28th Mar, 2017 ‑ Car Features 

2017 pre-season chat and predictions

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With the 2017 season just around the corner, website editor and Facebooking videoing photoing chap Stephen makes some predictions ahead of the first rounds.

"Impartiality is massively important. It's vital to ensure everyone gets in the pics and video where possible (bit tricky if they fall off on the first corner!) to share social media posts from the front runners, mid-field and novices alike.

However, sometimes it's kind of restrictive. So for one time only I'm going to stick my neck on the line and make some predictions; a dangerous pastime for sure. Still, it'll be fun to see who can prove me right, wrong or come from nowhere, Shayne Deegan style, and move the goalposts to another pitch. Please don't be offended if I've missed you or your favourite driver from my ramblings - it's more of a conversation starter than anything! Plus I'm getting old and forgetful. And forgetful.

Let me know your thoughts via Facebook.

Mini Se7en and S Class

Let's start with the Se7ens, which look to have mahoosive numbers this year judging by the early membership figures. Although as an aside, Colin reminds me to say please get your entries in as early as possible or we'll end up on the grass, behind some trucks or over the hills and far away!

Ashley Davies built on previous form to comfortably take the 2016 title, calm headed and smooth driving in a car that was clearly delivering the goods. He didn't have it all easy though - coming from the back of the grid, around the outside at Castle Combe proved him a worthy champion from an early stage. Very impressive.

Will he do it again in 2017? If he carries on like that, then yes I think he will. However, Charlie Budd may well hook everything together and give him a hard time. Lewis Selby will be looming large and purple in their rear view mirrors no doubt, if not taking to the top step a few times in the year.

Sadly it seems that Max Hunter won't be racing for 2017 but we do have former champion Paul Spark back on the list, presumably in a different/new car as his former car now belongs to Dom Burger…?

Others up front in my neck-on-the-line predictions list include Spencer Wanstall, second in 2016 with good consistency, Kieren McDonald, who's really found form of late, and Tom Sanderson, a former Metro champion.

Then you have other previous champions (and winners) such as Andrew Deviny, Darren Thomas and Graeme Davis. On a good day they're all capable of a win, but fortunes were mixed in 2016.

Really I'd like to see everyone do well, 14 rounds and 42 different drivers on the podium, but that's not going to happen. So here we go - my prediction of drivers in the top five, in alphabetical order to hedge my bets.

Charlie Budd
Ashley Davies
Kieren McDonald
Lewis Selby
Spencer Wanstall

Let's see what happens - fingers crossed for some surprises!

The S-Class looks busy once more, although there's a handful of new drivers into the mix to make things even less predictable. 2016 champion Josh Collins won't be out again till 2018. Apparently he needs to buy a house or something? Not sure I compute this house before Mini thing...

Anyway Shaun Tarlton would be a safe bet, not that the club condones gambling! Experienced racer Ralph Budd will surely be quick, although we're unlikely to see him out at the first few rounds. Don't forget Justin Cooper's car was an outright winner last season, a real flyer as it happened, but as with the Se7ens there will be some surprises in store.

Sorry, a bit woolly on the S-Class.

Miglia and Libre

'All change' may be a phrase too far, although a raft of rule changes are set to shake up the Miglias in a bid to level-out the playing field and reduce spending in the long term. It seems a sensible way to rebuild the grids in large numbers.

There will be Quaife LSDs, regulation Ohlins dampers and a ban on expensive complications such as front anti-rollbars and balljoint spacers. That's all to be confirmed any day now.

There are also some stonking new cars on the way (check on Facebook) and new drivers to the club for good measure, with 2016 champion Shayne Deegan heading to the Clio Cup. Look out for him on the telebox soon.

That leaves an empty seat in Peter Baldwin's ridiculously successful orange, white and purple machine. In the right hands the car will win again. It would be amusing to see Bill Sollis at the wheel and you know he'd be up the front instantly. But that'll never happen, right?

My gut feeling is that Rupert Deeth will be the man to beat. Rob Howard was one of only three drivers to win in 2016 (not that he's mentioned it too much) and will be up there. Sam Summerhayes, Aaron Smith, Dave Drew and Dan Wheeler were all on the pace in 2016 too. Kane Astin has bought a historic racer, so may be otherwise engaged for the full season.

It's tricky though, with so many variables now in place. I've seen Colin Peacock's rebuilt Miglia in person and I'd be surprised if he doesn't win the 'best prepared' trophy next January. However, it won't be ready till mid-season and he's borrowing James Coulson's car, which is rapid but unfamiliar.

So my top five prediction will be, in alphabetical order:
Whoever drives Peter Baldwin's car!
Rupert Deeth
Rob Howard
Aaron Smith
Sam Summerhayes

Again, fingers crossed for some surprises too.

In the Miglia S Class I'm making a bold guess that Jim Burrow will be out on top. With the advent of the Libre class, he's the sole entrant at the moment!

So, Libre. Furious number crunching has revealed what some of us initially thought - that the Miglia 1293cc 130-odd bhp package is incredibly balanced and tough to beat. The Libres will hopefully, as intended, form a mid-field battle behind the leading Miglias. It should enhance not dilute.

Performance between Peter Hills BMW bike head conversion and Gary Warburton's KAD will be very interesting to watch. I predict Peter will come out at the front initially, as it's a known package, whilst the extra power from Gary's car will help enormously at circuits with longer straights. So it's Peter Hills for me at the moment.   

Let's see.

I'm off to run for cover now. See you all at Castle Combe." - Stephen

Thanks to Matthew Barrington for the excellent pics - see the Mini 7 Flickr gallery for 2016's albums.

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