When was the last time three Canadian racing drivers were all in the running at the same time for major international awards and championships.
Well, not quite at the same time – but almost.
This weekend coming, on the Spanish Grand Prix track at Barcelona, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto will try to win his first European formula car championship when two races making up Round 9 of the World Series by Renault are held.
Wickens, official reserve driver for the Marussia-Virgin F1 team who finished second in the European Formula 2 Series two years ago and second last year in GP3, holds a two-point lead, 216 to 214, over his teammate at Carlin Motorsports, Jean Eric Vergne of France.
Wickens, 22, who won the Formula BMW-USA championship before going on to Formula Atlantic and then European racing, has won four races and been on the podium nine times this season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series that saw both Robert Kubica and Sebastien Vettel graduate directly to Formula One.
"If things go well, I’ll win the championship and if they don’t, I’ll finish second," Wickens said in a release earlier this week. "It’s really an all or nothing weekend but I believe Saturday will be the key. If we have a strong showing, then it’ll help make Sunday a little bit easier.
"We just have to wait and see what happens. I like the circuit, it’s one of my favorites and I’ve run well there in the past. Carlin do a great job, we’ve had a quick car all season long and I’m hoping we can maintain our form and lead from the front."
Race 1 will be held Saturday morning at 8 a.m., our time. Good luck, Robert.
Now, a week from this weekend, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville will be racing to win the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year title when the green flag drops on the season finale.
If successful – he leads American J.R. Hildebrand by 302 points to 296 – Hinchcliffe would be the fifth Canadian to win the prestigious title. Billy Foster (1965), John Jones (1988), Jacques Villneueve (1994) and Patrick Carpentier (1997) were our previous top rookies.
But "Hinch," who missed the first race of the season while still negotiating his sponsorship, has his work cut out for him. The largest field of the year – 34 cars, one more than the Indianapolis 500 – is scheduled to take the green flag at Las Vegas, which will make for a crowded race track.
There were 29 cars on the speedway at Kentucky last weekend. Additional entries for Vegas include Canadian hope Paul Tracy in one of Jay Penske's Dragon Racing cars, Tomas Scheckter in a second Sarah Fisher Racing entry (her No. 1 driver, Ed Carpenter, won that race in Kentucky so Scheckter has a good car), Jay Howard in a second Rahal-Letterman car to partner Pippa Mann, Alex Tagliani in a cobbled together Brian Herta/Sam Schmidt car (Tag was kicked out of his ride to let Dan Wheldon run a "warmup race" for his $5 million Vegas challenge) and Davey Hamilton in a Dreyer & Reinbold car. Actually, I think this race could be Davey’s swan song.
Said Hinchcliffe, in a release: "Certainly it's nice to go into the last race of the year a little bit up (in points), but at the end of the day there is still a lot that can happen. Obviously, I would rather be ahead than behind but there is still another 300 mile race to get through."
We’ll be watching, Hinch. And cheering you on.
Finally, last weekend in Spain, Canadian Bruno Spengler of St.-Hippolyte, Que., lost – again – the German Touring Car Series (DTM) championship. That’s the third time in seven years that Spengler's finished second and it appears a championship is not in the cards so long as he continues to drive for Mercedes.
Although he would never admit it, Spengler was screwed around by Mercedes much of the time he drove for that team. Unlike several other young drivers (Paul di Resta, for example), he was never given an F1 test (in fact, at Montreal several years ago, with Spengler within earshot, Mercedes boss Norbert Haug told Canadian reporters that "Bruno isn’t interested in Formula One,") and the team never seemed to go out of its way to give him a hand up when he needed one.
There are suggestions that Spengler will drive for BMW when the marque enters DTM competition next season. Let’s hope so, because – in many ways – Bruno Spengler's too good for Mercedes.
So, there you have it. Three racers, three weekends, three championships/awards.
Making Canadians proud.