The Alfa Romeo Championship should entertain on Oulton's sweeping corners and elevation changes – Photo: Paul Stone

As quickly as one season finishes, the off season in-between the last chequered flag and the first race start of a brand new year almost feels like an eternity. But thankfully, we’ve survived the winter and emerge into early Spring with the long-awaited first race meeting of 2017! Oulton Park in Cheshire plays host with 4 championships set to kick off in fine fashion here.

First off, the ever popular Avon Tyres Formula Ford 1600s kick off another season for the Northern Championship, which mainly encompasses rounds here at Oulton and across the border at Anglesey in North Wales. An away day joining the National Championship at Donington Park in the summer is also on the cards, too. The Championship retains its usual 5 class structure to accommodate Formula Ford chassis of all makes and ages, from modern contemporary through to the more historic machines. The McArthur trio (Tom, David and Neil), plus young guns like Matt Round-Garrido and Rory Smith will be expected as frontrunners, while Dutch stalwart Jaap Blijleven will be out for overall glory as well as individual class honours. This has always been one of the most fiercely contested championships within our portfolio, a fact set to honour the 50th anniversary of the much-loved category.

Continuing the Ford theme, the first rounds of the year take place for the Electrovape.co.uk XR Challenge, a long standing championship that keeps Ford’s classic XR range of Fiesta and Escort models as working race cars. This season sees a new title sponsor and something of a boom in entries with a great number of former champions set to grace the grids this year. Reigning champion Greg Speight is set to defend his crown with the likes of Michael Heath, Mark Robinson, Mike Blackburn and Neil Waterworth all due to be snapping at his heels in the XR2 class, while double XR3i champion Mike Taylor will have his work cut out to fend off Chris Jones, Andrew Lennie, Jason Hennefer and more. Keep an eye on this series this year, as it could prove to be one of the surprise packages of 2017.

Next up, one of Italy’s finest marques is back again to entertain with the long-standing Alfa Romeo Championship returning to add that little bit of European flair to proceedings. Once again three classes are in place for Modified, Power Trophy and the ever popular Twin Spark Cup cars, with the latter headed up by defending champ Tom Hill. He will proudly carry #1 this season, however an influx of new drivers will surely help spice things up in Twin Spark. As for Modified contenders, former champion Graham Seager’s GTV is back to full strength, however the one to fear will be Neil Smith in his ex-WTCC 156 touring car. Expect him to be a favourite all weekend and indeed all season.

Last but by no means least, the Toyo Tires Porsche Championship looks to be well supported once more as both Boxster and 924 classes feature a great mix of talent and experience. Outgoing champion Richard Styrin has made the switch to the MX-5 SuperCup, leaving the door open for a new #1 this season. Richard Avery came on strong at the end of the year and looks likely to start the year as favourite, however a brand new aero package for the Race Boxster class should make things interesting. As for the 924s, that title is up for grabs too with likely candidates including Pip Hammond, Ryan Lowry, Philip Waters and even Chris Valentine as he returns to the race seat after the last few seasons as co-ordinator. All things considered, it’s set to be a fascinating season!

Looking at our first weather forecast of the year, the outlook appears to be rather fine! Sunshine is expected all day with no hint of rain and while temperatures will feel chilly first thing in the morning, they are expected to rise as high as 13 degrees. Not the warmest, granted, but at least it'll remain dry which should help provide some stellar action on track all day. A breakdown of the forecast via the Met Office is available here – OULTON PARK WEATHER.

Also, all of the information you need can be found via the following post on our Facebook page and also via the event page in the Race Meetings tab – OULTON PARK SEASON OPENER.

It almost feels like we’ve been waiting far too long, but finally it’s time to go racing once more. Let’s begin the 2017 in style – lights out and go, go go!

Scott Woodwiss


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