SGMW members fire up our Car of the Year honours at SMMT South Driving Day

Thirteen members of the Southern Group of Motoring Writers attended the SMMT South Driving Day at Oakley Hall Hotel at Basingstoke.

With members enjoying a pre-overnight stay in the hotel on September 22, we also invited four members of the SMMT staff to join us for dinner in the resplendent library room of the hotel.

Karen Parry, Claire Balch, James Boley and Ruta Aisthorpe seemed to thoroughly enjoy our company over dinner, pictured above, which continued until the bewitching hour in the bar.

Members present included Ian Robertson, Dave Ward, Chris Rees, Tom Scanlan, Chris Manning, Jonathan Musk, Richard Gooding, new member Stuart Bird, Ben Griffin, Phill Tromans, Mark Bursa, Massimo Pini and Peter Nunn.

A brief committee meeting of members present took place in the social atmosphere of the bar with a number of items being discussed before dinner commenced.

The following morning, instead of a long drive to get to the hotel, Southern Group members literally had to get up from the breakfast table at the hotel to reach the venue where a whole line-up of cars from various manufacturers were ready to test drive.

With more people than cars, it was not always possible to drive the car you wanted and an appointment system was adopted by many to help appease the situation with other cars available ad-hoc to fill in the time in between.

The day gave Southern Group members the chance to sample some cars in the run-up to our Car of the Year awards. A number were present on the day, some being fully booked to drive, but at least it gave the chance to see the car ‘in the flesh’ rather than just pictures.

Chairman Ian Robertson supplied a comprehensive list before the driving day of contenders of cars introduced during 2021 and the list is attached at the end of this report for members to consider their voting choice.

It was a most enjoyable event. The hotel provided excellent accommodation and cuisine, with all expenditure being paid for by group funds, and the inclusion of the SMMT staff at dinner added an extra dimension to the group’s involvement in the industry.

Let’s hope we can continue it next year and make it a yearly event on the Southern Group calendar.

New cars (not facelifts) introduced during 2021 to focus on testing for annual Car of the Year awards