Just a few words

December 5

November 29 2016 was almost a very poignant day for small oval motor sport in the United Kingdom – and indeed beyond – as the tickets went on sale for the very last meeting to be staged at Wimbledon Stadium in March (as well as two other big ones to be staged prior) and it appeared for all that it was worth that the historic Coventry Stadium was doing down the tubes too.  Thankfully, within 24 hours of it all appearing to be the end at Brandon, long talks resolved any issues going on and we were back where we were.  Yes, the Stadium is set to close at some point but not just yet and a full season in 2017 is planned and this will include the BriSCA F2 World Championship in September.

It does remain a complicated situation at Coventy though, and there could be more water to flow under the bridge yet.  What it did show in all of this was the real power social media has.  For better or for worse.  As little as a decade ago had all this been happening, it might have all passed with very few people knowing or just on here say.  But this wasn’t the case, somehow there were photos from people who had managed to get on the spot being shared and this triggered off a whole wave of opinions – and prophets of doom.  I was not going to be party to this but people whose opinions I respect were wading in, despite having the same contacts that I do and giving as much accurate information as they could.  On the other side of the coin, there is the very valid argument that the fact that it did all go off on the social media, it lead to the local media tagging on and the the discussions between the outgoing owners and soon to be sub-tenants with the new leaseholders mediated by a local councillor came about a lot more swiftly than they might have otherwise done. take a bow Councillor Michael Stokes – proving that not all of those who sit round the big tables aren’t like those in certain suburbs of London.

Let us look forward to the new season with racing at Coventry.  I know I am looking forward to working there in 2017 a venue I haven’t yet.  As for Wimbledon.  The end is nigh.  A 13,000 signature petition is going to be handed to Downing Street but alas as much as I would love it not to be the case I cannot see Theresa May overturning decisions made.  She could, and should of course. At least the venue is set to have a series of proper send-off meetings though, thanks in a big way to the Save Wimbledon Stadium team.  Sensibly three of them, including the last have been made all ticket affairs and I am reliably informed that one of them, the National Banger World Series round at the end of next month has sold out and the F1/Saloon and last ever meetings see the tickets left in the hundreds rather than thousands.  If you haven’t got yours yet, then please do so.

To enjoy Wimbledon whilst it is still there with racing on a Sunday evening, although not working that is where I have been the past two weeks.  November 27 saw an unlimited back to basics Bangers, which again showed (to me anyway) that as good and as spectacular as they are ‘National’ Bangers have wandered down an ally that they really need not have.  There was also a trio of Rod formulae on too – Stock Rods, Rookie Rods and Junior Rods – I don’t think I have seen so many Vauxhalls at an oval race meeting (!) and all produced good and close racing as well as some hefty crashes into the infamous fence.  It was a little more forgiving on this occasion, the damage sustained could have been worse.  This Sunday it was the Champion of Champions for 1600cc Bangers (aka domestic/Rookie) as well the Hoosier Tyre Series final for 2 litre Hot Rods and the Safari Engineering Series Final for the Superstox.  On a dry and cold evening, it was fast and furious stuff.  The Hot Rods had a slightly disappointing entry and it was World Champion Dan Smith who won their main event whilst in the Superstox it was also the World Champion, Jason Cooper, who took the honours.  He was made to work for it though in the second half of the race by Jake Sturt who has been one of the most improved drivers of the season.  He was going well in the two races that followed too but ended up crashing.  They were won by Jordan Aylward and Luke Hamilton.  The last of them was probably the best race of the evening with Cooper being shown some stiff opposition from Ben Majoram and Jordan Salmon in particular. 

This was my 84th and last meeting of 2016. Ok, two of those were in Western Australia in February but whatever, it has been my busiest year for quite some time (all of which is detailed below) It has included being the first commentator/presenter to have worked at the Ipswich, Skegness and Northampton big weekenders in the same year, on successive weekends.   One doesn’t long to wish life away, but, roll on 2017 – whilst there are lots of balls in the air at present, I will be talking to you - somewhere!

November 22

Waking up on a grey and wet Sunday morning in November was bad enough, but it was added to this week when news of Mick Collard’s passing was announced on social media.  Mick’s real heyday was largely before my time, but I am ‘old’ enough to remember him and the very tail end of the “big three” racing in the Hot Rods at Spedeworth.  I do remember the feel of the excitement of those around me being at Aldershot on a domestic Thursday evening and the noise that was created by the crowds in the old and sadly already long since defunct old main grandstand at Wimbledon as the trio battled it out on track.  It was therefore especially poignant that his death came on the same weekend as the very last Best in Britain meeting to be staged at Wimbledon.  A meeting for Hot Rods synonymous with the stadium and the very first one was won by Mick 36 years ago, when he was the reigning World Champion.  An impeccably well observed minutes’ silence took place before the start of the meeting.  It is amazing how long a minute can feel in time, time to think and reflect.  Reflect about a lot of things.

The show, naturally went on and despite Wimbledon Stadium’s PA system being more than just a little bit fraying around the edges, Graham Woodward and myself ploughed on.  In front of a very good crowd, and on a dry track considering ‘Storm Angus’ overnight it was a great night of Hot Rod racing from both the Nationals and the Classics added to by the Historic Stock Cars.  A real chance of the today and yesterday on the same bill.  The National Hot Rods ultimately ended in controversy.  After a trio of heats won by Shane Bland, Billy Wood and Steve Dudman it was Wood who was on pole position for the Best in Britain.  He was the leader until just past the halfway point when defending title holder Jason Kew went for his move and the pair clashed.   This then triggered off a chain of events that saw a ferocious battle for the lead, albeit with plenty of bumping and boring.  To cut a long story short – read Graham Brown’s report on the National Hot Rod website for that – the upshot was that the first four across the line all received black crosses and they were upheld.  Fifth across the line Gavin Murray was promoted to first and received the trophy.  However, it was later announced that there will be a further enquiry into the result, and then today that after further investigation the orginal result would stand and therefore Bland was declared the winner with Adam Maxwell second.  I tweeted when I got home that we go to be entertained and for better or for worse, we were entertained.   The Classic Hot Rods saw victory for Gary Goodswen but drive of the race came from Dave Polley who was in a guest drive in Graham Boyd’s Austin A40.  Having started towards the rear of the grid Polley marched through to second, even with some round the outside hanging it out to the wires just as his dad famously used to do.  However, Dave was docked for using a bit of contact here and there too – but never the less left the arena with a smile.  The Historic Stock Cars were dominated by Triumph’s, all from the same area too.  With Colin Moss, Glen White and Mike Kilford ending up as the top three and me on the mic it was almost like a Ringwood late 90’s reunion.  There was a good entry of the Historics, but it isn’t good to see one marque so much faster.  It isn’t the case at every track, for instance at Arlington back in the summer things looked a lot more even but as announced by Spedeworth a couple of weeks ago, plans are afoot to even things up by allowing 1800cc Zetec engines into the older cars.  That may seem a bit extreme and getting away from what the class is supposed to be about, but equally we must be aware that it is coming up to 2017 and it’s all about the availably of everything to be able to make it all happen.

As for Wimbledon – another one down.  Quite what the Autumn of 2017 will look like, as it will only be then that it hits us all that the Stadium has gone, remains to be seen.  This was also my last commentary/presenting date of the season. I have really enjoyed my return to Spedeworth this year and  I’m at the talking stage (no pun) as to what and where I will be working next season, but there are plenty of exciting looking meetings that I have been invited to be part of.

