ESM Awards

EngageSportMode Awards 2016 | Part One

In many respects – like politics or celebrity deaths – 2016 was a challenging year. But, in the automotive world, things were far better. With the infamous hypothetical ‘macaroni and glitter’ trophies at the ready, these are the things which stood out the most in the last twelve months.


No, it doesn’t matter that it’s already 2017. We always like to make sure the previous year is well and truly finished before hammering down our judgements. Here, in part one, we cover the cars from 2016 which are most deserving of our collective glory.

Best Car Driven in 2016 – BMW M2BMW M2 ESM 2016 Awards

Trying to narrow down the best thing driven in a year to just one single car is often a tough challenge. However, for 2016, this was pretty easy. We waited all day to try it at the SMMT Test Day in May, but it was completely worth it to get a shot at driving the BMW M2.

With a punchy engine, perfectly balanced chassis, and dimensions suited perfectly to Millbrook’s twisty Alpine circuit it was hard not to be immediately seduced. Whilst 365hp might seem fairly timid in the current horsepower wars, it gives the opportunity to exploit everything the M2 has to offer without feeling the need to hold back.

Like any good performance car it was possible to feel immediately connected with the M2, yet there’s still sufficient depth to know that spending longer with it would never prove to be boring. The seven-speed DCT dual-clutch gearbox is brutally effective at changing cogs, especially in Sport mode, even if purists might argue that the manual ‘box is the one to buy.

Add to this a – relatively – affordable starting price of just over £44,000, vaguely sensible running costs, and a compact size, it makes the M2 easy to justify as the single best car driven in 2016. Testing the M240i also demonstrated just how good the basic package beneath the M2 is, but also just how much more it adds to the equation.

Congratulations, BMW. The M2 was, unquestionably, the best car driven by ESM in 2016.

Honourable mentions – Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC, Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW M240i


EngageSportMode Awards 2015 – Part Two

The Awards for 2015 continues. No, we still don’t care that it’s now 2016, so just sit back and read which people and things caught our attention over the preceding twelve months. If you need it, you can find part one here.

2015 Awards p2

Person of the year – Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 2015

You don’t need EngageSportMode to tell you that Formula 1 in 2015 was a pretty dire affair. Whether it was the comically tragic debacle of McLaren-Honda, the constant money worries for Lotus, or Lewis Hamilton wrapping up the title virtually unchallenged, there was little to be positive about. Apart from one young Dutchman in his debut season. Yes, Max Verstappen was by far and away our highlight of F1 in 2015.

Having a father like Jos Verstappen clearly helps, and it meant the rookie Toro Rosso driver wasn’t flung blind into the F1 arena. He topped the list of most overtakes in a season, making some quite astounding manoeuvres to pass 49 cars in total. For comparison, the driver average was just 26.8 passes. His only major mistake came at Monaco when he tangled with Romain Grosjean, but rare is the young driver who manages perfection throughout an entire season.

At ESM we hope Max manages to maintain the same momentum in 2016, as he clearly has a huge amount of raw talent. Whilst saying he is a potential championship winner might be a little too hasty, with his youth and the correct management, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it one day. Providing the Red Bull driver programme doesn’t spit him out the other end with no seat, as has happened to others before.

(C) Ferrari Media

We also had to tip our hat to a previous winner of this award: Sebastian Vettel. Having suffered a torrid 2014 at Red Bull, the four-time World Champion joined Ferrari and instantly seemed revitalised. Taking three wins and a host of other podium finishes, he outshone teammate Kimi Räikkönen substantially, whilst also looking to be actually enjoying himself again.

Honourable mention – Sebastian Vettel

BTCC Driver of the year – Matt Neal (chosen by ESM’s BTCC Correspondent)
BTCC 2015 Snetterton

ESM’s BTCC driver of the year is, once again, not an easy decision or clear-cut. There were many stand-out drives over the season that caught the eye, but consistency was naturally the key. Drivers deserving a place on the shortlist include Josh Cook, with a staggering 22 JST wins out of 30, and Tom Ingram. Both had outright podiums of their own including a brace of seconds for Ingram. Despite their final championship standing only being 2 places apart, Ingram scored significantly more points so you would favour him as ‘young gun’ of the year, although he doesn’t claim driver of the year. (more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2015 – Part One

You know the drill. At the end of each year EngageSportMode likes to dish out hypothetical trophies made from macaroni and glitter. This year is no exception, other than 2015 featured a lot more new metal to be driven. 

