The exploits of unsuccessful Formula One pilots tackling other parts of the motorsport world has been so vast and reaching, we’ve needed a third article to wrap up our RejectWatch Recap 2018! Once again, 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 Leclerc, Stoffel Vandoorne, Marcus Ericsson, Brendon Hartley and Sergey Sirotkin. With these ground rules established, let’s conclude our journey into the hallowed regions of Rejectdom.
World Rally Championship
For those of you who’ve closely followed this series, you’ll remember that not only does Stéphane Sarrazin indulge in endurance racing and Formula E, he also enjoys a bit of rallying. The Frenchman who pirouetted out of the 1999 Brazilian Grand Prix entered his own Hyundai i20 R5 for the Monte Carlo Rally, where he briefly reached 11th place overall and second in the RC2 class before crashing out in the seventh stage.
The utterly insane blast through the Mexican peninsula must be seen to be believed. Short of the Dakar or Jean-Louis Schlesser’s cross-country rally raids, this is as close as it gets to flat-out racing on open roads. While many top drivers have tried this gruelling event at least once, last year it was up to Alexander Rossi to uphold the reject honour, describing the event as “something new, something different”. Indeed IndyCar generally doesn’t present the danger of local drivers driving the wrong way up the course behind a blind crest, but that’s what Rossi faced a short time after the start, just barely avoiding contact with an oblivious SUV.
Despite the obvious need for a code brown, Rossi and teammate Jeff Proctor soldiered on and finished second in their class.
Americas Rallycross Championship
When the Global Rallycross Championship folded early in 2018, it seemed that defending triple champion Scott Speed would have to return to getting banned from various online sim racing services. This wasn’t counting on the creation of a new US-based series designed to act as a feeder to the FIA’s World Rallycross Championship. The series pulled an impressive array of big names for its first season, such as Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Timo Scheider and Jacques Villeneuve, but the attention was turned to the title battle between teammates and perennial rivals Speed and Tanner Foust. Both finished all four rounds on the podium with two wins each, but crucially one of Foust’s was a third place. This ensured that the Californian with the rapid surname secured a rallycross title for the fourth year running by five points.
Dutch Winter Endurance Series
Information is hard to find regarding this series, but it consists of a varied assortment of cars entered into three endurance races during the Winter. This type of club racing is common and allows the more enthusiastic drivers to keep their skills honed over the off-season. In this case though, it’s provided a holiday occupation for Michael Bleekemolen. The 69-year-old who drove for Surtees and ATS in the late 1970s has won the series several times in the past and still shares cars with his sons Jeroen and Sebastian. In 2018 he won his class in the New Year’s race in Zandvoort, but also finished second in the Zandvoort 500 in November to start the 2018-19 series.
Renault Clio Cup Central Europe
Obviously Michael Bleekemolen needed something to do for the rest of the year, and like the last several years he spent it racing in the long-standing Renault series based in Germany, the Netherlands, Czechia, Austria and France. His greatest accomplishment this season was as a team boss, as his son Sebastian took four wins and the series title while his other teammate Melvin de Groot won the Gentlemen’s Trophy. Michael himself finished in the top ten four times to take 20th place in the championship, fourth in the Gentlemen’s Trophy.
Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain
One of the many championships on the ToCA tour propping up the British Touring Car Championship, this series brings together an eclectic mix of potential future BTCC drivers, former single-seater hopefuls and gentlemen drivers. The point of interest for the purpose of this article is firmly in the third case, as mid-70s Ensign driver and Jesus Christ lookalike Mike Wilds replaced Sam Brabham at Redline Racing for the season-closing Brands Hatch round. At a sprightly 72 years of age, Wilds finished the two races in 14th and 18th places, which was nonetheless enough to outclass Brabham in the season’s ProAm standings.
When we left off last year, Franck Lagorce had won the ice racing trophy’s Alpe d’Huez round. Unfortunately he couldn’t convert that form into further wins in early 2018, but several podiums kept him fifth in the championship just behind Le Mans winner Benoît Tréluyer. The 2018-19 season has started much the same way for the Ligier man with victory in the first super-final in Andorra, putting him third in the Elite Pro standings. Unlike last season, Franck had some reject company in the paddock courtesy of the resurgent driver with a similar name: Franck Montagny. The Super Aguri temp competed in the Électrique class at Val Thorens upon the expiration of his two-year ban for a positive drugs test, and finished both the qualifier and final in the top five.
Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring
Better know under the initialism VLN, this mouthful of a series is essentially another club championship consisting of nine endurance races around the Nordschleife. Though it may be nominally a club series, it remains well-attended by big-name teams and drivers. In 2018, four F1 rejects took to the track though only André Lotterer did so twice, first with Mike David Ortmann then Lars Kern. Markus Winkelhock and Nico Müller finished second in the opening race of the season, in which Gabriele Tarquini, Kim Jaekyun and Nicola Larini came third in the TCR class. The fourth was Bernd Schneider, who won the SP8T class in the second round with Patrick Simon, Christian Gebhardt and the fabulously-dubbed Jethro Bovingdon.
24 Hours of the Nürburgring
This brings us nicely to the endurance race unattached to any larger championship. The sheer length of the combined Grand Prix and Nordschleife circuit allows for an ungodly amount of entries, and this year three F1 rejects were present. You may recognise their names from their many previous appearances in this article: Markus Winkelhock, André Lotterer and Bernd Schneider.