November 16

It may be the depths of November but this was as busy and significant weekend as they come with the BriSCA Gala Night at Birmingham and the Best in Britain (part one) at Wimbledon.  Two great crowds to work in front of and excellent racing too. 

Birmingham’s end of season session has continued to grow over the years to the point that now it is the final fling for both the F1’s and F2’s, with the latter contesting the Shoot Out Championship and the former what is dubbed Gala Night and has come to be a multi-mix of regular drivers and guest drivers, and this year that added up to a highly impressive 60+ entry of cars.  It was also the Under 25’s Championship, this year in memory of the man who inaugurated it, Dave Leonard.  It too had its best to date entry of cars with the prize fund donated by the fans.  A great idea, living on.  This too included some of the guest drivers and one of them in Ant Whorton-Eales went on to take the victory.  This has angered some, given that he is not a regular driver and I can see where these are coming from but sometimes things actually have to happen before they can be tweaked for next time.  This takes nothing away from Ant’s victory though, with a great drive in the Harrison car and of course despite now being an accomplished circuit racer he does have oval racing experience. A circuit racer of note who didn’t, though, was Ben Barnicoat and he took had a race win and looked well at home in the Falding car.  Ben is part of the Racing Steps Foundation and has been racing in Euro F3 (alongside Lance Stroll, who will be racing for Williams in F1 Grand Prix next year) and is set to move into a Sports Car programme in the new season.  The meeting Final was for the Dave Leonard Memorial Trophy and went to Nigel Green, so nearly the silver roof for this year, but has shown enough promise this year to make him a favourite for at least one major title in 2017.  Earlier in the evening, when the track was still damp from the morning rain World Champion Frankie Wainman Jnr pedalled his shale car (The Hearse) to a convincing win.  Proof, if it was needed that in much the same way as Tom Harris has won on shale in a ‘tarmac’ car, it can still be done.  With the great entry of under 25’s and new faces appearing and others set to follow, the F1’s can head into the winter with positive vibes for 2017 and beyond.  The biggest worry is not the number of drivers but the number of available and/or suitable venues for the long-term future.  But that is something else for another day now.   As for the F2’s on the same bill.  Aside from a few pockets, such as Taunton doing fine all season and the big weekends such as Skegness and the Northampton European weekend this season on tarmac has not been exactly vintage for them.  It would take forever and a day to go into the issues that F2’s have, I have touched on them on this blog before, and I am not going to this time.  There is talks going on behind the scenes to make improvements, that I do know.  I have never been totally convinced by the Shoot Out format for this meeting, and this year with it falling a week earlier and thus into the actual season (and scoring National Points) even less so.  Then it compounded with very few of the sports title holders and/or top men appearing, even more so.  All that said though the on track show on Saturday was very good.  The Shoot Out Championship race saw several come together on the opening laps, which brought about a yellow flag.  Gordon Moodie was already up inside the top ten by then, having missed it all but then what looked like a certain victory at the re-start when he tangled up, and out with Aaron Vaight.  This then left the race to a battle at the front between Tom Clark and Luke Wrench with Chris Bradbury giving chase.  Wrench passed Clark, who tried to fight back but as the laps ticked off Wrench established his lead and went on to win.  The consolation was more like a destruction derby; I don’t know what was getting into people – a bit the old-school end of term “muck up day” perhaps?!  Moodie won but was docked for overtaking under yellow flags, and so Mark Gibbs moved up for his first win on hard surface since his Benevolent Fund Trophy win at Taunton in June.  The meeting Final was a more straight forward affair in which Moodie saw little in the way of competition on his way to victory.  What followed, I had a part in and that was his pre-race interview on track.  I will be honest; the whole thing took me aback as when I asked a simple question – regarding the number of Final wins he now has - Gordon simply went into a rant about something Bill Batten had said.  Whatever it was Bill had said to Gordon had clearly upset him, but equally it was in private and not public and for Gordon to conduct himself like this was disappointing.  Perhaps I added to it by not letting it go and the upshot was that it was neither of our finest hours.  I stand by what I said though and that is whatever his beef is/was/is with Bill – who by Gordon’s own statement is a “paying member of the public” – he should simply get over it.  Please do not get me wrong, I am a big fan of Gordon’s, I always have been and have shown support to him in the past on numerous occasions over various things when others have not.  But particularly in the past year or so there appears to be a bandwagon surrounding Gordon and I will admit I don’t like it.  Very similar did happen to Batten previously in the distant past and Rob Speak towards the end of his first (F2) career but both took time out and returned.  Their records still stood and they picked up from where they left off.  It is hardly a secret that Gordon and his supporters are unhappy that there is to be a National Series to determine the silver roof next year and see it as something of a personal attack from the powers that be.  But it IS happening and if we are set to have a year ahead of unnecessary tantrums and acid tongued interviews then I’m afraid I will be keeping what I am required to do with regards working with Gordon to a minimum.  Saying things tongue in cheek in a post-race interview, again all things Batten and Speak did at times when they felt the need, Frankie Wainman has been known to and more recently Dave Polley has been a purveyor of of are all part of it.  There is nothing wrong in that, it keeps us all interested but, sorry, on Saturday from Gordon it was something else.

24 hours later it was from the suburbs of one city to another and London’s Wimbledon Stadium.  Sadly, now officially on borrowed time.  The fight is going on (unofficially) but for now the line is that Spedeworth have been given notice by the GRA (who in turn we given their notice by the site owners Galliard last month) and the very last meeting will be staged here on March 26.  Plans are well underway for the remaining meetings, one of which has been announced and that is BriSCA F1 Stock Cars, Saloon Stock Cars and Superstox on March 5.  I agree with those who are calling for it to be all ticket.  I am very much looking forward to working that evening all ready.  But, back to Sunday, already I was in reflective mood going up the A3 and off into Wimbledon.  Just as I was back in March with what then might have been the last meeting.  A journey I had been making all my life that I won’t be again after the Spring of 2017.  I’m not interested in Tennis, I hate Football, I live in the South Downs National Park so don’t need a Common – why would I visit Wimbledon? (Or rather, Merton)

On a dry, but slippery evening if that doesn’t sound a contradiction, the racing was once again very good.  The cars go out so close to the infamous fence.  It was only Lightning Rod World Champion Gary Beggs who had the biggest coming together with it, in an accident that wasn’t his, but that is motor racing.   It was Ashley Birkin who went on to win their Best in Britain title, after a highly entertaining race (perhaps not for all the correct reasons) The 1300 Stock Car version went to the veteran and legend Diggy Smith, who despite getting confused when interviewed and thought he had won the title before in the Sierras, he hadn’t, this was indeed his first BinB since Ministox in 1982!  The 2 litre Hot Rods saw a successful defence for Paul Wright and the Superstox saw Jason Cooper win to add to his World and British titles this season. 

Part two comes up this Sunday and I am again looking forward to joining Graham Woodward as part on the presentation team with the National Hot Rods along with plenty of glitz and glamour (see Spedeworth website) as well as Historic Stock Cars and Classic Hot Rods.

Go, whilst you still can.  13,000 signatures surely cannot be simply ignored though. Can they?

