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Motorsportsman of Year crowned Tuesday

The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists has confirmed its nominees for the Bridgestone SA / SAGMJ Motor Sportsman of the Year, recognising drivers and riders in their own realms of the sport, and the Colin Watling Award, recognising the extraordinary contributions behind the scenes of South African Motorsport.

This year sees a few changes to the competition, with the inclusion of six new categories in addition to the usual Bridgestone SA / SAGMJ Motor Sportsman of the Year and Colin Watling awards in an effort to broaden the appeal, scope and interest of the awards.

The six new category awards will go to the competitor that the Guild votes as the top Circuit Driver, Off Track Driver, Circuit Rider, Off Track Rider, Junior Driver and Junior Rider of the past season.

The nominees for the Bridgestone SA / SA Motor Sportsman of the Year and categories, in alphabetical order, are: Brad Binder, Bradley Liebenberg, Brandon Staffen, David Perel, Giniel de Villiers, Jayden Els, Joey Evans, Jonathan Aberdein, Jordan Pepper, Jordan Weaving, Leeroy Poulter, Sheldon van der Linde, Stephen Simpson.

Three men; Adrian Scholtz, Des Easom and Peter du Toit have been nominated for the Colin Watling Award.

The general South African Guild of Motoring Journalists membership was polled for nominees and the Guild will now vote for the overall winner, as well as the various category winners and the winner of the Colin Watling Award to be announced at a ceremony in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening 22 February.

Looking at the nominees’ motorsport achievements over the past 12 months in brief; circuit rider Brad Binder won the 2016 Moto 3 World Champion in a dominant performance on his Red Bull KTM.

Circuit driver Bradley Liebenberg took his third premier SA Rotax DD2 karting championship in 2016, alongside strong multiple race-winning Engen VW Polo Cup campaign, while 15-year old junior rider Brandon Staffen was a front runner in the KTM 390 Cup and he also won twice in the UK.

Circuit driver David Perel stepped up to the Blancpain GT Championship driving for Kessel Ferrari, scoring several AM class wins, pole positions and fastest laps through the year, while evergreen off-track driver Giniel de Villiers once again flew the SA flag high on Dakar and delivered a fine South African Rally Championship performance.

12-year-old junior driver Jayden Els won the Rotax Mini Max Karting World Championship in a sensational come-from behind World Final drive in Italy, while off-track rider Joey Evans, who was paralysed in a race crash ten years ago, fought back to accomplish an impossible dream to finish Dakar 2017 on his KTM.

Circuit drivers, Jonathan Aberdein scored podiums in German ADAC Formula 4 championship and won 14 of 16 rounds of Formula 4 UAE series run by the end of January, while SA’s Bentley racer, Jordan Pepper enjoyed a strong second season in the highly competitive ADAC GT Masters with pole positions, fastest laps and podium finishes.

Circuit rider Jordan Weaving won the British Super Stock 600cc championship, while off-track driver Leeroy Poulter took a unique double 2016 SA Cross Country and SA Rally Championship, winning every race or rally he started bar one in 2016.

Circuit drivers; Sheldon van der Linde won four races — more than any of his rivals in the European Audi Sport TT Cup in 2016 and Stephen Simpson won his class in the 2016 Daytona 24-hour for JDC-Miller Motorsports before winning twice more en route to third in the US IMSA Prototype Challenge.

The Colin Watling Award will be decided between three men who have contributed greatly to the sport outside of the competition. They are Motorsport South Africa CEO Adrian Scholtz for his efforts of over 30 years of motorsport administration; Des Easom and the Western Province Motor Club for securing Killarney as a World Rallycross venue and Zwartkops Raceway boss Peter du Toit, for his ceaseless contribution to motorsport in South Africa.