Franchitti Lifts Top SMRC Award
Jim McGill, scotcars.co.uk
Bathgates Dario Franchitti, who won the IndyCar Championship and Indianapolis 500 last year, walked away with the main award, the John Romanes Trophy, at the annual Scottish Motor Racing Club Awards in Edinburgh.
The gala event, held at the Sheraton Hotel at the weekend, was attended by almost 400 people, including the cream of Scottish motorsport — triple Formula One World champion Sir Jackie Stewart, Dario and his brother Marino Franchitti, double Le Mans 24-Hours winner Allan McNish and double British Touring Car champ John Cleland.
Franchitti flew in to Scotland specifically to attend the event, the Blue Riband occasion in Scottish motorsport. The Scot received the cherished trophy — awarded to the driver who has displayed 'excellence in motorsport throughout his career' — for the second time, the first British driver to do so.
“This is a terrific honour for me to receive this award from the club, and from Jackie,” Franchitti, who now has three IndyCar titles and has won the Indy500 twice, said. "Jackie was a key figure in the early development of my career and to receive this award is very special.
“To be back in Edinburgh is very special for me. Scotland will always be home for me and it's important that I put back into the sport as much as I can. Being able to come home for the SMRC awards is a date which is always in my diary."
And Franchitti, like Sir Jackie, had words of support for his cousin, newly promoted Force India Formula One race driver Paul di Resta.
"Like most Scots, I can't wait to see Paul in the first grand prix of the year in Bahrain," Franchitti, the global ambassador for TW Steel, continued. "I know he impressed the team during the first test session this week in Valencia, and I know he'll be competitive in the grands prix.
"I also know how much natural talent Paul has, and I think there will be a few drivers on the F1 grid who will be surprised by the pace he has. I've no doubt he'll be a world champion in years to come." It was a view supported by Sir Jackie.
"Paul has come a long way, but he still has to find his bearings when it comes to racing a Formula One car," the veteran explained. "But like Dario, I have no questions about Paul's ability and as long as he's given the time to settle into F1 I'm confident he can win races and, who knows, become the next Scottish Formula One world champ."
Di Resta, who was bitterly disappointed to miss the gala event due to F1 commitments, was awarded the Callands Trophy for his performances in an international championship. The 24-year-old won the DTM Championship last year with Mercedes.
SMRC President Allan McNish added his support to Di Resta and highlighted the strength of motorsport in Scotland.
"What Paul has achieved so far is impressive and I have no doubts he will be a success in F1," McNish, who raced in Formula One for one season with Toyota, explained.
"But Paul's success merely highlights the strength Scotland has in motorsport, with the success of Ecurie Ecosse at Le Mans in the Fifties right up until today. And that success should act as a further motivation for the talented crop of new young racers we have coming through the ranks in the SMRC."
The other principal awards included the Border Motor Racing Club Trophy, awarded to the Scot who scored the most SMRC points in the season, which went to Edinburgh's Oli Mortimer. The 28-year-old won the 2010 Scottish Mini Cooper Championship.
And while Marino Franchitti picked up the William Lyons Trophy for helping his Highcroft Racing team win the American Le Mans Championship last season, Golspie's Lewis Williamson was awarded the coveted Ecurie Ecosse Hub Cap.
Highlander Williamson received the award, made to the best young driver in a national championship, after narrowly missing out on the British Formula Renault Championship in the final round. The 20-year-old also won the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year.