November 7

Given all that was on this weekend, it may be of surprise to those of you reading this (who does read this?) that I opted for one of no racing and largely at home bemoaning that it was getting dark by 4pm.  True, I did go to an organised Firework display at a local Horse Racing course.  It left me appreciating that the ones that ‘we’ see in the oval racing world, especially Spedeworth which leave us spoilt…  I also had a weekend of reflection on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017.  I had initially planned to be at Ipswich on Saturday for the Saloon Stock Car ORCi Championship but a change of plan on Friday meant for a variety of reasons it wasn’t to be.  It is great that the Saloons are back involved with Spedeworth, even if in only a tentative way and it was good that this particular meeting was right back where it started, as then the NHRPA Championship back in the mid-1980’s.  It was pleasing to see that Deane Mayes had finally taken a Saloon Stock Car title after coming so close so many times this year alone and fresh from his frightening roll over The Racewall at Cowdenbeath just six days earlier too.   There were 40+ cars showing that the formula is in good health, particularly in East Anglia, feasting from great roots and tradition in that region, and one that Spedeworth obviously played a great part in making.  Despite hearing of suggestions otherwise (I think some are/were getting confused on Saturday) the ORCi will not be at Ipswich next year, as it was already decided that it will be at Coventry in September as the support to the BriSCA F2 World Final weekend there.  But having Saloons as part of Ipswich Gala Night again – why not?  Why not have them as part of the Ipswich Speedweekend?  Everything will be revealed soon enough I’m sure, the fixtures from all the promoters are in their very final stages.  One date you should put in your diary (as regretfully in many ways it is not too far away) is Sunday March 5…

I don’t necessarily agree with filming “live” for those sat at home to sit and watch on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.  In other oval racing countries, it is prohibited at most if not all venues.  The promoters here are apparently helpless from stopping it from happening, but seeing as it is/was out there I recently sat at home and watched the National Banger World from Ipswich last month and on Sunday the National Hot Rods from Hednesford and the BriSCA F2 World of Shale from Belle Vue.   The latter was a great race between Dutchman Patrick Tersteeg and Dave Polley, slightly reminiscent of the 1993 World Final at Crewe and the battle between Ian King and Bill Batten.  Ultimately, it was a telling move from Tersteeg on to Polley which sent the latter wide and into a stranded car which meant that another F2 title was heading over the North Sea.  It was also significant for the history of the sport too, for it was another title going to the legendary car constructor Colin Higman. 

This weekend the BriSCA season ends with the Gala Night meeting at Birmingham.  The one where plenty of one offs and celebrity guests appear in F1’s – such as John Christie set to appear at the wheel of Paul Hines’ car.  On more than one occasion John has gone on record that he would love to have a proper go at either F1 or F2, so it will be interesting to see how he goes.  The F2’s will have their Shoot Out Championship, which, perhaps with the Shoot Out for silver set to take place (I haven’t heard that it isn’t) could be something that will fade into irrelevance next year? Much like the Saloons, all will be revealed soon enough.

November 3

Spedeworth’s Gala Nights trace their DNA back to the founder of the organisation and the brand, Les Eaton.  The end of season meeting/s at (the old) Aldershot, Wimbledon and Ipswich featured cars and drivers in fancy dress along with huge firework displays.  All part of the razzmatazz that Spedeworth, was and indeed still is known for.  I remember dressing up several times to be part of it all to go on my dad’s cars at these meetings.  Happy memories.   The Gala Night at Arlington has moved, naturally or otherwise, to be more of a Halloween meeting than Guy Fawkes.  As well as a big firework display, a big crowd and a youngster’s fancy dress competition it also featured near on 100 Back to Basics Bangers and a good entry of 1300 Stock Cars, all enjoyed on what was a mild night for the time of the year.  Oh, how the weather has changed in such a short space of time!

The 1300 Stock Car heats both went the way of Chris Partridge and Paul Aylward second both times, both in Honda’s which clearly liked the tricky conditions that the Bangers had left behind for them.  The Final came down to a dramatic, if unfortunately, and unsatisfactory conclusion.  I don’t think I have ever witnessed a race, let alone called one where both first and second across the line have had to be removed on technicalities.   It looked for all the while that Will Morphy was heading for the Southern Championship win, but his front wheel collapsed just a couple of laps from home.  The car must be in full working order and/or not be in a dangerous position to be permitted to continue, so he couldn’t.  Second at the time – on the road – was Jimmy Morris who was already receiving the ‘red cross’ flag for a flapping bonnet, which looked as it was about to part company with the car.  So, he couldn’t get the result either and ultimately it was a bemused Diggy Smith who took the win.  Another title for Diggy’s huge collection, and, to be fair just think how many he has lost on technicalities over the years so it is a case of what goes around comes around.

Sunday, it was Wimbledon and for me a return, albeit yes, set to be short lived, as we all know too well now.  I had filmed at the Best in Britain meetings there last year for Motors TV (one of which didn’t get shown, but IS available via Martin Hunt Videos on DVD) but this was the first time I had commentated there, and worked there for 20 years!  Wow.  It was an interesting meeting, a 15-race blockbuster which was all done and dusted well before 9pm.  It was a first (and yes, probably last) appearance from the Mini Super Two’s, we got the sound of the V8 Stock Cars, the Junior Rods put on some close and competitive racing and there were Ladies Bangers and Bangers too.  It was an enjoyable evening – and that is what we need to do with Wimbledon, enjoy it whilst we can.  There are some very good looking meetings planned for the ‘second half’ of the 2016-17 season.

October 23

Amazing to think that three months had passed since Adam Maxwell won the National Hot Rod World Championship and he was back there on Saturday for the first time since and so was I, for a watch.  Yes, it was tempting to go to Kings Lynn for BriSCA F1 Shoot Out and Saloon Stock Car action, but the south coast to Norfolk and back for an evening (via the M25) is a long way and Foxhall it was (not exactly up the road either I know) for the ultimate purists meeting of “Hot Rod heaven” with Nationals and 2 litres with Superstox on the bill too for what was actually a rare outing there for them here.

This was the sixth round of the 2016/17 World Series for the Nationals and sowell underway on the road to Ipswich for next year.  The rules set by the NHRPA are working well, as the formula is very close and it shows (or showed) at this particular meeting with a trio of very close races.  This does naturally lead to “incidents” though.  It is easy for those, like myself, looking on to say and think “did you see him touch him” and so on.  But, you try and drive one of those cars at close quarters for 25 or 35 laps! It all adds to the drama.  Car wise, there was a second Ginetta body shell joining that of Bradley Dynes with Paul Frost racing his for the first time and I wasn’t so sure when I first looked at one, but now watching them go round the track they do certainly look good.  With the racing being so close it does mean that the heats at least are invariably won from the front.  That does not mean it is easy though.  Two yellow flags meant that heat one winner Mikey Godfrey had to work extra hard.  Danny Hunn took heat two, which went without a caution period but he was the cause of one in the Final, when he found himself stranded on turns one and two.  Dynes had the lead all the way in this one but after another yellow flag he found series leader and former World Champion Chris Haird right with him and over the closing laps all over him and around the outside.  Haird just couldn’t make it stick though, despite being very close and Dynes just held on to take the flag.  However, this was not the end as it was judged that Dynes jumped the last re-start and he was penalised for such and so it was Haird’s win.  After being relatively anonymous by his own standards Maxwell moved to second and Dynes demoted to third.   The next round is at Hednesford and then then comes the Best in Britain.  Highly likely the last ever National Hot Rod meeting at Wimbledon and the capital city and I am very much looking forward to being part of the presentation team for that one.

