March marks the traditional start of the motorsport calendar. Here’s a list of major domestic and international races that are scheduled for this month.
Formula E - Mexico City ePrix (March 3)
The Mexico City ePrix is the only Formula E race on the calendar which takes places at a permanent racetrack - a shortened version of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which also hosts the annual Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix.
Naturally, Indian motorsport fans will have their eyes on Mahindra Racing following a highly-successful start to the 2017/18 Formula E season. Mahindra currently sits second in the teams’ standings with two wins in four races - both coming courtesy of Felix Rosenqvist.
While the Indian manufacturer has started the season on a high note, it will have to keep up with increased competition from rival outfits in the upcoming races.
Defending teams’ champion Renault has showed improved pace in the last few races, while Audi is also expected to get on top of issues that have hampered its star driver Lucas di Grassi.
Techeetah, too, is likely to be a serious title challenger despite its customer status. In fact, the French outfit currently leads the teams’ standings following Jean-Eric Vergne’s victory in Santiago.
Asia Road Racing Championship - Buriram (March 2-4)
The 2018 season of Asia Road Racing Championship will kick start on the weekend of March 2-4 at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit.
Once again India will have a representation on the grid with Rajiv Sethu and Anish Shetty competing in the Asia Production 250cc class for the Honda India-backed Ten10 outfit.
While former Honda one-make champion Shetty will be a rookie in ARRC, it will be the second season for Sethu in the AP250 category.
Both Shetty and Sethu would be aiming to score points, despite a 25-strong grid.
World Rally Championship - Rally of Mexico (March 8-11)
Apart from holding a Formula E race, Mexico will also host a round of the World Rally Championship in March.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville heads to Mexico, the first gravel rally of the year, as the points leader following his victory in Sweden
However, he must remain vary of five-time champion Sebastien Ogier, who won in Monte Carlo but finished a distant 10th in Sweden.
Mexico will also mark the WRC return of nine-time title winner Sebastien Loeb, who will pilot a Citroen C3 in place of Craig Breen. The Frenchman retired from the sport at the end of 2012 but has made several sporadic appearances since then, most recently at the 2015 Rally of Monaco.
Formula E - Punta del Este ePrix (March 17)
The Punta del Este ePrix will be the second Formula E race to take place in the month of March.
The Uruguayan round has returned on the FE calendar after a one-season hiatus as a replacement for the Sao Paulo race.
Renault’s Sebastien Buemi has never been beaten at Punta del Este, having won both the 2014 and 2015 edition of the event.
MotoGP - Qatar Grand Prix (March 16-18)
The Losail International Circuit in Qatar will be the venue of choice for the 2018 MotoGP season opener, as has been the case for the past few years.
If pre-season is anything to go by, Marc Marquez and Honda will be the combination to beat at the start of the year. Honda has been consistently the fastest team in pre-season testing, while Marquez seems better than ever.
To the contrary, Yamaha and its rider pairing Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales are in for a difficult race.
After a trying 2017 season, many would have hoped Yamaha to bounce back strongly this year. However, until the Japanese manufacturer gets on top of electronic issues that plagued its pre-season run, Rossi and Vinales are unlikely to feature on the podium again.
Ducati is again expected to step into the place occupied by Yamaha until 2016 - that of Honda’s main rival in the duopoly at the front of the MotoGP grid. Andrea Dovizioso would have matured a lot following his title challenge last year, although Jorge Lorenzo has stated that he’s still not comfortable with the 2018 Desmosedici GP.
Desert Storm (March 17-23)
The Desert Storm will be the only major event to take place on Indian soil this month. One of India’s three fabled cross-country rallies, the 2018 edition of Desert Storm will run from March 17-23.
Maruti Suzuki factory driver Suresh Rana will be the favourite in the cars category again, but the competition will be far more open in the bikes class.
Both Hero and TVS will have manufacturer presence, with the former fielding CS Santosh and the latter’s seven-bike assault led by Joan Pedrero. Aravind KP is not expected to take part in the rally due to the injury he sustained in Dakar in January.
Formula 1 - Australian Grand Prix (March 22-25)
As has become the tradition, the new Formula 1 season will begin in Australia at the Albert Park Circuit.
Known for its unique and challenging layout, the Melbourne venue provides little idea about the pecking order - leaving it till the second or the third race for a clear picture to emerge.
With the first pre-season test severely affected by low temperatures and snowfall, it’s difficult to predict who will be on the front of the grid when the season begins.
One can expect Mercedes to be there or thereabouts, having made significant gains over the winter with its long-wheelbase W09.
Ferrari is also expected to be a strong challenger after a change of philosophy during the off-season, although question marks remain over Red Bull’s pace after its engine supplier Renault revealed that it will be turning down its power unit in Melbourne to focus on reliability.
Renault’s decision is also expected to affect McLaren, which has ditched Honda for a supply of the French manufacturer’s power units.