Shayne Deegan talks us through his amazing debut Mini Miglia season.
Competing up front in the Mini Miglia formula, the Mini 7 Racing Club’s toptier championship, is far from easy. There’s fierce competition from drivers who’ve raced and tuned Minis for decades, in cars that have been continually developed for years. Take Peter Baldwin’s iconic orange and white Miglia, a car first built in the early ‘90s when Rover still supported the championship. Peter developed the car through the 1996 season and it’s been honed on track ever since, taking the Miglia title a record seven times, the final championship coming in 2013 with Peter aged 72!
Short of Peter getting back in the car, however, the chances of it taking an eighth Mini Miglia championship looked bleak. That was until November 2015, when a young racer by the name of Shayne Deegan booked in to race a special non-championship event in the Baldwin Motorsport Miglia at Snetterton. Somehow he’d jumped straight into the Mini from his Citroen Saxo, battled for the lead of the race with 2015 Miglia champion Kane Astin and took the win. Deegan’s pace was impressive, but it wasn’t until the first round of the 2016 championship at Brands Hatch that feathers would really get
ruffled. He’d somehow qualified three-tenths of a second clear of the field for race one, and over half a second clear for race two. It was indicative of the season to come – 16 rounds and almost six months later, Deegan has had one of the most successful Mini racing seasons on record. He’s achieved a maximum points score, won all but two races, taken all but one pole position and set five new lap records in the process. We sat down for a quick catch up with Shayne after the dust had settled, to see what’s next on the cards for the 2017 season.
Have you raced in Minis before?
Yes, I originally started racing a 998cc Autograss Mini when I was just 12, so that must have been 2007. The following year I became the youngest ever Junior Champion, and I managed to win the championship twice more before moving to circuit racing in 2012. Then it was over to racing Citroen Saxos with the 750 Motor Club. It went pretty well too - second in 2013 then I won the championship back-to-back for the next two years. My parents both raced Autograss and are ex-National and British champions, so I must have picked it up from them; they’ve been a great support all the way.
How did you get to race Peter’s Miglia?
My dad’s business, Regency Autos, has fourwheel aligned the car for the past few years. Peter would come over and request it how he wanted the set-up, so that’s how it originally came about. I’d like to have raced my own car, but then I don’t know anywhere near as much about the set-up as Peter. I could go out in testing, say if it was understeering or oversteering and he’d know the car so well he’d sort it out perfectly.
What makes you so quick?
A lot of the grasstrack racing has helped with car control, especially in the lack of fear and ability to slide the car around the corners. When the car steps out on the rear end, you need to keep the throttle pinned and have confidence in the car that if you do end up in a slide it’ll pull you back out again. With Minis, even on the slick tyres, you need to slide to go fast on the limit. I never expected to do quite so well in the first year though. I thought it would be close up front and people would be much closer by the end.
The car must play a part too?
I think it’s 50/50 really. The car hasn’t changed much in 12 years, although with the other drivers in the car it was never at the same level. I don’t want to sound big-headed about it, but a lot of the speed was down to my driving. We also had the right car and the right man in Peter to run me for the year. There’s not a lot he doesn’t know about making a Mini go quickly.
Who’s quicker, you or Peter?
Aha, well… Peter said even back in the day when he was properly on the pace I would have been quicker. I’d have liked to have had the chance to race with him 10 years ago though. There were some real quick drivers out there this year, many ex-champions, yet it was only Rupert Deeth who really gave me a run and pushed me to the line at Snetterton. We thought they’d all catch up by the end.
What’s your plans for 2017?
I’ve got a drive in the Cooksport Clio Cup car for next season, starting with a 24-hour race in Dubai at the Yas Marina Circuit. The Clios are pricey, so although I’d love to come back and defend my Miglia title I’ll probably only be able to manage one or two races. Peter’s trying to persuade me to do it again, as there’ll be some real fast drivers like Ashley Davies progressing from the Se7ens. I’d like to keep this momentum going into the Clios, but it’s a different ballgame. We’ll see what happens - the ultimate aim has to be touring cars. Since the Autograss Mini it’s always been my dream to be paid to race.
Shayne Deegan took the accolade of very fast driver in a very fast car, and absolutely dominated 2016’s top-tier of Mini circuit racing.
The car remained unchanged from when Peter Baldwin last won in 2013.
The most successful racing Mini of all time?
At Snetterton with Rupert Deeth and Dan Wheeler. 2014 Miglia champion Deeth was the closest to catching Deegan all season, but his pace was largely unmatched.
Shayne’s off to the Clio Cup next, but may return to Minis.
Peter has been there to help all season.
Ready and waiting for the off at Castle Combe.