A week after their National Championship at Birmingham, the 2 litre Hot Rods were back where they had their own World Final staged, also back in July where Dan Smith took that memorable win under the floodlights.  The first heat saw a Sarah Cooper record her first Hot Rod win, Michael Mills won heat two and Richard Poulter the Final by some distance.  The Superstox entry could have been better possibly, it definitely could have been worse but 10% of those present were drivers new to Spedeworth Supers so that is no bad thing.  One of them was Dan Roots and this meant that he joined brother Nick and dad Chris on track at the same time for a real family affair.  Dan was driving grandad Tony’s 1996 Elite chassis (yes, older than he is) which took gold at this very track in 1997.  One of the newcomers for the evening Jack Barwick inadvertently played an outcome in the meeting when he collected Jason Cooper on the home straight (and Sarah too come to that – who was on a double duty and raced in six of the nine races) which resulted in a coming together with the wall and the 482 car didn’t reappear.  Tom Naughton took the win in this heat whilst heat two saw a late yellow flag and resulted in a great scrap at the front, which Nick Roots got the better of to take the win in his still fairly new Elite chassis. Terry George still builds a very fast and well balanced chassis…  The Final ended up with a bit of an unsatisfactory finish.  Naughton was leading, but a yellow flag after Phil Procter had a heavy crash on turns one and two ended up being a bit of a lengthy one as he got his breath back.  The re-start only went a couple of laps when Shaun Page ended up in the same piece of wall and when he gave the thumbs down that was the end.  The curfew time had been reached and the race wasn’t able to be re-started.  Matt Sole was the leader at the time and he was declared the winner.  Had it gone full distance, who knows, but it wasn’t to be.

October 18

Suffice to say a call up to work with BriSCA F1’s is always good, but when it is in the midst of an exciting Shoot Out for the silver roof then even greater.  Yes, the Shoot Out has its pitfalls and whether you are a fan of Frankie Wainman Jnr or not one has to feel for him that he obviously could have held silver and gold throughout much of season 2017.  But, it is what it is and not only that, he still might yet!

The last two Shoot Out rounds on the tarmac for this year saw a double header weekend at Birmingham and Northampton, the last BriSCA meeting of the season at the latter.  When I arrived at Wheels Park is was a pleasantly sunny afternoon which gave little in the way of indication of the wet evening that it was to be in the second city.  The rain came bang on que at the start of the meeting, and whilst it did clear, there was never to be any real dry racing.  It put a dampener on it but didn’t ruin proceedings and reading some of those Stoxnet racing ratings, they are too harsh.  But, pays your money, you take your choice.  I wasn’t stood in the rain.  Tom Harris, who did very well to get into the Shoot Out in any case given his limited number of meetings this year due to his racing in the USA showed his class in the slippery conditions.  Had it not been for a tangle with Michael Steward in his first heat it would have been a certain hat-trick for him.  But as it was it was a runaway Final victory to go with his chequered flag in heat three.  Mick Sworder and Shaun Webster were the other heat winners.  The Grand National came down to a dramatic late re-start and almost as if it was scripted the top three were the top three in the Shoot Out.  With Rob Speak leading from Frankie and Nigel Green.  That is how it remained to the flag, but Speak was to fail post-race scrutineering and he was disqualified.  The upshot of it all though was that the Shoot Out positions remained unchanged after the Birmingham meeting with Green leading Speak and Wainman.

It was an unusual supporting cast for an F1 meeting at Wheels.  No F2’s, Minis or V8’s but the 2 litre Hot Rod National Championship and Rebels.  I thought it made for a nice change and made a good mix.  The Hot Rods suffered a little too from the wet track, but only a little.  Their feature race looked set for a head to head between George Turiccki and Gavin Botfield, the defending title holder.  However, when Botfield’s car expired very early on it looked like it was a done deal for Turiccki with a huge lead.  However, he was hunted down lap by lap and bit by bit by Alex Crane and within the lap boards he was with him.  When they came to lap Sarah Cooper with two remaining, she did everything correct by holding her racing line but when approached by two cars side by side something had to give.  Crane got it bang on and went around the outside to lead and take the win.  Turickki was gallant in defeat in second and Nick Ross took his best result in third.   The Rebel Final was won by Ian Chalkley who has won almost everything there is to win in them this year.

 Sunday in Northampton started grey and wet, but by the start of the meeting the sun was shining, there was no more rain and the track was dry.  It was a little slow to get going F1 wise but when it did, in the Final and Grand National it really did.  The Final featured a big coming together on turns three and four which resulted in Dan Johnson on top of the fence.  After lower graded heat winners in the form of Shaun Webster, Sean Willis and Steve Webster it was Harris who made it his second Final win in as many days, chased home by Speak, although another lap and it might have been a different story as his tyre parted company with the rim on the very last corner.  However, with Green’s DNF (he got caught up in the Johnson crash) Speak took the Shoot Out lead from 445 heading into the days GN.  That too featured a big crash, this time with a roll for Danny Wainman after a huge hit from Will Hunter.  Green had earlier used the 212 to fire Speak out wide.  Green went on to win and with it re-take the lead in the chase.  It is mighty, mighty close going into Kings Lynn and almost certain to go to the wire at the last round at Belle Vue….

Support came from a good entry of NMSC Ministox, where gold top Charlie Guinchard continued his good run by winning the Final and the Northampton Championship and a dismal entry of BriSCA F2’s.  16 was the lowest I had seen here and quite possibly was the least here in the long history of F2 and the track.  There were some reasons.  Clashing Buxton with Northampton is plain stupid, but they only had 11 cars there.  It may have tipped the total just about past 20 if they had not done so.  Gordon Moodie effectively drove past Buxton to get here, but there was a track championship to win and he duly did with a hat-trick of wins where nobody got close to him.  16 cars in heat one, 12 in heat two, 11 car Final and 10 for the GN. 

What can be done? Is anything being done? There was a much publicised tarmac forum not so long ago and I attended a constructive meeting of drivers and promoters in Skegness back in the summer.  There is to be an F1 style shoot out for the silver roof next year which may counteract the lethargic end of season that we are currently witnessing.  But does it run deeper than all that and more radical plans are needed?  I do not know what is being discussed fully behind the scenes.  Obvious technical issues aside that are being discussed such as engines and tyres and so on, to me both F2 and Superstox are having their place in the competitor and potential competitor market place squeezed.  Rebels, Legends, ModStox, StoxKarts, SuperTooz even Mascar are vying for at the very least a similar driver pool and/or dates on fixture lists.  Nothing against those formulae mentioned, but if BriSCA F2 Stock Cars (and Supers’) are to survive into the next decade they need to be made more attractive for ‘new’ drivers to compete in and help them grow.

In other news, I am sure that everyone now knows that there will not be an official oval racing representation at the Autosport International Show at the NEC in January.  I fully understand and accept the reasons why and Steve Rees explained them at length on a Facebook post.  It is a shame but it is what it is.  The show itself goes on and the oval racing part of the show is also going ahead.  As it stands there is going to be a stage in the usual way and Haymarket are currently sourcing to check that there will be sufficient content to make it a worthwhile exercise.  If it does go ahead I have agreed to be the presenter once again.

