Sports Sedan ace Tony Ricciardello has been voted the Shannons Nationals Driver of the Decade as the series prepares for the end of an era this weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The award was voted on by series management, media and an online fan poll that attracted more than 3,000 submissions.
It coincides with the final Shannons Nationals event under the management of Rob Curkpatrick, who relinquishes his role to new owners CAMS after this weekend’s season finale.
From a shortlist of 40 who had completed at least two full-time seasons of competition in a Shannons Nationals category, Ricciardello took out the award ahead of double Australian Formula 3 Champion Tim Macrow.
Triple Production Car champion and F3 race winner Stuart Kostera was third ahead of Ricciardello’s long-time Sports Sedan rival Darren Hossack and V8 Touring Car and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge front-runner Ryan Simpson.
The now 36-year-old Ricciardello has steered his family-run Alfa-Chev to a total of eight Sports Sedan titles, three of which have come since 2006.
He has finished in the top two of the series every year over the decade except 2010, when he elected to concentrate on V8 Supercars Championship duties with Kelly Racing.
Heading to Sydney chasing a ninth Sports Sedan title, Ricciardello’s enjoyment of the class remains as strong as ever.
“I have a passion for racing and sports sedans allows me to be able to engineer, develop, build and race a car that is filled with horsepower and speed,” Ricciardello said.
“It also gives competitors a challenge and has versatility on the grid. The Nationals gives us a great environment to race in at affordable yet high standards, I guess that’s why we keep coming back.
“The first title (1998) definitely stands out, especially since it was my first year of racing. Each title comes with a story and are as good as each other.
“Holding this amount of titles in one category is a huge achievement, it proves that out hard work pays off. Winning the championship is what we always aim for.
“I enjoy seeing all of our fans who come through the gates at the rounds but I especially enjoy seeing the people through Kerrick who they bring to the track to experience real racing.
“It’s great to have a sponsor who is supportive and involved, they are the back bone of sports sedan racing.
“Sports Sedans has developed a great comradery, I remember growing up at the track watching it and now I get to experience being in the middle of it.”
Ricciardello enters this weekend’s final round 11 points clear of Holden Calibra driver Steven Tamasi, with Saab mounted Thomas Randle a further 23 adrift in third. A total of 135 points are available across the three races.
Shannons Nationals Driver of the Decade Top 10
Tony Ricciardello – 8x Kerrick Sports Sedan Series Champion
Tim Macrow – 2x Australian Formula 3 Champion
Stuart Kostera – 3x Australian Production Car / AMChamp Champion, Superkarts Champion, F3 winner
Darren Hossack – 2x Kerrick Sports Sedan Series Champion, 2x Australian Superkart Champion
Ryan Simpson – Porsche Gt3 Cup Challenge winner, 2x runner-up, Kumho V8 Touring Cars
Matt Kingsley – Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge winner
James Winslow – 2x Australian Formula 3 / Gold Star winner
Jake Camilleri – Multiple class champion, AMChamp / Production cars
Des Wall – Kerrick Sports Sedan Champion
Bruce Heinrich – 5x Australian Saloon Car Champion