Autosport's top 10 club rivalries of 2021

Whether they featured nervewracking finales, clashing title contenders or battles with the elements, there have been plenty of close tussles this year in the UK. Here are Autosport's top 10 club rivalries of 2021

Autosport's top 10 club rivalries of 2021

10. Aaron Cooke v Shaun Traynor

The reigning champion took on the four-time title winner in Toyota MR2s, both mounted in the latest Roadster model. Aaron Cooke won the 2020 crown in a Mk2 but adapted quickly to the lighter car and took on Shaun Traynor in intense battles: more than half of the races had them finishing 1-2. Cooke (leading Traynor, below) was ahead by the penultimate meeting, but a car change for that event provided added impetus and he beat Traynor in each of the next three races to triumph with an Oulton race to spare.

Aaron Cooke leads Shaun Traynor, Toyota MR2s

Aaron Cooke leads Shaun Traynor, Toyota MR2s

Photo by: Steve Jones

9. Sierra RS500s v Nissan Skylines

It never happened in the UK in period, but battle was joined between the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworths and the Nissan Skyline R32s this season. The two giants of late 1980s touring car racing locked horns 13 times across the Motor Racing Legends Historic Touring Cars and Historic Sports Car Club Dunlop Saloon Car Cup. It was a glorious sight as fire fought fire, though the Skylines delivered the biggest flames. In terms of race wins, it was also a Japanese victory: the Skylines topped the Sierras nine to four.

Ford Sierra RS500 leads Nissan Skyline

Ford Sierra RS500 leads Nissan Skyline

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

8. Roger Albert Clark Rally v Storm Arwen

Storm Arwen did its best to derail the biennial Roger Albert Clark Rally. As evening fell on the second day of the five-day epic, blizzard conditions and then storm force winds arrived. Rally manager Colin Heppenstall called a halt to the event, but soon trees were coming down and some competitors and officials were stranded, many taking refuge at Langholm’s Crown Inn. The Scottish leg was lost completely, and trees down in Wales threatened the rest of the event, but a mighty effort got the rally back on track.

Storm Arwen nearly prevented Roger Albert Clark Rally from being completed

Storm Arwen nearly prevented Roger Albert Clark Rally from being completed

Photo by: John Moon

7. Mike Williams v Morgan Short

In a classic case of cars with differing strengths, reigning class champion Mike Williams’s nippy Rover Metro took on the beefier – and heavier – MG ZS of Morgan Short, with the Rover Tomcats of Matt Simpson and Richard Buckley also in the mix. Sophomore Short, stepping up from a Rover 216 GTI, was often quicker over a lap, but Williams made experience count to keep his Metro on the ragged edge and rack up seven wins on his way to the title, Short’s mid-season engine troubles denting his challenge.

Mike Williams heads Morgan Short, MG Cup

Mike Williams heads Morgan Short, MG Cup

Photo by: Mick Walker

6. Dan Zelos v Max Bird

The Excelr8 team-mates did not have many on-track battles in the Mini Challenge this year, but that didn’t stop their title rivalry going down to the wire. After Max Bird had pecked away at Dan Zelos’s points advantage, it was all about the Brands Hatch decider. This was one of those tension-filled races where you could never be quite sure which way the title would go as the contenders were in a bunch of cars engaged in a thrilling battle. But Zelos (below) did enough – second place to Bird’s fifth gave him the crown.

Dan Zelos, Mini Challenge

Dan Zelos, Mini Challenge

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

5. Stephen Primett v Mark Lucock

The Classic Touring Car Racing Club’s championship for pre-1983 cars was highly competitive, but the Ford Escort Mk1s of Stephen Primett (below, right) and Mark Lucock were rarely far from the front – or each other; they finished less than a second apart on five occasions. While each suffered misfortunes along the way, a sticking throttle at the final round ultimately proved costly for Lucock. Multi-champion Primett was able to overhaul his points advantage to claim another title and the £1250 prize.

Stephen Primett

Stephen Primett

Photo by: Steve Jones

4. Lee Fern v Neil Harrison

This past year has shown that anything can happen in title deciders, and the Monoposto F3 showdown could not have been closer. With dropped scores applied, Lee Fern (Dallara F301) ended the year level on points with Neil Harrison (F302), with the crown going Fern’s way on countback. But that only tells half the story. The tiebreak occurred after a crucial final lap of the season at Donington Park, on which Fern (leading Harrison, below) set the fastest lap and benefited from a rival’s spin to claim the points he needed.

Lee Fern leads from Neil Harrison, Monoposto F3

Lee Fern leads from Neil Harrison, Monoposto F3

Photo by: Ollie Read

3. Jenson Brickley v Deagen Fairclough

Jenson Brickley ultimately took a comfortable and well-deserved Fiesta Junior title, but the season will be remembered for the fierce battle he had with Deagen Fairclough. There was little to separate the pair as they won the majority of the races between them. Tensions rose following a final-corner collision at Cadwell Park, and was followed by further clashes at Donington. But the contest was defused when Fairclough (right, below) lost his points from the opening round, where he had been a guest entry.

Jenson Brickley and Deagen Fairclough battled throughout the year in Fiesta Junior

Jenson Brickley and Deagen Fairclough battled throughout the year in Fiesta Junior

Photo by: Ollie Read

2. Matt Wrigley v Andrew Smith

COVID-19 wrecked the pan-European Historic F2 schedule. Instead, eight UK races and a late-season Dijon trip set up a mighty contest between Matt Wrigley (March 782) and Andrew Smith (742). Each took a Silverstone Classic win, Wrigley’s (leading Smith, below) by half a second. Oulton Park was a disaster for Wrigley with engine woes; Smith won the opener before losing an engine in race two. That kept Smith away from Dijon, where Wrigley took the Bruno Giacomelli Trophy with the fastest lap point.

Matt Wrigley leads Andrew Smith in Historic F2

Matt Wrigley leads Andrew Smith in Historic F2

Photo by: Paul Lawrence

1. Andrew Jordan v Aaron Smith v Endaf Owens

Reigning Mini Miglia champion Aaron Smith had his sights firmly on title number four, but former British Touring Car ace Andrew Jordan and 2011 champion Endaf Owens set about delivering three and four-wide battles at seemingly every turn. Jordan’s pace, nerve and use of the Dunlop slicks eventually won through, despite sharing five wins apiece with Owens (the Welshman made fewer starts). The highlight came at the Brands Hatch Mini Festival, where they traded paint and places in a breathtaking clash.

Mini Miglia battle raged all season

Mini Miglia battle raged all season

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Entries by Steve Hindle, Paul Lawrence, Stephen Lickorish, Mark Paulson, Ian Sowman and Steve Whitfield

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Autosport's top 10 club drivers of 2021
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