The year that was

It is the end of the season and because of that, any reputable publication begins rolling out their ‘best of 2017’ lists… we are no different.

There have been plenty of remarkable performances throughout the course of the 2017 Shannons Nationals season, so we figured it was time to look through the star performers of the season and see who did what.

The criteria for selection was incredibly broad – if a driver made an impact at some point throughout the year they would automatically be in contention.

We looked at who they were racing, how they achieved their results and went from there. We also tried to share the love amongst the core group of categories that have supported each round.

We also thought that two people with 100-plus Shannons Nationals rounds experience each would probably have a bit of an idea about what they were talking about, so we roped in Garry O’Brien and Richard Craill to do the job.

Obviously, we can’t mention all of the outstanding performances here. If you’d like to contribute, jump on to the Shannons Nationals social media channels and let us know who you thought stood out during the crazy year that was 2017.

Jordan Love

Not only did he dominate the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia season, Jordan Love then backed up his form in the Shannons Nationals’ Porsche category with strong pace in the ‘main game’ of Carrera Cup once the GT3CC season was finished. Jordan’s progression – and that of his main rival this year, Brenton Grove – is proof of concept that the Porsche pyramid system in Australia works a treat.

Honourable mentions: Anthony Gilbertson for his incredible pole position – the first for an Elite driver and Sam Shahin for becoming the first Elite to win a round at Sandown.

Bob Pearson

Bob earned his place on this list. We’re not sure if it was because the spectacles-wearing Sydneysider dominated the middle stanza of this year’s Australian Production Car Series or that he did a shoey on the podium in Sydney after winning all four races. The longevity of both driver and car were critical to his strong mid-season form and some very impressive victories.

Honourable mentions: Tyler Everingham graduated from open-wheelers this year and at some points had his class car in outright contention. Shout out to the Sherrins too, for finally getting the M4 over the line after several close calls from the fastest car on the grid.

Mark Laucke

Following an indifferent start to the season, the former national racing champion surged in the second half of the Australian Prototype Series this year.

A strong weekend in Sydney projected him into the title fight, then Queensland Raceway put him in the box seat. Scoring points when the Radicals were dominant in the wet and capitalising on the pace of the West in the dry. The South Australian was a very worthy champion in the series’ inaugural season.

Honourable mentions: In his ageing Radical, Philip Hughes was mighty this year and his wet-weather performances in particular shone.

Rod Salmon, Richard Gartner and Steve McLaughlan

We’ve cheated here because it’s hard to split this CAMS Australian GT Trophy Series trio.

Gartner struggled at the start of the season but stormed to strong victories in the middle of the year in his yellow Lambo.

Rod Salmon had searing speed in the Skwirk Audi and showed again why he’s a two-time 12 Hour winner.

McLaughlan was ultra-consistent in the JAMEC-Pem Audi and was always a contender and in GT racing – is never easy.

Honourable mentions: Wayne Mack’s consistency has him fourth in points going into the finale and within sight of the title podium.

The races

With so much great motor sport throughout the year it’s hard to single out one or two memorable races, but we’ve had a go.

Sandown’s opening round was a tale of two days – super on Saturday and sopping on Sunday. The wet-weather antics of the Formula 4 drivers in the rain were all impressive.

At Winton the Australian Prototype Series put on three absolute blinders, but it was perhaps the second of three races that was the peak, with a seven-car freight train for the lead and more passing than a MotoGP race. Jason Makris’ last-lap pass for the lead was spectacular too.

Winton also turned it on with the GTs, with a particularly dramatic last few laps on one race that saw Salmon end up in the bunker and McLaughlan run down Matt Stoupas in the closing stages.

The annual ‘Fight in the Night’ is always a blinder and if the race doesn’t live up to expectations the spectacle takes point.

Likewise, the Porsches at Phillip Island are always ‘a good thing’ and the Sunday Carrera Cup race, in changeable conditions, was completely unpredictable and dramatic. Cup Challenge was solid that weekend too, with come-from-behind victories the story of the day.

However perhaps the biggest surprise was the second race of the Prototype series at Sandown. Word is, Peter Paddon is still waiting on an answer from police about how Philip Hughes thieved a last-corner victory in the rain that day.