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Nov 28, 2014

JUSTIN RUGGIER - 2014 RACER OF THE YEAR

JUSTIN RUGGIER is the 2014 Shannons Nationals RACER of the year.

The Sydneysider, who this year won the Kumho Tyre Australian V8 Touring Car series driving an Eggleston Motorsport Holden Commodore VZ, edged out Formula 3 Australian Drivers’ Champion Simon Hodge and Kerrick Sports Sedan Series winner Tony Ricciardello to win the award.

| CLICK HERE TO VIEW 2014 RACER OF THE YEAR MAGAZINE SPECIAL EDITION

It is the second end-of-season driver award the Shannons Nationals has presented, following then-Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge winner Richard Muscat’s win last year.

More than 3,800 fan / online votes gathered via www.thenationals.com.au were ranked in order and then combined with votes provided by a judging panel of Shannons Nationals management, regular series media, race operations crew and TV production personnel to decide the winner.

The fan vote – which saw drivers ranked in the same way as judges voted - carried a small weighting when graded alongside the judge’s scores, however the top three in the 2014 poll ultimately were split by just 10 votes in the final tally.

It reflects the high level of competition witnessed at Shannons Nationals rounds this year and reflects the system that allows drivers from nine separate race categories to be ranked together.

Ruggier’s story was a remarkable one, evolving from a driver with extremely limited circuit racing experience and a simulator-racing background, to a champion driver in less than eight months.

His season included a series of tight battles with Falcon driver Ryan Simpson, with the title only being decided between the pair in the final round at Sydney Motorsport Park in early November.

“It’s unreal, I’m speechless. It’s awesome!” Ruggier said this morning.

“If you look back, last year I’m in a sim (racing simulator) seat and to get a real seat after a lot of hard work, to race most dominant driver in series, having fair battles all year and to win championship.. who would’ve thought about writing that story?

“I have to say a huge thanks to Eggleston Motorsport to give opportunity and to put the faith in me especially through the challenging times behind the scenes. It’s unbelievable.”

Ruggier said the battles with Ryan Simpson this year made him a better driver throughout the season.

“I’m extremely grateful that Ryan was in championship to bring me to a level where I can seriously look at furthering the career.

“Ryan was pushing, as you could see at Wakefield when he came off the track a bit, but racing him made me a better driver. He was a pleasure to race with.

“The Shannons Nationals is such a great series to do what we did – it’s got a great TV package and it’s a professional run series where you get lots of track time. It was absolutely the right way for us to go.

“We couldn’t afford DVS (development series) and I wasn’t ready for it anyway – but it showed at the end of the year that we’re getting there: we were consistent, had real pace, got pole positions and was winning races. It was genuine speed, not luck.

“I have to say thanks to Rachael Wagg and Ben Eggleston, all the crew at Eggleston Motorsport, Mark McKay who got this all going for me and helped me, all my Sponsors and my mum and dad: they’ve just been unbelievable helping out, getting sponsors etc.”

Behind Ruggier, Hodge and Ricciardello, V8 Touring Cars runner-up Ryan Simpson was ranked fourth, ahead of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia stars Fraser Ross (Outright Champion) and Matt Campbell (Class B Champion).

Super Six Touring Cars winner Gavin Ross, Formula Ford frontrunner James Golding, surprise Super Six rookie Jason Leoncini (who finished a remarkable third in the online vote) and Sports Racer runner-up Roger I’Anson finished in the top-10.

Of the 36 drivers nominated from 9 core Shannons Nationals categories, 23 received at least one vote throughout the process, with four different drivers ranked first by at least one judge involved in the voting process.
Seven different categories are represented in the top-10.

“Congratulations to Justin for a remarkable season,” Shannons Nationals series director Rob Curkpatrick said.

“It has been an interesting experience watching him develop as a driver throughout the season, starting as a relative unknown at Mallala and ending up a champion. The story, along with his background, was compelling but he backed that up with the way he rapidly grew in competitiveness this year.

“His performance this year sums up what we aim for the Shannons Nationals – as well as being a place to race in a high-profile and competitive environment, it’s also a great entry point for drivers looking to make their mark.

“Justin has certainly done that and we are very pleased to say he has been voted as the 2014 Racer of the year.”