Back in May we published a piece entitled “RejectWatch 2017“, in which we completed a census of Formula One rejects still active in other series. It’s time to have another gander at the newfound land these drivers discovered in their respective series in 2017.
As a brief reminder a reject is defined as an F1 driver who, assuming a 10-6-4-3-2-1 points system, has scored no more than two points in his F1 career. This year Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll escaped the ranks of rejectdom , leaving behind them Stoffel Vandoorne, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson, Pierre Gasly, Antonio Giovinazzi and Brendon Hartley.
TCR International Series
Gabriele Tarquini spent the best part of 2017 away from competition, helping develop the new Hyundai i30 TCR. The car was green-lit in time for the final two rounds of the premier TCR championship in China and Dubai. Tarquini and teammate Alain Menu were deemed ineligible for points, but this didn’t stop Gabriele from winning the very first race and recording two more top ten finishes in the other three.
World Touring Car Championship
In the last year of WTCC before its merger with TCR, 2009 champion Gabriele Tarquini made a return to Honda to replace Tiago Monteiro in China. However, non-compliant fuel injectors resulted in the works team being excluded from the results. Gabriele was then unceremoniously replaced by Esteban Guerrieri.
Audi Sport TT Cup
It may seem odd to include a DTM feeder series without mentioning DTM itself, but while the main championship has no active rejects the Audi Sport TT Cup occasionally features some as guest drivers.
In between driver coaching and mentoring commitments, notorious Twitter troublemaker Giedo van der Garde made a guest appearance at Zandvoort. He finished the two races in seventh and twelfth. Ayrton Senna’s first teammate Johnny Cecotto did the same at the Nürburgring after over ten years away from competition, recording seventh place in the second race.
At the end of the season, Audi also held an invitational Race of Legends in Hockenheim for notable drivers from its history including Le Mans winners Emanuele Pirro, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Tom Kristensen, but also rejects like Lucas di Grassi and Minardi and Simtek driver emeritus Jean-Marc Gounon, who had retired a few years earlier. The race was won by Frank Stippler, with di Grassi second and Gounon a respectable sixth.
Stock Car Brasil
Antônio Pizzonia‘s season didn’t get to the best of starts, attracting criticism for a stupid accident at Velopark in the second round. His season improved with a second in Santa Cruz, and while four more top ten finishes followed, the man they call “Jungle Boy” could not find the rostrum again. Pizzonia has been average at best since he took up the series in 2007, and 16th overall was par for the course.
Argentine touring cars
Argentina’s long-running Turismo Carretera has no shortage of drivers, and two of Argentina’s three most recent F1 drivers still ply their trade there. Former Minardi man Gastón Mazzacane finished the season in a well-deserved fifth overall, by far the best result for the Chevrolet aficionado since his 2009 début.
Former series champion Norberto Fontana had a tougher season, struggling to string results together. A single podium left him in 19th, possibly hampered by his concurrent schedule in the lower-tier Turismo Nacional. This was Fontana’s first season in the championship, and much like in Turismo Carretera he only scored one podium and scraped into the top 20.
To cap his season, Norberto also entered the 200km of Buenos Aires endurance event in the rival Super TC 2000 series with Gabriel Ponce de León. Fontana, a two-time Super TC 2000 champion, finished the race eighth.
Stadiums and Rallies and Ice, oh my!
As mentioned in the May article, many other drivers have turned to irregular appearances in far more niche segments of the motorsport landscape.
Few events are more eclectic than the Race of Champions, held this year at Marlins Park in Miami. Of the 20 drivers participating, two of them were F1 rejects; Scott Speed and Alexander Rossi. Driving for Team USA Rally X and Team USA IndyCar respectively, Rossi defeated Speed in a pre-qualifying playoff, only to be knocked out in the group stages. In the Nations Cup, Team Rally X were knocked out in the group stages, while Team IndyCar reached the semifinals, only to be sent home by Team NASCAR. Pascal Wehrlein also took part, but a scary accident left him sidelined for months, leading to Antonio Giovinazzi‘s Formula One début.
Early in 2017, Karun Chandhok and Steve Tandy decided to ply their trade in the British LMP3 Championship’s Donington round. Driving a T-Sport Ligier, the pair finished third and fourth in the two races.
