The Who’s Who of the NEC

There are a lot of drivers in the 2012 Formula Renault NEC. This is partly due to the influx of British drivers following the cancellation of the Formula Renault UK Championship: Manor, Fortec and Mark Burdett have all made the switch. But with almost 40 drivers set to race in Hockenheim, how can you know who to pay attention to?

To save you the trouble, I have researched all 38 drivers listed on the NEC website, and have narrowed them down to fifteen. There may also be others who surprise during the year, and some of these may not take part in every race.

5 – Pieter Schothorst (NED) – Josef Kaufmann Racing
In a part season of the NEC, he picked up one second place finish. He has fantastic results prior to 2011, and his website is well worth checking out. His less-experienced brother is also taking part in the NEC, for Manor MP, so there should be some good rivalry on track.

6- Alex Riberas (ESP) – Josef Kaufmann Racing
Last year Alex finished 6th in the Eurocup. The Spaniard will primarily be focusing on that championship, but that is unlikely to hinder his NEC performance too much!

7 – Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) – Josef Kaufmann Racing
After finishing third in the NEC last season, he is a certain contender for the championship. Look out for him in the Eurocup as well!

8 – David Freiburghaus (SUI) – SL Formula Racing
Not one of the main contenders, but he was third in Formula Lista Junior, and was rookie champion. He should do well once he gets used to the cars. His teammate is 69-year-old American Bob Siska.

11 – Jeroen Slaghekke (NED) – Van Amersfoort Racing
The 2011 British Formula Ford championship was dominated by Scott Malvern, but Jeroen Slaghekke did well and after a close battle finished second overall. Like Freiburghaus, he should do well once he gets used to the cars.

14 – Leopold Ringbom (FIN) – Position One Motorsport
He will either do well or badly. His website is impressive and full of boasts about his ability. He was Asia Formula Renault Challenge Champion last year, but Asian championships are not known for their brilliance. Now, he must face Europe’s drivers – a much bigger challenge.

26 – Nyck de Vries (NED) – R Ace GP
Having been World Karting champion two years in a row, it’s time for Nyck to step up into single seaters. It’s a tough ask, but if the transition goes well then a 2013 championship is definitely on the cards.

27 – Pierre Gasly (FRA) – R Ace GP
Third last season in French F4, he’s got some ability but now needs to prove it in Europe. Unfortunately, his teammate (see below) beat him in French F4, so it will be a tough challenge.

28 – Andrea Pizzitola (AUT) – R Ace GP
One of two drivers to beat Pierre Gasly, Andrea Pizzitola ought to beat the Frenchman again this year. He is also making the step up. None of the R Ace GP drivers are likely to be championship challengers in 2012, but perhaps 2013?

32 – Jordan King (GBR) – Manor MP Motorsport
Of course I would never miss Jordan King from this list! Impressive in the TRS, and consistently quick, his joint season with the Eurocup should give him the experience he needs to be a championship challenger. He shone in his part-season last year, outclassing FRUK teammate Josh Hill and taking four podiums to finish tenth overall.

38 – Dennis Wusthoff (GER) – Daltec
2nd in Formula Lista Junior last season, he steps up to the NEC and should be able to challenge in the second half of the season.

40 – Kevin Giovesi (ITA) – Daltec
Seventh in Italian F3 doesn’t sound like much, but Kevin achieved two wins over the season. He’ll be a challenger but probably not a champion.

44 – Christof von Grunigen (SUI) – Daltec
Last year in a limited NEC season he picked up several good results and should be able to get victories in 2012.

55 – Josh Hill (GBR) – Fortec
The son and grandson of world champions, Josh needs to do well. He has had rather too many retirements for his own liking, but did very well in the TRS this year and ought to be a championship challenger.

You should also keep an eye out for Corinna Kamper, who took a win and a pole position in Formula Lista Junior last season. She finished sixth overall. Steijn Schothorst is Pieter’s brother, and was 4th in Formula Ford Benelux in 2011. Yu Kanamaru and Ignazio d’Agosto are both coming out of good karting careers. Jake Dennis was Intersteps champion with Fortec in his first year of racing.

The first round begins this weekend in Germany, at Hockenheim.

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