TouringCarTimes’ Top 30 drivers of 2017: 10 to 1
We have reached the final rundown of TouringCarTimes’ staff view of the Top 30 touring car drivers in 2017. We have over the past week gone through who we think are the best drivers from the BTCC, DTM, STCC, Supercars, TCR and WTCC championships this year.
Special mention – Tiago Monteiro
The Portuguese driver isn’t present on our list as we don’t include those who don’t complete the full season, although we’ve never had a partial season programme for the reasons here. Monteiro left the championship while leading the standings, and most certainly could have been the champion had he continued his form into the last four rounds. It’s his bravery in the way he’s tackling his season-ending injuries, sustained in a horrific crash at the Barcelona circuit in September however which is perhaps more noteworthy than his championship performance.
10 – Jean-Karl Vernay (TCR – Leopard Racing Team – 1 win)
Vernay dethroned former team-mate Stefano Comini for the 2017 TCR International Series title with a consistent season in the WRT Volkswagen, with just one victory in what was for the most part, one of the closest championships of the season. It wasnt until the final two rounds, when his two main rivals faded away at tracks where Vernay had the right car for the situation, that the championship easily fell into the Frenchman’s hands, wrapping it up with a race to space in Dubai. A character building season which will serve him well should he make the transition to the new WTCR for 2018.
9 – Nicky Catsburg (WTCC – Polestar Cyan Racing – 1 win)
Dutchman Nicky Catsburg showed he had the speed to be the champion throughout the year, but in such a close season, his championship faded in the end and Volvo rallied their drivers in support of Thed Bjork. Leaving Germany with the championship lead after a sensational victory on the Nordschleife, things should have been on the up, but a double-DNF in Argentina with a pair of punctures can ultimately be where his championship charge’s end can be pinpointed.
8 – René Rast (DTM – Team Rosberg – 3 wins)
René Rast won his first DTM title in his first complete DTM season. The German drove a committed race to take his first win at the Hungaroring and was relentless throughout the season, not fading against the opposition of more experienced drivers from his own team and manufacturer Audi. He was a regular points scorer but also qualified regularly at the front, both key parts to his success.
7 – Ash Sutton (BTCC – Team BMR – 6 wins)
A stunning second season saw Ash Sutton BTCC crowned champion – something that looked unlikely when he failed to even score on the opening weekend of the year. His pace in the Subaru Levorg was clear to see at Donington Park but it was from Oulton onwards after TOCA looked at the boost of the Mountune engined cars that Sutton really came on song. Okay so there was grumbling in the paddock about the performance of his car, but Sutton still had to get the job done on track and put in some fine drives – such as Oulton Park and Croft – en-route to the title.
6 – Colin Turkington (BTCC – West Surrey Racing – 4 wins)
Colin Turkington would have been a worthy BTCC champion had he managed to overhaul Ash Sutton on Finals Day but as it was, had to settle for second place. Although he didn’t win as many races as the eventual champion, or take as many podiums, Turkington knuckled down hard and came close to the crown despite being up against arguably the quickest car on the grid. It’s that performance in the face of adversity that just gives him the edge in our countdown, although it was so close that either driver could have ended up ahead of the other.
5 – Esteban Guerrieri (WTCC – Team JAS – 3 wins)
Guerrieri had an exceptional first full season in the WTCC, and leaves some to wonder might have been if he had not been in a factory car all season. Starting the year in the undeveloped Chevrolet, he won first time out in Morocco, briefly putting an Argentinian back on the top of the standings after three years of domiation by José María López. The results kept coming in with the privateer Chevrolet, with another victory in the rain in China seeing him genuinely take the threat for the independents’ championship to the three Citröens, however they were rescued when Honda snapped him up as Tiago Monteiro’s replacement. He still went to the final round as an outside contender for the championship, taking pole position and the main race victory comfortably in Qatar, book-ending a terrific season.
4 – Thed Björk (WTCC – Polestar Cyan Racing – 2 wins)
The Swede had a terrific second season in the WTCC, lifting the championship with a performance of absolute consistency, taking advantage of where his Volvo team-mates and the Honda team faltered. The champion taking the title with just two victories highlights how close the season was, and the four-time STCC drivers’ champion withstood the pressure from Honda, and some tough battles, particularly with Honda’s late-season signing Esteban Guerrieri, to keep collecting the points and delivering the result that Volvo had promised themselves at the start of the year.
3 – Jamie Whincup (Supercars – Triple Eight – 4 wins)
Jamie Whincup is a machine, clinching his seventh Supercars title after what was certainly not his best season, but still good enough to come out on top. Scott McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske were stronger this year but lacked consistency compared to the very successful pairing of Whincup and Triple Eight. There is no doubt that they need to improve for next season in order to stay on top.
2 – Scott McLaughlin (Supercars – DJR Team Penske – 8 wins)
Hollywood could not have scripted the 2017 Supercars championship finale where Scott McLaughlin looked set to score his maiden title after an impressive season with Ford team DJR Team Penske. But a series of mistakes in the very last race where he only needed to finish eleventh handed the title to main rival Jamie Whincup. And those mistakes dropped him from the top of our list as well. There is no doubt though that McLaughlin was the fastest driver in the 2017 Supercars and that he will become champion very soon.
1 – Norbert Michelisz (WTCC – Team JAS – 3 wins)
At the top of our list for 2017 is Hungarian superstar Norbert Michelisz. It was a close call between the Honda driver and Supercars hotshot McLaughlin, but the incredible challenges which Michelisz overcame this year is was clinched it for us. Thrown into the lead driver position after his team-mate’s horrific accident, Michelisz had already been rebuilding his championship after a tough start and closed down on Volvo race-after-race. Although the title went to Thed Björk, Michelisz could have been champion were it not mistakes that his team made late in the season, with three pole positions and three main race victories.
TouringCarTimes driver of the year – Hall of fame
2007 – Mattias Ekström
2008 – Yvan Muller
2009 – Colin Turkington
2010 – Jason Plato
2011 – Rob Huff
2012 – Gordon Shedden
2013 – Jamie Whincup
2014 – José María López
2015 – José María López/Mark Winterbottom
2016 – Shane van Gisbergen
2017 – Norbert Michelisz