Last weekend, Moto GP opened its 2014 campaign with an absolute barnburner in Qatar (Spoiler). Stateside, NASCAR found yet another new winner this year amidst tire woes (Spoiler) while both K&N Series and ARCA ran their own weekends. On the crapcan end, the 24 Hours of LeMons found new multiple-time winners while the World Racing League’s first weekend brought a reasonably good 26-car field to both weekend endurance races.
This weekend sees a bevy of season-opening action from big-time open-wheel racing to big-time sportscar testing to big-time touring-car racing. Follow the jump to see who’s racing what where this weekend.
IndyCar: St. Petersburg Grand Prix
America’s premiere open-wheel series opens its 2014 season as it always does in St. Petersburg on the mixed circuit that uses both streets and an airport runway. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon will try to defend his 2013 championship, but this will be the first year since 2008 that Dixon won’t drive with Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti, who retired after his massive wreck at Houston last year and will be replaced by veteran Tony Kanaan.
Supporting IndyCar will be all four series of the Road to Indy ladder, but St. Pete will also serve as Pirelli World Challenge’s opener with upwards of 50 entries. With some trouble brewing in the American sportscar endurance camp, the 2014 season—PWC’s 25th season—could be their biggest yet. The Stadium Super Trucks will also hold a gloriously entertaining round.
Website: IndyCar official site. Event website. Weekend schedule.
Supporting Series: Pirelli World Challenge. Stadium Super Trucks. Indy Lights. Pro Mazda. USF2000 (Road to Indy development series site).
Live coverage (U.S.): IndyCar – Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EST on ABC (TV) and SiriusXM Channel 211 (satellite radio); Live timing and streaming radio here. World Challenge – Streaming on World-ChallengeTV.com.
FIA World Endurance Championship: The Prologue (Testing at Paul Ricard)
“This is only testing,” you may be asking, “so why on earth is this listed above Formula One?” The answer is simple: This be the first on-track display for all three factory LMP1 cars: the brand-new Porsche 919, the updated Audi R18, and the just-unveiled Toyota TS040. Rebellion Racing’s LMP1 launch has fallen behind, as they expect to start the year with their old car. That said, Strakka Racing’s new Dome LMP2-class entry will also test at Ricard. GT classes test as well, but most eyes will fall on the new prototypes.
Website: WEC Official site. Circuit Paul Ricard site. Press Release and schedule. Entry List.
Live coverage: Live timing and live streaming for actual race rounds here. It’s unclear if that will include testing.
Formula One: Malaysia Grand Prix (Sepang International Circuit)
Coming off a season opener that was certainly frought with controversy, this could be a huge race for F1 and for its fans. Expect the drama to run season-long in F1 as it so often does. Defending champions Red Bull Racing certainly appear to have gotten off on the wrong foot with a DNF and a disqualified P2, but keep an eye on them as they develop their car throughout the first year of the new ruleset. Fans seem to find the new V6 exhaust note disagreeable, but so long as the racing’s good, people will still watch. And the racing seemed pretty good at Australia.
Website: F1 website. Malaysian Grand Prix site. Full weekend schedule.
Supporting Series: Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. Malaysian Super Series.
Live coverage: F1 – Sunday at 4:00 AM EST on NBC Sports (TV). Live timing here.
British Touring Car Championship: Brands Hatch
The United Kingdom’s top touring-car series kicks off its 2014 campaign on Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit, a small bullring built into a natural bowl. It’s a great spectator venue and always produces some fantastic knock-about racing, particularly when drivers treat equipment like it’s made of Nerf material. It remains a bit crass for a refined motorsports connoisseur to confess to watching BTCC, but if you’ve ever seen a race or two, you know it’s all a grand show.
Website: BTCC website. Brands Hatch site. Weekend schedule.
Supporting Series: Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain. Ginetta GT4 Supercup. Renault UK Clio Cup. Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain.
Live coverage: Live timing, audio, and streaming here.
V8 Supercars: Tasmania 400 (Symmons Plains Raceway)
Speaking of good shows, V8 Supercars make a short over-water jump to race in Tasmania at Symmons Plains, a 1.5-mile circuit in the vein of Lime Rock Park or even Brands Hatch Indy. The circuit features lots of wide-open throttle and passes under braking for the super-tight hairpin, where Jamie Whincup famously hooned his way out of a spin a couple years back. After two race weekends (only one points-scoring one, though), the new V8S Volvos certainly appear strong, although the Red Bull Racing Australia duo of Craig Lowndes and Whincup have looked good in their Holdens.
Website: V8 Supercars site. Symmons Plains Raceway site. Supplemental rules and weekend schedule (PDF).
Supporting Series: Aussie Racing Cars. HQ Holden series.
Live coverage: V8 Superview (Pay service, live streaming). Live timing here.
NASCAR: Martinsville Speedway (Virginia)
And still another good show: NASCAR heads to one of the old-school stock-car circuits, a 1/2-mile oval with relatively long straights and tight corners. Martinsville is chock full of history as the only remaining track from the original 1948 NASCAR schedule. Camping Trucks will run on Saturday for the first time in a month while Nationwide gets a rare weekend off.
Website: NASCAR site. Martinsville site.
Supporting Series: Camping Trucks World Series
Pretty good race names: STP500 (Sprint Cup). Kroger 250 (Camping Trucks)
Live coverage: Sprint Cup – Sunday at 1 p.m. EST on FOX (TV) and MRN (Radio/Streaming). Camping Trucks – Saturday at 2:30 EST on FoxSports1 (TV).
FIA European Rally Championship: Acropolis Rally (Greece)
Yeah, it’s not the World Rally Championship, but the ERC has inherited the Acropolis Rally in Greece, a test along the rocky mountain roads of the Mediterranean country. Former F1 driver Robert Kubica is currently tied for the ERC championship but will not run in Greece while Finnish Skoda driver Esapeka Lappi, who is the other half of that tie, will.
ChumpCar World Series: VIRginia International Raceway
ChumpCar runs the first of two races this year at VIR, a 12-hour race Saturday on the 1.65-mile South Course. The races at VIR tend to draw the cream of Chump’s East Coast crop, so look for some very, very good crapcans to rise to the top of the timing sheet.
European Le Mans Series: Testing at Paul Ricard
This isn’t actually during the weekend, but the ELMS will test at Ricard before the next weekend guide when they run around Ricard next Wednesday and Thursday. The series will feature no LMP1 entries (by design), but there will be plenty of LMP2 cars. Sebastien Loeb Racing will also make its debut, albeit with a rather humdrum Oreca-Nissan; Loeb won’t be piloting the prototype, but his name on the entry list should pique the interest of his substantial French following. Thiriet by TDS Racing will not yet debut their new Ligier LMP2 car but will start the year with a Morgan-Nissan. The huge full-season ELMS entry list should give hope for sportscar fans on the continent.