Motorsport UK Virtual Night of Champions celebrates British motorsport success

Monday 22 February 2021

On Sunday evening (21 February), Motorsport UK hosted its first virtual Night of Champions to celebrate the 2020 season – a year like no other. Traditionally, the awards ceremony is held at the Royal Automobile Club in London, but this year the prize-giving was beamed to homes across the UK on Facebook and YouTube, with this virtual edition bringing the entire motorsport community together for the first time.

Hosted by Steve Rider from Motorsport UK’s new headquarters at Bicester Motion, the virtual Night of Champions celebrated the breadth of the sport, with recognition of the British titles as well as specific awards to honour the Herculean efforts of volunteers on the motorsport frontline.

The Club of the Year award was presented to the Bugatti Owners’ Club, which manages Prescott Speed Hillclimb and kept its community together throughout 2020 with a variety of COVID-19 safety initiatives. Keeping people going through lockdown has been an important part of the last 12 months and Larne Motor Club’s Jonathan Miller earned Community Supporter of the Year for his tireless fund-raising, while Organising Team of the Year went to the team from Eastwood and District Motor Club for the Harold Palin Memorial Stage Rally. Volunteer of the Year is BRTDA Rallycross Championship coordinator Jordine Crooks.

Young media representatives were also celebrated, Alex Kalinauckas winning Young Journalist of the Year, while Jack Clayden won Young Photographer of the Year. One of the highlights of the evening, was the reveal of the BWRDC Lord Wakefield Trophy winner. Awarded virtually by M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson OBE, the honour went to Chair of the Association of North East and Cumbria Car Clubs, Ronnie Sandham, who plays a key part in all aspects of rallying, including the M-Sport Return to Rally Stages last summer.

“It is a wonderful honour to receive the award from the British Women Racing Drivers Club – it was totally unexpected,” exclaimed Ronnie Sandham. “I have always tried to do my best to promote motorsport, and it was a humbling experience when I found out that I had won. None of what I have done would be possible without the support of Malcolm Wilson and Maciej Woda from M-Sport Poland, who both helped me take a group of students to work in the Junior World Rally Championship – which was an experience of a lifetime and I am forever grateful to them all. I am also proud to be Chairman of the Association of North East and Cumbria Car Clubs and represented them at regional committee level for many years, and without the support of my family I wouldn’t be able to do everything I have done.”

Malcolm Wilson OBE said: “I have known Ronnie for over 40 years, and her effort, commitment and support in organising events is second to none. She has been the driving force behind the Malcolm Wilson Rally over the years and lately with Myerscough College – by getting all the youngsters interested in motorsport and actively involved by working with us on our Junior WRC programme. For me, there is no one more deserving for this award. Congratulations to Ronnie, and I hope she keeps up the good work for years to come.”

To the Drivers’ Championships and an opportunity to mark the incredible achievements in one of the most challenging years of competition in living memory. Trevor Moffat from Gloucester took his first Car Trial Championship, while in the Sporting Trial Championship Ian Veale triumphed by the slimmest of margins over his son Josh. Autotest Champion Malcolm Livingstone repeated his 2018 title win, beating professional stunt driver Paul Swift in the process. In a year hit hard by lockdowns and event cancellations, Omagh’s Mark Donnelly was a worthy winner in the British Rallycross Championship, while Scotsman Alan Scott highlighted the rise of Esports over the last year, with victory in the inaugural PCSpecialist E British Rally Championship, earning himself a run in a real rally car in the process.

On circuits up and down the country, the racing action was just as intense. Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell were worthy winners in the British GT Championship in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan, while in the British Touring Car Championship Ash Sutton was able to overturn the commanding series lead of Colin Turkington in the final round at Brands Hatch. Turkington’s West Surrey Racing team took some consolation with a Manufacturers’ Championship in the same series, with the BMW 330i M Sport scoring five wins and eight podiums over the season.

Single-seaters are a hotbed for young talent, and in both the F4 British Championship Certified by FIA – Powered by Ford Ecoboost and BRDC British F3, the competition was incredibly fierce. Drivers from all over the world battled it out to follow the likes of Sir Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris and George Russell into the very highest levels of the sport. In F4, Luke Browning triumphed after a season-long battle with Zak O’Sullivan, while American driver Kaylen Frederick capped his winning year in F3 in fine style with a commanding lights-to-flag win in the last race of the season.

The Hawthorn Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the most successful British or Commonwealth driver in the previous F1 season. After an incredible year that saw him dominate on the track to claim his seventh F1 title, the award went to Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton’s career to date has been remarkable and few would reckon against him breaking even more records in 2021.

Motorsport UK CEO, Hugh Chambers, reflected on the past season: “I would like to congratulate all of the award winners, from our British champions, to our devoted clubs and volunteers, as well as our media professionals. 2020 was a year like no other, and everyone around the world had to come to terms with many changes both personally and professionally. What motorsport demonstrated last year, maybe better than most sports, is the ability to adapt and to change, and perhaps our focus on organisation and safety as an industry has put us in a position where we were able to respond and react to the current challenges quicker than most. After restarting most of the sport last year, this gives us a great deal of confidence to continue the hard work and get all disciplines up and running once more. Whatever the future holds in the short term and when lockdowns are lifted, we know we can rebound quickly and get competition going before too long.”

If you missed the Motorsport UK Virtual Night of Champions you can watch it on our YouTube channel HERE