2015 Awards p1

Does it matter that we’re already into 2016? No, of course not. Sticking with our tried and tested formula, part one picks out which cars were most deserving of an ESM award over the last twelve months.

Best overall car driven in 2015 – SEAT Leon Cupra ST
2015 SEAT Leon ST Cupra 280 001

This was tough. Seriously mind-bendingly tough. Having sampled so many great cars during 2015, trying to narrow it down to one was incredibly difficult. So why does the Leon Cupra ST win? For the simple reason that out of everything driven in the past year, it was the one which could fill the “all the car you’ll ever need” cliché with ease. That was our verdict after experiencing it at the SMMT Test Day earlier in the year.

For starters, it’s an estate with a huge boot capable of holding some 587 litres with the seats up, swelling to 1,470 litres with them down. That’s a lot of room for all the lifestyle paraphernalia you might need to carry around with you. But, in the same breath, it’ll also hit 62 mph from a standing start in 6.1 seconds and power all the way to a 155 mph top speed. That’s kind of a big deal.

There are a host of options to fiddle around with through the Driver Profile settings – include a sport mode, of course – and the 276 bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine makes a great noise when fully wound up. When you add 258 lb-ft of torque available from low down the rev range, sharp brakes, and accurate steering into the mix the Cupra ST becomes a convincing all-round package. Not to mention the fact it’s the fastest production estate car around the Nurburgring-Nordschleife, and can come in an ESM-pleasing black/orange colour combination.

That you get all the above for under £30k just cements the Cupra ST as the best thing we drove all year. Well done SEAT for proving that 2015 wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Volkswagen Group.

Honourable mentions – Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Megané Renaultsport 275 Trophy

Best concept – Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo
2015 Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo

Concept cars are meant to be crazy. They’re meant to give glimpses of the future, whilst also letting the minds of designers run wild. It’s safe to say Bugatti easily fulfilled that brief with this creation at the Frankfurt Motor Show. With influences from a variety of the French marque’s greatest hits, and a substantial amount of carbon fibre and wings, the Vision Gran Turismo looked rather amazing. (more…)

Vote for EngageSportMode in the AA Cars Auto Blog Awards 2015!

Click the above to vote.

Yes, it turns out EngageSportMode has been nominated for yet another award. It means we need your help, too.

EngageSportMode has been nominated in the ‘Rising Stars’ category of the AA Cars Auto Blog Awards 2015. This category features blogs that have “recently come to prominence and continue to go from strength to strength” in comparison to some of the older websites out there. We’re quite happy with being classed as a rising star, but we’re up against some strong competition.

So, we need your help. You can vote – right here by clicking this link – and by sharing it with others. Voting closes on Friday 19th June, so there’s just over two weeks. You don’t even have to register – bonus!

We’re very pleased to be nominated but, with your help, we could perhaps go one step further. Whatever happens, we massively appreciate any and all support for ESM!

EngageSportMode Awards 2014 – Part Two

If you’ve read part one of our 2014 Awards, you’ll be ready for part two. This instalment concentrates on motorsport and media, compared to the purely mechanical slant of the first instalment. So, providing you’ve appropriately recovered from New Year’s Eve, here we go.

2014 Awards Two

There’s another five awards to be dished out, so without any further delay, here’s the first one:

Man of the yearDr Gary Hartstein

040650100_1205414607In the past we’ve honoured motorsport world champions with this award. However, Dr Hartstein is more than a racing driver. For those of you unsure of his biography, Dr Hartstein served as the FIA Medical Delegate for the Formula 1 World Championship. He was also the man who rode alongside the late, great, Professor Sid Watkins in the F1 medical car for a number of years.