The first of those three – rather un-shockingly driving an Audi – competed with Christopher Haase, Nico Müller and Mike Rockenfeller and finished 12th. Lotterer’s team, featuring Jörg Bergmeister, Michael Christensen and Matteo Cairoli, came home 21st while Schneider was just behind, though winning his class with Simon, Gebhardt and Bovingdon.
Gulf 12 Hours
Another endurance race without a wider series involved, the December event held at Yas Marina attracted a comparatively small grid of 33 cars. The Audi team of Dimitri Parhofer, Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock led a significant portion of the race, but ultimately had to give up the lead and settle for second place, 27 seconds off the winning Ferrari entered by the late Loris Kessel’s namesake outfit.
Despite appearances, the writer did not fall asleep on his keyboard. This single race is another standalone endurance event held at the Shanghai International Circuit over a distance of 888km to maximise the presence of the number 8, considered lucky in China. In time, the race organisers hope to establish it as one of the premier races of the calendar, but it the meantime it attracted regulars from series such as TCR Asia, Blancpain GT Series Asia and the Audi R8 LMS Cup.
One of the drivers in that last series who entered an Audi R8 LMS in the GT4 category was Andrew Haryanto, who may not be related to Rio Haryanto but certainly decided to share the car together as well as with fellow Indonesian Anderson Tanoto. After a long battle with the TCR Volkswagen of Luca Engstler, Theo Coicaud and Diego Moran, the trio ultimately finished the race fourth overall and first in the GT4 class.
Danish Thundersport Championship
This awesomely-named stock car series is Jan Magnussen’s destination of choice when the former Stewart man isn’t too busy racing Stateside. This year’s schedule permitted him to compete in 14 races, in which he scored six podiums and two race victories. Unfortunately for him, the season was 21 races long and he was relegated to tenth place by the end of the year.
Danish Supertourisme Turbo
Am I seeing double? Four Danish tin-top championships? No, this series is a direct competitor to the Thundersport Championship set up five years ago and featuring cars closer to DTM spec. You might expect Magnussen to come into play right about now, but instead this championship was the scene of the long-awaited part-time return to racing of Nicolas Kiesa, Denmark’s last F1 driver before Kevin Magnussen. Sadly for the man who replaced the late Justin Wilson at Minardi, results were hard to come by in the eight races he started. The one exception was that fateful May Sunday at Djursland in which Kiesa heroically took home the win that left him 20th in the final standings.
All this Danish content has led here. While many drivers have long abandoned true competitive racing in new machinery, some of them still hold on to the racing spirit by appearing in more relaxed meetings behind the wheel of cars of yesteryear.
On the more serious end of this you have full-on championships dedicated to racing this older machinery hard, such as the FJHRA / HSCC Silverline UK Championship, dedicated to Formula Junior machines from around 1960. Aside from former Belgian Prime Minister and current Brexit-bothering MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the 2018 season also featured two brief appearances from Jac Nellemann, the Dane best known for his failure to qualify for the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix. The former RAM driver turned up to the Donington and Cadwell Park rounds, without much success to be had.
The Le Mans Classic is held every even-numbered year and brings together many past heroes of the 24 Heures. Last year’s edition gathered former winners like former team boss Gérard Larrousse, aristocratic Porsche man Gijs van Lennep, 1980s Jaguar driver Jan Lammers and five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell, but also some less successful names from left field such as Paul Belmondo, Franck Lagorce and the long-awaited return to the race track of Giovanni Lavaggi.
There were of course other drivers turning up in lesser events of their own: Eric van de Poele raced in the Historic 6 Hours of Spa in a Ford GT40, Fifth Gear presenter Tiff Needell turned up at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting early in the year and Karl Oppitzhauser, would-be teammate of reject legend Otto Stuppacher, competed in various Ferrari-only events in his native Austria.
The list doesn’t end there, countless more drivers turned up to one meeting or another to drive classic cars. In alphabetical order, the likes of Paolo Barilla, Olivier Beretta, David Brabham, Gianfranco Brancatelli, Tommy Byrne, Johnny Cecotto, Karun Chandhok, Martin Donnelly, Vic Elford, George Follmer, Patrick Friesacher (between Red Bull demo runs), Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Michel Leclère, André Lotterer, David Piper, Dieter Quester, Bobby Rahal, Alan Rollinson, Ian Scheckter, Bernd Schneider (again?), Vern Schuppan, Bruno Senna, Gabriele Tarquini, Stoffel Vandoorne, Jo Vonlanthen and Joachim Winkelhock, though undoubtedly more did so without much fanfare.
Motorsport is hard to leave behind. Even when a driver hangs up their helmet in favour of a regular day job, many of them can still be found at a race track over the weekend. Some of them go into driver coaching like Vitantonio Liuzzi, who remains partial to the odd go-karting race. If this relaxed competition doesn’t quite get their adrenaline flowing, they turn to something more intense, perhaps none more so than Alessandro Zanardi, who broke the Ironman disabled world record by over half an hour from the previous best set by… himself two years earlier. It shouldn’t be surprising to see names like Winkelhock and Schneider pop up all over the map. After all, once you catch the racing bug and devote part of your life to competition…
…why would you stop?