During 2004, there was considerable upheaval at Hazelton, the publishers of Autocourse since at least 1979 (which is far back as my collection of Autocourse annuals goes) which, as I understand it, meant the 2004 edition very nearly didn't get published. As it transpired, the 2004 annual did make it to the shelves, and Crash Media Group (CMG) took over publishing duties from Hazelton for 2005 and beyond. At the time of the takeover, CMG, who were aware that they were picking up probably the longest running of all the motorsport annuals, and promised the loyal readership of Autocourse (and its sister publications Rallycourse and Motocourse) that the standards of Autocourse would return to what it had been. Autocourse over the last 10 years or so (some readers would say 15 or 20) has slipped somewhat in its attempts to be more commercial, with a trend towards increasing the pictorial content with fluff tabloidy photographs and layouts and less focus on editorial content.
This pledge of CMG to its readeship is immediately obvious at a glance at the dustjacket of the 2005 Annual. Gone is the horrible montage of photographs making up the 2004 cover, and back is the traditional single large photograph of the winning Driver's Champion adorning the dust jacket, in this case Fernando Alonso in his Renault R25. What is also apparent is the increased content, which is illustrated by the page count of the 2005 annual, which stands at 336 pages, compared to the 248 pages of the 2004 edition. The increase is in both F1 content, and the other forms of motorsport traditionally reviewed in the annual.
Gordon Kirby does his usual roundup of the US motorsport scene, and Simon Arron sums up the GP2 season, which replaced the old F3000 series. There is a layout discussing the other new motorsport series attracting a lot attention at the moment, A1GP. Sportscars, GT, Touring cars, and the main F3 series also gets a look in. David Hayhoe compiles the section of the annual devoted to the major results - note the bulk of the A1GP season hadn't been run at time of publication, so only results the first few race meetings of this series are included.
In terms of F1 content, the traditional Editor's (which is still Alan Henry) Top 10 is still present, ranking the best drivers of the year. One change I would like to see in this area is a return to the attractive black & white photography that was introduced in 1994 for a number of years to illustrate the top 10 drivers. Another point to note in relation to the photography is that the photographs seem much more driver/car orientated than in the past (less "tabloidy"), and the layouts are less cluttered. The team by team reviews for some teams seem a little lengthier than in the past, although it is difficult to tell with the font sizes. The race by race reports are noticeably lengthier than in the past. The USGP report, perhaps fittingly so, covering the fiasco of the 2005 race is the shortest report, but isn't afraid to be critical of pretty much all parties who couldn't reach a compromise to ensure a full field for the race.
So all in all, while much is the same as in previous years, this year's Autocourse is an improvement, with increased content to keep those who read every word happy, great photographs for the visualists, and the return to the single shot of the Driver's Champion for the dustjacket for the traditionalists. Hopefully CMG will continue and build on the progress they have made with this year's annual over past editions of Autocourse.