What makes Gary Hartstein our man of the year is quite simple. Over the past 12 months his experiences from both the F1 world, and as a Clinical Professor of Anaesthesia and Emergency Medicine, have led to him producing one of the most outstandingly knowledgeable blogs, period. In the wake of Michael Schumacher’s horrific skiing accident a year ago, Dr Hartstein was the one person able to give an objective and realistic analysis of the situation, on someone he knew personally. There was no sensationalist scaremongering; here were the clear facts, no matter how unpalatable they may have been.

Once again, following Jules Bianchi’s crash during the Japanese Grand Prix, Dr Hartstein was again the one voice better qualified than any to explain what was happening and, ultimately, what might happen. Quite frankly, there has been no one else in the past 12 months who deserves recognition more than him. The fact the FIA seemingly have an issue with what he has to say only further strengthens his message, and, ultimately the power of blogging. It’s just a shame we only seek his counsel in times of tragedy rather than joy. (more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2014 – Part One

With the clock running down on 2014, it’s time for EngageSportMode to bring you our annual awards. Who has performed well enough to earn a coveted macaroni and glitter trophy this year? Part one focuses on road cars, whilst part two will include motorsport and media. Let’s get down to business:

2014 Awards One

2014 seemed to be the year when the global car industry got back on its feet after several years of struggling with the economic meltdown. The result was many new cars which ticked a substantial number of boxes for ESM. But which ones were good enough to pick up an award?

Best Car Driven in 2014 – Audi S1


2014 Audi S1 Sportback Quattro 001Sharing a badge with one of the greatest Group B rally cars to have turned a wheel meant the S1 would always have a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Audi has managed to endow it with enough DNA of its illustrious forbearer to live up to the name and prove itself to be a superb car in its own right.

When we reviewed the Sportback version of the S1 in September, we were blown away by the ferocious intensity with which it was able to cover ground at pace. A rorty, torque-laden, 2.0 litre turbocharged engine, mated to a decidedly old-skool six-speed manual gearbox and unstickable quattro drivetrain make for an effective combination. Real hot-hatch performance – 0-62 mph in 5.8 seconds – in a small package makes the S1 feel even more extreme than the figures would have you believe. The sound it makes in ‘Dynamic’ mode is also hugely addictive, and creates the impression of very un-Audi like fun being had.


EngageSportMode is in the 2015 UK Blog Awards

image001It’s been a busy year for, so what better time to enter the UK Blog Awards? We’re not saying you have to vote for EngageSportMode in the Automotive category, but we’d be pretty happy if you did!

However, if you really do want to vote for EngageSportMode, the link you need is right here:

If you need some extra persuasion, here’s just some of the things we’ve done in the last year:

So if those eleven don’t convince you to vote for, we’re not sure what else will. But, if you’ve enjoyed any of the above – or other posts on ESM – please do consider giving us your vote.

EngageSportMode Awards 2013 Edition – Part Two

If you’ve read Part One of the EngageSportMode Awards you’ll be ready for Part Two. Well, here it is. Whilst the first instalment concentrated on the metal that made us take notice in 2013, this section concentrates on the people who we feel deserve recognition from their efforts in the last year. 


Man of the YearSebastian Vettel and Sébastien Ogier

Sebastian Vettel F1 2013 WDC 001

Motorsport in 2013 was dominated by a tale of two Sebastians (or variations thereof) with both of the top FIA titles going to such named people.

Vettel stamped his name in the Formula 1 history books with an exceptionally crushing Championship drive, breaking and rewriting various records on the way. His run of nine straight victories from Belgium to Brazil cemented his position as one of the greatest drivers ever.

Detractors will point to the “Multi 21” incident in Malaysia, which saw Vettel disobey team orders to pass Mark Webber for the lead of the race, as a smear on his character. The tension in the Red Bull garage festered all season from thereon, and was only alleviated by the announcement that Webber would be leaving to race sportscars for Porsche in 2014. Such an overwhelming display of dominance by Vettel led some to question whether his success was making the sport boring, with some fans turning to booing him on the podium in later races. (more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2013 Edition – Part One

Along with train fare increases and post-Christmas depression, January is also the customary time for EngageSportMode to dish out the infamous macaroni and glitter trophies to our favourite cars and people. Part one covers all things mechanical, whilst part two will cover the human side of things.


