WHAT has already been confirmed and what can we expect for 2017? We detail everything we know ahead of another exciting year for the world of motorsport.
The Dakar 2017, run from January 2-14, starts for the first time in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion before heading into Bolivia and Argentina. Bikes 2016 winner and Aussie Toby Price is back to defend his 2016 triumph.
World Endurance Championship
Having announced its withdrawal from sports car racing earlier in 2016, Audi will now concentrate its motor sporting activities on electric power in the FIA Formula E Championship, a kind of dramatic-looking, faster golf carts and a way more affordable campaign than WEC and Le Mans.
Porsche will remain in sports car racing to defend its successes at Le Mans and also the WEC where Neel Jani/Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas are drivers’ champions.
For 2017 it will be Porsche versus Toyota at the pointy LMP1 prototype end of the grid.
Bathurst 12 Hour
Boosted by the similar growth of Tony Quinn’s trans-Tasman Australian GT Championship, the Bathurst 12 Hour for 2017 has attracted a circa 60-car international entry laden with exotica – four Bentley Continentals, seven Audi R8 LMSs, five Mercedes-Benz/AMG, two BMW Team SRM M6 GT3s, four Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s, four new Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, plus Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren.
The 15 brands include teams from Germany, England, Switzerland, Hong Kong, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
The quality of drivers matches the cars. International Timo Glock, Marco Wittmann, Patrick Long and new WEC champ Marc Lieb have already been locked in with many more to be confirmed. Stars from the Australia Supercars championship include Jamie Whincup, new champion van Gisbergen (who has abandoned McLaren and Tekno to drive a Mercedes), Craig Lowndes, Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert.
Maro Engel will bolster an already imposing crew after being confirmed to drive the Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour from February 3-5.
As previously reported, Shane van Gisbergen vacates his McLaren factory role in 2017 for the STM Mercedes alongside Craig Baird.
Along with securing Engel, STM recently received confirmation that it will be embraced as a fully supported AMG factory team at the 12 Hour.
World Rally Championship
While VW has certainly disappeared as a factory team, back for 2017 are automotive giants Citroen and Toyota with dramatic new-look challengers boasting extra power, less weight, bigger rear wings and more noise – all designed to improve the roadside action for fans.
Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre joins veteran Kris Meeke to spearhead Citroen's full-tilt return to the WRC in the aggressive-looking C3. Meeke will drive in all events, with Breen and Lefebvre alternating in a second car until the team elects to run a third C3 WRC mid-season.
Spearheading the Yaris campaign in 2017 will be experienced Jari-Matti Latvala, formerly with VW, and Juho Hanninen, who has been handling much of the testing for Toyota ahead of the Japanese manufacturer’s return after a 16-year absence.
After first testing a Toyota Yaris WRC and then the new Ford Fiesta, free agent four-times world champ Ogier settled on the M-Sport drive for 2017. Ogier will lead the M-Sport team with Estonian, Ott Tänak, the campaign starting at Ralleye Monte Carlo in January.
But the possibility of a private VW Polo entry in the 2017 WRC continues to bubble away. The cars have been already developed by the same people who have swept aside all opposition for four years.
Volkswagen Group motorsport boss Wolfgang Durheimer says a priority is to get the Polos back into the WRC with the help of private backing. The bottom line is that VW doesn’t intend to be spending a dime on rallying any more.
Durheimer explained that VW Motorsport’s technical expertise is available for anyone with the budget. His aim is to see Polos on the startline at the Monte Carlo event in January, and then tackling the whole WRC.
All of that is conjecture, but certainly a possibility.
The MotoGP grid in 2017 will look quite different, with Lorenzo accept huge money to try to help Ducati break its drought and win another world championship. Joining Valentino Rossi at Yamaha is talented Maverick Vinales, who also claimed a maiden GP win in 2016 (with Suzuki). Edged out of Ducati to make way for Lorenzo, Italian Andrea Iannone has re-emerged at Suzuki.
All of which makes for a potentially compelling season ahead.