. Racing in the C3 class, he struggled to even finish races and ended up with a fat goose-egg where his points tally should be.

Mazzacane fared better in TC Mouras, a lower-level championship which features a separate championship for guest drivers. Gastón competed in each round with Daniel Nefa, scoring one podium and earning eighth in the final standings. Better yet, he also competed in the inaugural season of TC Pick Up, a new five-race championship dedicated to pick-up trucks. Driving a Volkswagen Amarok against his usual Turismo Carretera competition, he won one race, enough to secure the title on countback against Omar Martínez.

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

If you’ll recall the slight ramble from the 24H Series section, this series is the precise reason we decided to count Christophe Bouchut as a reject this year. 2018 was the Larrousse almost-driver’s fourth year in NASCAR’s European off-shoot and didn’t yield significantly better results than hi past attempts. Bouchut himself had a quiet year with only a single top five finish in Brands Hatch, enough to finish 21st in a field that at times included NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte, Footwork and Dallara hero Alex Caffi, sportscar legend Marc Goossens, Max Verstappen’s uncle Anthony Kumpen and former road cycling World Champion Tom Boonen.

 Part 3 of the RejectWatch Recap 2018 can be found here