October 11

It appears to get earlier each year, but Sunday marked the last meeting of the racing season at Smeatharpe and therefore my last one of the year with Autospeed, with the annual F2 Ladies Trophy. It was amazing to think that this was the 20th running of the Trophy, in memory of Marylin Farrell – sister of Bill Batten – mother of Tim and Rob, who died in the Autumn of 1995.   A group of her Stock Car friends, led by Carol Cole and Jill Higman clubbed together and purchased the trophy in her memory and it was first raced for in October 1996 and has been the big trophy on the closing meeting of the season ever since.  I was there at the first one; I remember it well as it was the day after I had worked by first ever meeting commentary at Ringwood.  I stayed over and went on to Smeatharpe the following day, Colin Higman was the winner and although he doesn’t enjoy the best of health now in his mid-70’s, and no longer building cars, it is good to see Colin at each southwest meeting still smiling and enjoying his involvement in the racing.  It us sobering for me to think that I have been commentating for 20 years too. 

I have a weekend of BriSCA F1 Shoot Out coming up at Birmingham and Northampton, and the 2 litre Hot Rod National Championship at Wheels too which promises to be a great meeting.  But for now, here are my words from Smearharpe’s meeting on Sunday.  It was another fine showing from the F2’s with a three into one last bend Final and a one lap dash in the days Allcomers.  F2’s on tarmac may be going AWOL in some ways in other parts, but at Autospeed’s tracks, Smeatharpe in particular they have been on fine form once again this season with every meeting seeing 30+ cars and a full format.


October 3

I just didn’t fancy the idea of motorway miles this weekend.  But, given everything and that I was on a free Sunday I would have gone to Wimbledon in any case given everything that has gone on in recent times.  Billed as “the meeting they said would never happen” it featured Superstox, Junior Rods and Bangers, including a figure of eight race.  To nicely tie in with it all, there was also a display and demonstration of the Old Skool Superstox, which is a new idea as more of a demo formula to bridge the gap between the Heritage cars and the current cars, of which there is three decades worth of cars and history to call on.  On a weekend when a Stock Car meeting featured a 10-year-old doing an actual race commentary it was nice to recall the past, but also have a feeling of age creeping up on me as I remember the car of Brian Stacey from the late 1980’s and into very early 90’s, with the Metro body, nicely restored to its former glory and naturally the Howard Cole from the same car superbly replicated by Mark Johnson.  A car which naturally from Howard was way ahead of its time, at the time.  I actually raced a similar chassis from HCD myself.  There was also another very nicely restored barn find, Roger Nicholls in a Keith Goodings car from the 1970’s, Alan Harwood all the way from Scotland in a replica of Gordon McDougall from 1976 (when he was World Champion) and beautiful looking Brian Gray car, complete with MGB engine.  I do not really remember the sounds of the ‘B’ engines, but I do remember my dad building them. 

The Superstox saw three different race winners.  Shaun Page looked likely to record his first win in heat one, but got a little over excited on the very last corner and spun unaided.  Head in hands stuff for Shaun, but, I do know how he felt.  In the afore mentioned HDC chassis I raced 20 years ago I was actually set for a win at Ringwood, I was within the lap boards but I made the error of looking in my mirror.  Chris Roots, who was running in second place had appeared but was never likely to catch me and he confirmed this afterwards.  But, the next thing I knew I was upside down.  I never did win a race or get close again.  I’m sure Shaun will, but it wasn’t to be this time and it was Chris Capon who came through to take a win that he didn’t look like taking about two seconds earlier.  The second heat featured a nasty crash for Glen Woodbridge.  In the former Chris Bradbury car for the first time he suffered a stuck throttle and went flat out, square on into one of Wimbledon’s infamous and unforgiving fence posts.  The fence post was broken and lifted on impact.  Due care was taken to remove Glen from the car given he was in discomfort, but it is good to hear that having spent a night under observation in hospital he was released today (Monday) sore but largely okay.  Hopefully he will be back when he is fully recovered.  Jake Sturt won the re-started race whilst the Final saw Alex Meadows get away and go on to win by a fair margin in his Zetec powered car.

It was good to see plenty of old faces in the crowd too such as John Mickel, Paul Pearson, Steve Monk and Andy Bartlett to name just a few.  It was a nice trip down memory lane.  But equally sobering stuff.  The journey up the A3 and into the suburbs of south London, one I have been making all my life is set to come to an end at some point in time that is getting closer.  The show goes on for now though, and I am looking forward to working there in the coming weeks and we, as in the collective “we” will keep on fighting for as long as we can.  The 2016-17 season is likely to go ahead in its entirety so make the trip whilst you still can.

September 29

What a week it has been!  Without wishing to sound like “Chatty Man” (not much chance really, he does make people laugh) it has been just that with some good news and not so good.  It was all on the same day actually where we heard the confirmation that Wimbledon Stadium’s fate was sealed and then just a few hours later that Skegness Stadium future was safe, and safe in the hands of one of the most successful Stock Car drivers of all time.

Wimbledon reaching the end of the road has been the ongoing story of the year.  When site such as it is got sold to a property developer, in one of the world’s biggest and most expensive cities there was only going to be one ultimate outcome, however long it took.  But what has angered so many is that it has not gone (going) for much needed affordable housing the area but a Football Stadium (as well as houses/flats, yes) with a local council having it at their hobby horse to bring AFC Wimbledon “back” to the area and appearing to stop and nothing and/or take into account the negative impacts that this whole development could have on their borough – and that of the neighbouring one whose land they have effectively grabbed.  How do they think a low ranking team whose average crowd attendance is not a quarter of the capacity is going to make the place pay?  I will not dwell too much though because looking on the bright side, due to the great efforts of Dave Baldwin, Michael Burnage and Peter Gray who whipped up a public campaign, linked in with others going on against it and did at least put a spanner in the works.  Without them, there is a very good chance we would have already had the last ever meeting there in March.  But as it is, the most likely scenario is that there will be one last winter season there and the final meeting could well be in March of the new year.  That is by no means the definite case, though but for now let’s enjoy Wimbledon Stadium and motor sport in the capital whilst we can. 

Rumours as to who will take over from Hazel Cooke at Skegness have been doing the rounds for a long time.  Years even.  They have gathered momentum this year and such is life it became a badly kept secret that Rob Speak was set to cross the floor and become the new owner and promoter of the venue.  A former driver becoming a promoter is hardly anything new, quite the opposite most over the years were drivers before they made it their day-job.  Speak becomes the most iconic name since Deane Wood to do so.  Hazel has made a real success of Skegness, running some big events – look at the way the July Speedweekend has grown under her tenure – and also harvesting the most out of the holiday season with events at the Stadium in the middle of the week alongside the oval racing to out on a show and keep the crowds entertained (as well as getting them there) and keeping a strong and solid local driver base.  All of which are things that do not just happen on their own.  Involving the vastly experienced Paul Brown was a sound decision too.  Thus Speak inherits a good ship.  There are big plans, but, much like Deane Wood at Mildenhall it will not all come along at once. 

Interesting and exciting times though.

