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MSV’s sporting heroes of 2017

Saturday, December 30 2017

In a season filled with some highly impressive performances at MSV circuits and in MSV-run championships, we've picked ten of our heroes from a memorable 2017.

The drivers and riders on this list have helped make 2017 another great year for MSV. Many have won races and championships, wowing the crowds along the way. The list is in alphabetical order rather than by merit, and we're sure everyone featured here will have much to celebrate over the holiday season. We look forward to seeing many of them back in 2018!

Enaam Ahmed

The 2017 BRDC British Formula 3 Champion won the title in emphatic style, but it was the manner of Enaam Ahmed's progress through the season that impressed so much. From winning all three races at Oulton Park, a successful start at Rockingham turned sour in the following two rounds. Enaam's response was to work on his qualifying and avoid mid-pack clashes in races. He cracked this at Snetterton, then halted the challenges of first Toby Sowery, then Ben Hingeley, as well as Carlin teammates James Pull and Cameron Das.

Rod Birley

West Kingsdown's serial race-winner chalked up his 600th victory in the spring, but this wasn't enough for Rod Birley. The veteran racer had his sights set on cult hero Gerry Marshall's record of 625 wins, although he didn't think it would come in 2017. By the autumn the target was within reach, and Rod entered as many races as possible at his local circuit so he could break the record 'at home'. The dream seemed to be over when he crashed on the run to the line at the Truck Racing and Fireworks meeting in November, almost destroying his Escort WRC. Rob had a backup car, however, a Honda Integra prepared by the Bevan family that worked on his first race car. Despite still being in recovery from his high-speed smash, Birley claimed the record at the final meeting of the year, November's Britcar 'Into the Night' event.

Shane Byrne

Shakey may have entered the 2017 season as a five-time British Superbike Champion, but he'd never successfully defended a title in the series. It looked as though this run was set to continue at various points in the season, such as the warm-up shunt that ruled him out of the Donington opener. Rival Leon Haslam led the Showdown by 33 points heading into the Brands Hatch finale, but Shakey kept his cool, whittled the gap down to two points and was in prime position to capitalise when Haslam crashed out of the decider. He now holds six titles, three more than any other rider in the championship's history.

Leon Haslam

Shakey wasn't the only hero in the BSB field this year. A double victory in the opening rounds at home circuit Donington Park handed Haslam the initiative in the championship. He lost ground at Oulton Park, but on the crucial Showdown phase he took control of the title standings. A useful 33-point lead meant he headed to Brands Hatch set to lift his first major motorcycling championship, but instead he ended the weekend in hospital after a high-speed crash at Hawthorns in the finale. Nevertheless, he insisted on congratulating his rival on the grid after the race, despite a broken ankle - true grit.

Mika Makinen

Surely the owner of the fastest name in motorsport, Mika Makinen brought Finnish flair to British Truck Racing this year. He'd already served notice of intent at 2016's Truck Racing and Fireworks event, but still surprised with his 'win from anywhere' style at the season-opening event in March. The victories kept coming, and no-one in his Division 2 class was able to consistently beat Makinen, so he arrived at Brands Hatch in November already confirmed as the category champion. Unsurprisingly this did nothing to stop him from entertaining once again on the final weekend of the season. We hope to see more from him in 2018.

Billy Monger

The story of Billy Monger's 2017 was undoubtedly the most inspiring of the year. Already a regular in the BTCC support paddock, he was competing in the British F4 Championship at Donington Park on Easter Sunday when involved in a horrific crash. Thousands of viewers saw his accident live on TV and before his condition was confirmed a charity effort had already raised almost £1M. Just days shy of his 18th birthday both his lower legs had to be amputated, but within weeks he was back in the paddock, soon behind the wheel of a racing car and was walking again by the end of October. Billy now plans to race at Le Mans, and we very much suspect this will be just the beginning of his ambitions.

Rick Parfitt Jr

Bentley boys Rick Parfitt Jr and teammate Seb Morris were crowned British GT Champions after a typically dramatic season finale at Donington Park. In doing so, Parfitt became the first driver to have claimed both the GT3 and GT4 titles, the latter won with Ginetta back in 2013. For Parfitt Jr, it was a great personal triumph, coming just months after the death of his father, Status Quo legend Rick Parfitt, as well as his ongoing battle against Chrohn's Disease.

Special mention should also go to Morris, whose performances as the pro driver in the team ensured that the Bentley crew beat GT experts that included Jonny Adam and Phil Keen.

Jonathan Rea

The Northern Irishman won his third consecutive World Superbike Championship title, with a remarkable 16 victories from the 26 rounds. The most treasured of these will surely be the win at Donington Park in May, only his second home success in the series. It didn't look especially likely in race one when he crashed at the Craner Curves after losing the lead to teammate and serial Donington winner Tom Sykes, but Rea held his nerve and got his revenge in the second encounter, beating Sykes to top the podium.

Several months later, Rea was nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award and was delighted to be placed runner-up in the public vote.

Ash Sutton

New British Touring Car Champion Ashley Sutton was the undoubted star of the tin-top season. Whilst Colin Turkington and Gordon Shedden were as impressive as ever in their title challenges, Subaru's young charger took no prisoners on his way to his maiden title. A literally pointless weekend at Brands Hatch was quickly turned around with a gritty drive at Donington Park and his title attack kicked off with a win at Oulton Park. A stunning Snetterton weekend netted two wins and (briefly) the title lead, before fending off Turkington's late challenge on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit to lift the coveted trophy.

Tom Sykes

This was the year that Tom Sykes finally lost a World Superbike Championship race at Donington Park, but that takes nothing away from the Yorkshireman's stunning performance. A remarkable nine-race winning streak at the East Midlands venue ended with a second-place finish to Kawasaki team-mate Jonathan Rea. Whilst the 2013 champion may have been disappointed not to get the new record for consecutive wins at a single circuit (previously held by Carl Fogarty) into double figures, he'll have been pleased with the manner in which he achieved it. Kicking off with pole position, it included a fight back from an early error, a lead battle with Rea, and ended with a 16-second lead of local hero Leon Haslam and Alex Lowes. Not a bad afternoon's work.

You can enjoy many more great moments with MSV's range of 2017 Season Passes, available from £85. Click here for more information or to purchase a pass.

 1 Ahmed _39

2 Birley

3 Byrne Double Red

4 Haslam - London Bikers 
5 Makinen

6 Monger

7 Parfitt

Rea Wins 

9 Ash - Az

Sykes Media Event

Additional images courtesy of Double Red, London Bikers, Az Edwards and Impact Images.