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Expert Assessment: Lead judges confirmed for the 2021 Royal Automobile Club Historic Awards

The Lead Judges have now been confirmed for the 2021 Royal Automobile Club Historic Awards, nominations for which close on 1st October. Each of the eight categories in the Club’s annual celebration of the British historic motoring and motorsport world is stringently assessed by its own expert, independent judging panel.

Each panel is headed by a Lead Judge who has a vast amount of experience relating to their particular category, supported by similarly-experienced judges. It is this tremendous breadth of expertise, in-depth scrutiny of nominees and independence of the juries that distinguish the Awards and make winning one such a significant achievement.

The 2021 winners will be announced at a gala Awards’ evening at the Club’s Pall Mall Clubhouse on 25 November.

The Chair of the Judges is Tom Purves. A Vice President of the Royal Automobile Club and a Director of Motorsport UK Council, Tom retired in 2010 from the position of CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in Goodwood (a BMW Company), following a career that also included the role of Managing Director of the BMW Group in Britain.

Each panel is headed by a Lead Judge who has a vast amount of experience relating to their particular category
Lead Judges by Category

Journalist and commentator Simon Taylor heads the panel for the Collection category (supported by Footman James), which is open to museums and private collections. Simon joined Autosport straight from university and was editor by age 23. As Publisher and then Managing Director of Haymarket Magazines he launched What Car?, Classic & Sports Car and F1 Racing. For 20 years he was BBC Radio’s motor racing commentator before joining ITVs F1 commentary team.

The Competitive Event category (supported by A. Lange & Söhne) panel is headed by Ian Titchmarsh, motorsport commentator and a Trustee of Silverstone Heritage. Ian has been involved in motorsport since 1963 and was Principal Commentator at Silverstone from 1983 to 2015, and still commentates at most circuits in the UK.

The new category for 2021, Innovation, which celebrates new products and services and other innovations, will be judged by a panel headed by Daniel Geoghegan, Chief Executive of Bicester Heritage. Dan has been responsible for the conception, vision and foundation of Bicester Heritage, as well as the acquisition of the RAF Bicester site in 2013.

Editor-in-Chief of Classic & Sports Car, Alastair Clements, is Lead Judge for the Motoring Spectacle category, which is open to any historic motoring event without a timed competition element. A passionate enthusiast of cars of all ages, types and values, Alastair has been with the magazine for more than 20 years and became Editor-in-Chief in 2017.

The Outstanding Journalism category jury is led by Steve Cropley, Editor-in-Chief of Autocar. Steve has been testing and writing about cars for 40 years, half of that time at Autocar. This category is open to written and broadcast features which have appeared in a British publication, broadcast, podcast or online outlet.

The Personality category (supported by HERO-ERA) celebrates individual achievements within the Awards’ eligibility period (1st October 2020 – 30th September 2021). Sarah Bennett-Baggs, the Lead Judge, has been fully immersed in the automotive and motorsport industry since 1995. An active historic motorsport competitor, Sarah publishes Auto Addicts, a bi-annual printed journal and online hub and is Editor of Historic Motorsport TV.

Editorial Director of Magneto, David Lillywhite, is Lead Judge for the Restoration category (supported by Bicester Heritage).  David has been a classic motoring journalist since 1992. He launched Octane magazine and went on to oversee Octane, Vantage, Enzo and Land Rover Monthly. In recent years he has launched the high-end quarterly Magneto, The Concours Year and online Concours Virtual.

Finally, historic motorsport competitor and event organiser Vanessa Marçais, will head the panel in the Young Achiever category (supported by 1762 from Brewin Dolphin and StarterMotor). This category is for rising stars aged 18-30 who are making their mark in the British historic vehicle world. Vanessa has vast experience of life on both sides of the pitlane, organises and runs the GT & Sports Car Cup and is a Curator for the Concours of Elegance.

The Club’s Chairman, Ben Cussons, said: “The Club is very much looking forward to hosting a live event this year and we are hugely encouraged by the standard of entries. The quality of the judges this year is a testament to the standing of the awards – the Club’s integrity is paramount and this panel of independent judges will ensure that its reputation remains intact, with all categories expertly judged to produce the results that are beyond scrutiny.”

Candidates can nominate themselves or be nominated by a third party. Nominations close on 1 October. Nominations should be made online at

At the Awards’ evening on Thursday, 25th November, the Club will also present the Royal Automobile Club Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of an individual who has made a remarkable contribution to British motoring and/or motorsport heritage over many decades. 

The Awards are a continuation of the Club’s more than 120-year pedigree in recognising motoring accomplishments. Today, the Club presents a series of internationally-recognised accolades, including the Segrave Trophy, the Torrens Trophy, the Simms Medal, the Dewar Trophy and the oldest trophy in motorsport still being competed for today – the Tourist Trophy.

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