Talking of interesting, I have enjoyed being part of the summer season at Arlington Stadium this season, which finished for the year this week (there is still a Halloween/Firework meeting to come at the end of next month) It had been two decades since I had been involved there, as a teenager, and whilst I had been to watch on many occasions in that time, the thing that struck me on my ‘return’ was how many of the faces from that time ago were still there doing the same jobs.  That signifies a number of things, all of them good.  There has been some great racing there from a variety of formulae and it culminated with 1300 Stock Cars – surprisingly only their second visit there this year, Lightning Rods – sadly not really their track and the track championship series final for the domestic 1600cc Bangers.  That was won by Mark Almeida who will be defending his World title in this particular code in November.  In the 1300 Stock Cars, the veteran Diggy Smith showed how it is done with wins in both the heats.  However, he got delayed by Ian Beaumont in the Final which allowed Jimmy Morris to get away.

September 27

Whilst we live in a world where on the face of it nothing appears to change, the truth is it is actually the complete reverse.  Everything is changing and probably too fast.  Or am I just getting old?  The same has been true in the oval racing world this year where there have been changes, there will be more and plenty of (wild) rumours of more still.  That said, it surprised many when news was leaked early last month (via social media, naturally) that there were big goings on at Mildenhall Stadium with a complete change of ownership.  The changes ended up coming into being sooner rather than later with the outgoing promotion having their last meeting/s over the BriSCA F2 World Final weekend and then the new coming in the day after ahead of the first, or next meeting less than two weeks later (see my previous post below).  Overall Regime change does not happen that quickly when a business is sold or taken over but when those who were at Mildenhall on Saturday arrived they will have quickly noted the big change to the pit area which was vastly improved to become of the best pit areas in the country and other subtler changes such as a new signing in box, replacing the antiquated way that things were done previously.  And yes, there was no more MC.  For so long the front man/mouth-piece of RDC/Mildenhall, Michael’s departure is well known.  I am not going to knock him as whilst he was out of his depth with his instance on doing the F2 World Final his way alone, one cannot doubt his enthusiasm and passion for the sport.  In the voice of Mildenhall sense he was to be a hard act to follow and I knew that when I was asked last week to fill in for this first meeting many would turn of me regardless.  My being present on the mic on Saturday did lead to many to assume that I was his replacement but that is not going to be the case. It was at this stage just a one off for me, with Spedeworth and Incarace already having meetings on the day and associated staff in place, at Mildenhall it was mainly what was left of the existing staff but most significantly the two roles that MC had filled for several years needed filling (goodness knows how he got away with working as commentator and meeting Steward for so long) and I agreed to stand in as the former. 

There is absolutely no getting away from the fact that although all under the auspices of the ORCi, beyond that there is a clash of cultures between the old ownership and the new.  Things will change towards the new ways of thinking and doing things but equally Rome was not built in a day and Mildenhall Stadium, the promotion and everything about it was not built in a fortnight.  I would like to think that by this time next year it will be a whole different story.  Some who have been involved there as either staff or regular drivers may not actually like that, and that would be a shame, but getting back to my opening line in this post above it is a fact of life. 

I appreciate MC knew his Banger drivers off by heart and so on, and I like to think my knowledge of Banger racing is fairly good having grown up with it but I will admit I was at a loss with some of those racing on Saturday whom I had never seen or heard of before and with no driver lists owing to the old ways of having a “just turn up policy”. Unfortunately, the music was also an issue.  Again it was something MC was in control of 100% (how as well as what he played…) and “we” as in the “new” were sailing blind somewhat.  A lap top with virtual DJ was great, but the Spedeworth (and my own) way of doing things is rolling lap music and lap of honour music, which the virtual DJ programme didn’t have and so it was a case of pulling a jack lead from the lap top to an iPhone and back again which sometimes lead to periods of silence.  These are all small things that will be sorted out and smoothed out, but I was pretty helpless to do much about on Saturday.

But, as I announced, it was the racing we were there to see and what crowd was there did see a good meeting.  The BriSCA F2 white and yellow grade Final was won by Justin Parker before Jake Walker held off Billy Webster in a good scrap in the Final.   The Ministox saw Nina Leigh win the Final and yes, the Bangers, I confess again even I was confused as to the format and whether the Rear Wheel Drive Championship was a one of race or the conclusion of a series.  To me 33 National Bangers, up against a BWS round at Northampton is/was a decent entry but apparently not to some.

It was a mad busy weekend, and over 500 miles on the road as on Sunday I was at Smeatharpe for the penultimate time this season.  It was another busy programme of races and another highly charged and spectacular F2 meeting there too, and Dave Polley at his best.  I am seriously not a fan of clutch starts in F2’s though (or Superstox by the way, never have been) Anyway, here is my meeting report on the Autospeed website:


September 20

I cannot recall there being the three “Stock Car” World Finals in as many weeks before, but that is how it worked out this year and with the Saloon Stock Car World coming at Skegness as the third of them there was of course the danger of it being upstaged by what went before.  However, the complete opposite was the ultimate result with the best being kept to last.  In terms of both the race served up and the ultimate show it was game set and match to the Saloons and Skegness Stadium.  Nobody can do anything about the actual race (beyond the obvious - see previous entry below!) It is what it is, but this was one where the battle for the title went right the way to the very last corner and a whole lot of great racing and action in between.  Everything else was spot on too and even the damp sea mizzle weather cleared away too. 

It was still a little slippery for the two last chance qualifying races, where three from each went to the back of the grid for the World.  The first was won by a very long way by Stuart Shevill Jnr, who has concentrated more on his F1 racing this year, hence he was in this (and was racing F1’s too) Dan Petters won the second.   The World Finalists were presented to crowd one by one in reverse grid order, just as it should be building up towards the front row which consisted of the defending title holder Simon Welton and pole man Deane Mayes.  Shane Davies and Lee Sampson on row two, Michael Allard and David Aldous row three and then an all Northern Irish row four, not only that but a pair of brothers too in Anthony and Kieran McIvor.  The major factor was the weather and associated track conditions.  The afore mentioned “damp” had been hanging in the air since well before the start of the meeting.  The kind of weather where you did not realise you were getting wet.  Thus a nightmare on car set up and tyre choices.  For some, this is how and why the race was lost.  The mizzle stopped soon after the start of the race and those who had gambled on a wet set up, namely Mayes and Davies really suffered as a consequence as the track quickly dried out.  Mayes was sent wide on the first bend push, as was Welton and Davies did turn his inside second row starting position into an early lead.  But, with the track drying it evaporated as quick as the damp patches and he was caught back up and passed by Welton.  He then held sway with Aldous moving into second and it was these two who pulled well clear of the rest, always in back marking traffic with the gap ebbing and flowing between the two of them at the same time.  Aldous very nearly got caught in the crash that brought about the first yellow flag after Danny Colliver rolled on the exit of turn four.  The bunched up re-start saw the chance for those who had got left behind to get back on to terms.  Welton had the back marking Sampson between himself at Aldous and Simon actually had a slow getaway but if anything this put Aldous in the firing line and he was cannoned by the force behind into the track shop bend fence and this was effectively where his race ended.  The race did settle back down relatively swiftly and this time it was Allard chasing Welton, but, there was another yellow flag to come after Robert Mahwinney was left stranded, perched precariously on the wall on turns three and four.   Allard was right behind Welton for the re-start and they had back markers Eddie Darby and Dan Parker for company, both of whom went wading in at the drop of the green flag heading into turns one and two.  Both the leaders were sent wide, and this did lead to confusion to some onlookers as to whether the pair of them were actually back markers or not.  This mix up then lead to a funnel back of traffic on the back straight and in it Luke Grief was launched into a marker tyre and rolled spectacularly, collecting Ross Graham in doing so.  Suffice to say it was back to yellow and now inside the last few laps too.  The running order didn’t have any back markers this time and it was Welton, A McIvor, Allard, Jacob Downey, Greame Shevill and Mayes.  The bumpers naturally charged in on the first corner, it was Allard and Shevill who went out but more significantly McIvor went past Welton.  Only past, nothing else and this left the Ulsterman as a sitting duck for what was to come.  Welton timed his last bend move perfectly to retain his title in textbook fashion.  McIvor was left bittersweet in second, with a great result yet so close to winning the World Championship and Downey made a good third.