Organised as a standalone event since 2012 and previously won by the likes of Gianmaria Bruni and Bernd Schneider, the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi attracted two rejects from their usual gigs this year. Jan Lammers drove the Target Racing Lamborghini with Karim Al Azhari and Sarun Sereethoranakul, while Norberto Fontana drove a Porsche 911 with Lucas Colombo Russell and Esteban Gini. Competing in the GTX-1 and GTX-2 classes respectively, both drivers won their class.
Shinji Nakano made an appearance in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia in the Suzuka round. Without much pressure, he finished both races in the top ten.
When he’s not racing Corvettes in IMSA, Jan Magnussen returns to his native Denmark to compete in the Thundersport Championship, which he won in 2012. Jan won seven races, the most of any driver and increasing his career total to 28. However, Lasse Sørensen was more consistent and attended all rounds, pipping Jan to the title.
Though he has largely ceased his racing activities, newly-hired IndyCar steward Max Papis found the time to compete in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Watkins Glen in August. Having not driven in NASCAR since 2013, the road course specialist failed to finish.
Erstwhile ATS and Surtees driver Michael Bleekemolen has been regularly racing Renault touring cars since 1983, and remains successful to this day. In 2017, he turned up to four rounds of the Central Europe Clio Cup, recording five top ten finishes. He also entered the Pau round of the French championship to no success.
Aside from this, Bleekemolen entered the Spa round of the Benelux-based GT & Prototype Challenge, promptly finishing second in the second race. Noted Spa specialist Eric van de Poele also took part, failing to finish either of his only races of the year.
The Nürburgring 24 Hours remains a low-key yet prestigious event open to over 200 cars. This year, the GT class and race were won by the Audi of Connor de Phillippi, Christopher Mies, Kelvin van der Linde and Markus Winkelhock, who took his second win in the race. Defending race winner Bernd Schneider also competed but disappointingly finished outside the top ten.
The Nürburgring-only VLN series attracts much the same entrants at the 24 hours, and this year Winkelhock scored two podiums including a win in October. Schneider had no such joy, finishing well down the order in his only entry, while Will Stevens appeared twice with equally little success.
The Endurance Series division of the Brazilian Porsche GT3 Cup attracts various international drivers. This year, it tempted 12-time Stock Car Brasil champion and former Fittipaldi driver Ingo Hoffmann back to the cockpit, co-driving with Felipe Nasr in Mogi Guaçu. Despite little recent experience in the series, the duo finished a commendable fourth.
Making cameos in local single-make series, EuroBrun stalwart Oscar Larrauri appeared at the Buenos Aires round of the Argentine Fiat Abarth Punto series, while David Brabham turned up to the Bathurst round of the Australian Toyota 86 Racing Series. Both drivers walked away with top ten finishes.
Mid-70s Ensign and BRM driver Mike Wilds recently returned to full-time racing in the Britcar Endurance Championship after a brief time out. This year, he and Dino Zamparelli entered the first two rounds, and promptly won the first race. This matched Wilds’ 2016 form, when he also won a race with his son Anthony.
Historic racing remains fertile ground for older drivers to stay active long after their careers in new machinery in a more relaxed environment. 76-year-old Le Mans legend Derek Bell competed in the odd Goodwood race, as did presenter of Gears (both Top and Fifth) Tiff Needell, while Martin Donnelly retired from an old GT race in Brands Hatch.
The Global RallyCross Championship has recently boiled down to battles between Tanner Foust and Scott Speed, and 2017 was no exception. Foust won five races to teammate Speed’s four, but it was consistency that propelled Speed to a third consecutive title.
Going further off road, noted rally dabbler Stéphane Sarrazin added the Tour de Corse to Formula E and WEC to his portfolio this year. Making his first World Rally Championship appearance since 2015 and second since 2006, Sarrazin finished ninth to maintain his habit of scoring points in tarmac events.
Finally, we close with the driving instructor, TV commentator, car reviewer, management consultant, urban marketer, event organiser, drone pilot and DJ to the masses: Franck Lagorce. The man with his fingers stuck in the most diverse of arrays of pies has competed in the ice racing Andros Trophy for over ten years, recording 20 race wins and consistent points. At the time of writing, he is fifth in the 2017-18 championship thanks to a dominant win at L’Alpe-d’Huez.
It may be tempting to consider a driver’s career to end the moment they step away from Formula 1. If you take anything away from this piece, let it be that this is not true. In any cases, a driver’s career out of F1 may very well be far more interesting than their career within it.