2013 was a big year for many things, some good, some bad. But as EngageSportMode has grown in size and readership, so has the number of trophies to dish out. We’re now sat on a metaphorical stack of 12, so let’s get the ceremony under way:

Best Car Driven in 2013Ford Focus ST Mountune Estate

Ford Focus ST Estate Mountune 000

The Focus ST Mountune could also qualify for a number of other awards, if we had them, such as best bright-yellow estate car and silliest induction noise. But, instead, it takes the top gong for being just so damn good when we drove it back in August. (more…)

2012 EngageSportMode Awards (Part Two)

After part one of the 2012 EngageSportMode awards, here is the imaginatively titled “part two” with a distinctly motorsport flavour:

 Man of the Year

I realise there will be some screaming “fix” when I reveal that Sebastian Vettel is EngageSportMode’s Man of the Year for 2012. But putting aside my Red Bull bias for a few minutes, who else could I realistically have picked from the automotive/motorsport world?

(Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

Red Bull did not have the quickest car this season. As a result Vettel had to fight for this year’s title much harder than in 2011, when it became a veritable stroll to the finish line. By comparison, 2012 asked Vettel to use every ounce of his race-craft, and put in efforts like those in Abu Dhabi and Brazil that needed him to fight through the pack.

Almost as important as the title itself was the fact Sebastian was able to silence those who said he wasn’t a “real racer” and only won by virtue of having the fastest car. 2012 proved those who doubted him wrong.

Away from the circuit, Vettel also impressed ESM with his highly amusing performance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, ripping up Lord March’s front lawn in the eponymous Vettel Edition Infiniti FX. Whereas drivers like Hamilton were getting engaged in Twitter “drama”, the young German had his fun by left his talking to the track.

 A worthy triple-champion, and a very worth ESM Man of the Year.

Twitterer of the Year

If you’re reading this and not following ESM on Twitter, then shame on you! Add @EngageSportMode straight away, then come back and read the rest of this.

 There were a number of contenders that I could have picked from to take this award. Many of them are other bloggers, such as Mr Keith Jones (@keithwrjones), Rich Gooding (@polodrivercom), or Amber Maren Johnson (@AmberMaren). All of them purveying excellent automotive writing to the internet.

But then, there is Taki Inoue (@takiinoue).  If you need any explanation as to why his tweets have been the best in 2012, try taking a look at this ESM post for a start.

Whilst he’ll admit himself to not being a particularly great F1 driver, as a twitter pundit he is in a league of his own. With insight, knowledge, and a devil-may-care attitude to what he says (just ask Kamui Kobayashi about the greasy stick), Taki brings some great entertainment to the often serious world of Formula 1.

Senna’s Favourite Grand Prix of 2012

If you read ESM’s canine F1 correspondent’s review of the Hungarian Grand Prix, you should know that the Eastern European round has a “cat in our back garden’s” chance of winning this award. Quite frankly, there was no competition. It had to be Brazil that the whippet picked as the greatest Grand Prix of this season, if not many more seasons past.

Not only was there the hype of a championship-decider at the final round, the weather and the lacklustre qualifying, but Vettel’s incident on the first lap changed the entire dynamic of the race. I cannot remember a Grand Prix producing so many emotional highs and lows as Brazil did for the ESM team members that watched it together.

That opening lap, with Vettel’s damaged RB8 rolling backwards, was a true heart-in-mouth moment. Right there, in that instance, it looked like the title was Alonso’s. But SV’s epic recovery drive meant the Spaniard would not be the one taking a third World Championship.

Aside from the drama of the title decider, action and more action unfolded on every lap of the race.  With the Hamilton/Hülkenberg battle at the front, cars sliding and spinning everywhere and the contest for 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship going to the wire, it was a truly epic race.

Looking back, 2012 was an excellent year to be involved in watching and writing about motorsport. ESM strongly hopes 2013 will prove to be just as exciting, and the team will be looking to bring you news and opinion throughout.