The remainder of the weekend for the Saloons saw some more great action, very even and competitive racing showcasing that on the whole the formula is in a very good place at present.  Dean Mayes both the Saturday meeting Final and then on the Sunday too and whilst it would appear on the face of it he has missed out on a championship roof grade this year, don’t forget there is still the ORCi title at Ipswich in November and he has as good as won the National Points for this year.   Saturday evening saw the F1’s in support for what was the second round of this year’s silver roof shoot out and the first on tarmac.  Near on 40 cars and some spectacular racing.  Slippery heats were won by two masters of such conditions Paul Harrison and Tom Harris before Rob Speak won the consolation.  Two yellow flags in the Final and it came down to a great battle between Speak and Harrison, with the more recent of the two former World Champion’s getting there first and then the new World Champion coming in for third.  A top three for the 40-something veterans.  A story to be had there, although Speak was once again very quick to point out that Paul and Frankie will be racing in 2017 he will not be…  Lee Fairhurst won the Grand National after first across the line Todd Jones was docked for jumping a re-start.

Sunday, always going to be the day after the night before but the grey of Saturday was replaced by sunshine.  Still plenty of Saloons and lots of StoxKarts for their biggest day of the year although a somewhat lacklustre entry of F2’s, with racing to match.  Relatively easy pickings for Gordon Moodie really.  One cannot even say that it was because there was a clashing title meeting happening at Bristol as that only had 27 cars present.  There does seem to be new hope, interest and vigour for BriSCA F2 on tarmac as well as shale for next season so let us hope that it comes into being.   StoxKarts?  Lots of them.  They made me laugh, they made me smile.  Would I ever specifically go and watch them? No.  Are some of the drivers racing them taking them too seriously?  Yes.  But, they are getting a good few from the terraces to the tracks and that is a good thing.

The Skegness meetings this weekend were my 60th and 61st respectively this season and it is easy to think that it will be winding down now, but not just yet.  This Saturday I will be part of the dawn of a new era at Mildenhall Stadium.  Somebody had to replace the departed cult figure that is MC there and for the opening meeting at least under the new ownership it will be me. 

September 13

I don’t know.  What can I say?  Well, firstly big congratulations to the new F2 World Champion Wim Peeters.  He totally owned the race, mastered the conditions and won by one of the biggest margins a World Final has ever been won by.  It was history in the making as Wim becomes the first second generation BriSCA F2 World title winner, following dad Willie’s victory 11 years ago (despite the nonsense MC opted to announce over the PA before, during and after the race. Out of his depth was Michael).  Willie coincidentally was actually in the race.   As an aside, and whilst on the subject of pieces of history I believe this was also the first F2 World that had no participants from the southwest?

For those who do not follow twitter, I will repeat my tweet/s that I posted in the small hours of Sunday morning.  “Very mixed views and opinions it would seem from Mildenhall.  Would have been nice if even just a bit of track prep had gone in, and as for the outgoing promotion there? Their greatest strength was also their greatest weakness and ultimately their downfall” Surely everyone must now know that this was RDC Promotions’ final curtain, and that the Stadium is now under the ownership of Deane Wood.  It is a shame that all of this couldn’t have happened sooner as Deane plans to make improvements to the venue straight away, all of which would have helped in a small way in the running of the World Final meeting but I guess there were genuine reasons why this could not be. 

Nobody could help the weather, the fact that for the second Saturday running we had a wet day ahead of a World Final was very unfortunate given the amount of dry weather England has had for several weeks now.  But no work on the track pre-meeting? Then keeping with the plan to place a Banger race on prior to the most important race of the year just showed a real lack of understanding.  The said Banger race wasn’t even a race, not finding a lot of traction they simply went wrecking on turns one and two (F2 direction) and this is largely what resulted in the track that looked like a ploughed field for the World. Absolutely nothing was done.  Drivers that did enquire to marshals and/or officials (although it was hard to tell as many were dressed in to what amounted to civvies) were given sarcastic answers or replies.  I know that there were moans that Coventry Stadium took “too long” the previous week grading the track prior to the F1 WF but to do nothing? The cars on the parade could barely get enough traction to do the parade!  Whilst yes, with the curfew and so on there was not realistic time to get a grader out, simply moving the Saloon Stock Car race forward (there were 30+ of them) would have made a big difference.  And NOT having three formulae on an evening World Final meeting an even bigger difference still.

Little point in going on, and on though.  What is done is done.  With due respect to some in the WF race, with the conditions as they were, we could have ended up with what some might describe as a random winner, but we didn’t, we got a thoroughly worthy one .   A new era now begins at Mildenhall Stadium.  The way things appear(d) to be done there in so many ways do not match up with how Deane does things, and thus Rome will not be able to be built in a day but from the next meeting on - which is as soon as next Saturday the 24th - the changes will begin and will continue to do so bit by bit.  No more marshals in shorts or turnstile staff smoking cigarettes whilst dealing with customers.   No more of those orange floodlights.  No more of quite a few things.  The Fish and Chips will of course remain though! 

I did attempt to leave soon after the World race, as I knew I had a busy and long day following, but I found myself blocked in the car park.  So I did end up seeing a little bit more, and with no more rain the track conditions did improve.  Too late though, all too late and too late home too.

From east to west the next day and the Autospeed National Banger World Championship, the 34th running of the event.  A well-established one, not like some of the other mickey mouse that have come – and in some cases – already gone.  Ipswich is the one they all want to be at and win, but as eventual Taunton winner Jason ‘Boxer Jack’ Jackson said yesterday – it is a gold roof and he and ‘Pikey’ had a great race in their efforts to win it.  Here is my report from the day on the Autospeed website:


September 6

It is good to be part of something that is pioneering, and that was the case where I was part of the first ever live stream from a UK Stock Car meeting.  AMGTV, who film and produce the BriSCA F1 highlight programmes for Premier Sports took the plunge to do this with seven cameras at Coventry on Saturday and I was invited to be the voice.  The whole project took a hit when the staging promotion wouldn’t permit the stream to broadcast to the UK.  I can see where this thought was coming from, but it is also a tad short sighted because where there is a will there is a way – the upshot was that many on this island did watch the stream and for free.  Nice one and hands up who has sat watching meetings on periscope?  That includes me. It was never the less to receive viewing feedback from as far away as New Zealand, Dubai and a vast number of Dutch subscribers.

Anyway, all went well and there is scope for the future.  Whether I am part of it or not I do not know, as this for now was a one off deal.   A live stream is live TV, but not quite TV.  With the long delays where the track needed grading, and also somewhat unnecessary delays later on in the evening where cars appeared to be taking an age to get on to the track (it probably seemed worse in our studio than it actually was) an actual live TV programme would need greater thought and more expense.  Rather than myself picking out people I knew in the crowd and talking about Sophie Clark and her infamous clipboard, it would require Gary Osbourne’s resources in the pits with interviews and so on with a roving camera.  But, as I say that would mean extra equipment.  All something that killed the planned Motors TV live coverage of the Banger World last year.

So, if you wondered quite where I was on Saturday – I was in a studio behind the back straight grandstand.

The weekend kicked off on Friday night with a great show put on by the Dutch F1 Stock Cars.  There were 63 of them plus the two New Zealand drivers culminating in a great battle in the Final between Ron Kroonder, Danny van Wamalan, Roy Maessen and Richard Talsma.  It was Kroonder who took the win.  The Friday racing ultimately went on to play a greater role than planned, as the rain during the day on Saturday rendered the track unsuitable for the overseas lap times and their best race time from Friday was used to determine their World Final grid position on the seeded rows.   As for the Friday evening support - four Grand Prix Midgets - who lead who up the path there?   And as there were a selection of what are essentially Dutch Micro Stock Cars present, they were given three races too. 

After such nice weather leading up to the weekend, Saturday was grey and wet throughout and although just as forecast the rain did clear away largely in time for the start of the meeting it did leave the track conditions tricky throughout and in need of work throughout.  That said though, nobody would have thought that there would be dust rising in the evening when there was the heavy rain in the afternoon.   The World Final race itself will essentially be remembered for the battle between Dan Johnson and Frankie Wainman Jnr.  Matt Newson and Mick Sworder did have a shout at other stages but it was the afore mentioned duo that had the main one and Johnson was desperately unlucky to just clash with the back marker Bas Peetom which caused him to take an outside front puncture and the race was then FWJ’s.  His third World title and in three different decades too and yes, probably the last F1 WF World winner at Coventry.  It is not to be the last actual World Final to be staged at Brandon, however…   The remainder of the evening saw some more good racing, including a meeting Final win for Sworder and a pair of good Grand National wins for Richard Bryan and Tom Harris, who was at the wheel of a Davidson ‘tarmac’ car.

Then it was on to Northampton for the ‘World Masters’ and I was on the microphone for this one.  It is a meeting that many like to deride, but it was actually very good throughout with some good racing for all three formulae.  There were a few very hard hits too, with Frankie Wainman Jnr Jnr in the F1’s and Ryan Cattell in the F2’s in particular having heavy crashes, which thankfully they walked away from.  Adding the V8 Hot Stox this year appeared to go down well and they produced good racing.  Matthew Barnard won the Under 25’s championship by a long way and Ollie Spencer won the Final.  The F2 Final came down to a three-way sprint to the line after a great last bend with Tom Adcroft just getting there ahead of Gordon Moodie and Dan Fallows.  The F1 Final also featured a “last bender” with Michael Scriven just holding off Matt Newson, whilst the new World Champion made third.

September 1

The last public holiday before Christmas, now that is a depressing thought in itself.  The nights are already drawing in….  But, it was a return to a day much more like summer on Monday after the gloomy day at Aldershot and a bit of a marathon at Taunton.  Autospeed hadn’t really planned it to be as such, just the way the cards fell with everything that ended up being on.  Cutting a planned formula for the sake of it didn’t seem right, and is not the policy of the promotion in any case.  But, the fact that 75% of the crowd were still there watching the Banger DD some five hours after the meeting started suggested that they were happy and satisfied customers.

My full report on the meeting can be found on Autospeed’s website here: 


Then, less than 48 hours later it was Arlington for what was my last scheduled stint on the coms there this year.  With Spedeworth Motorsports running nine meetings a week at this time of the year, putting what on where is a hard task.  But, there were decent entries, a decent enough sized crowd and decent racing from the Rookie Rods, Junior Micra Stock Cars and Bangers in Back to Basics form.  Jack Ansell scored a heat and Final double in the latter, Tyler Scott took the hours in the Juniors whilst in the Rookie Rods, it was good to see that numbers were well improved on their previous meeting.  It featured a great debut from former Junior Rod racer Harry Smith, who recorded a heat win but the Final went to Dan Abbott.   Local drivers, racing at their local track in front of local fans.  It is what it is all about…

It is from one end of the spectrum to the other for me now, from Rookie Bangers and Rods to BriSCA F1 Stock Cars and their World Final.   You may have seen it announced that AMGTV are bringing out live coverage (or delayed “as live”) via their online channel.  I am set to be part of the production, and looking forward to it greatly.  It is a shame that it cannot be live to all here in the United Kingdom too, which was the initial plan.  It will come another time though, and if you find yourself outside of the UK (and I presume this means the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and ROI, as well as the rest of the globe) you can watch live.  The coverage will be available to UK viewers shortly afterwards – I am not sure specifically when and then highlights will be shown on Premier Sports in the usual way.   Then on Sunday, I will be on the mic for the World Masters meeting at Northampton, thus a busy few days ahead.

Then, less than 48 hours later it was Arlington for what was my last scheduled stint on the coms there this year.  With Spedeworth Motorsports running nine meetings a week at this time of the year, putting what on where is a hard task.  But, there were decent entries, a decent enough sized crowd and decent racing from the Rookie Rods, Junior Micra Stock Cars and Bangers in Back to Basics form.  Jack Ansell scored a heat and Final double in the latter, Tyler Scott took the hours in the Juniors whilst in the Rookie Rods, it was good to see that numbers were well improved on their previous meeting.  It featured a great debut from former Junior Rod racer Harry Smith, who recorded a heat win but the Final went to Dan Abbott.   Local drivers, racing at their local track in front of local fans.  It is what it is all about…

It is from one end of the spectrum to the other for me now, from Rookie Bangers and Rods to BriSCA F1 Stock Cars and their World Final.   You may have seen it announced that AMGTV are bringing out live coverage (or delayed “as live”) via their online channel.  I am set to be part of the production, and looking forward to it greatly.  It is a shame that it cannot be live to all here in the United Kingdom too, which was the initial plan.  It will come another time though, and if you find yourself outside of the UK (and I presume this means the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and ROI, as well as the rest of the globe) you can watch live.  The coverage will be available to UK viewers shortly afterwards – I am not sure specifically when and then highlights will be shown on Premier Sports in the usual way.   Then on Sunday, I will be on the mic for the World Masters meeting at Northampton, thus a busy few days ahead.

 August 28

Although it may not have felt like it with near tropical temperatures in the south of England in the past week, the evenings drawing in are a tell-tale sign of the fact that the year is getting on, and already thoughts are moving on towards 2017.  What will be where, who will be doing what and so on.  A lot of rumours too.  Yes, Wimbledon Stadium has been in the news and on the social media threads but as far as the car racing is concerned, it is pretty much business as usual for the Spedeworth fixtures published and planned.  Whatever happens to the place in the near future, Wimbledon FC thinking they are going to be playing their first game in “their” new stadium is complete fantasy.  In the past couple of weeks there have been some significant announcements made.   There IS to be a ‘Shoot Out’ for the silver roof for BriSCA F2 Stock Cars next season.  There was a time that I was dead set against this, but things change and I do now think that it is time for the F2’s to follow the lead of the F1’s.  The criteria of who will be eligible for the shoot out is still to be decided but what I can say that it will not be a straight top 20 taken from the national points chart at X point.  F2’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness in that it is a big beast to handle and it is a bit more complicated.   Another announcement was released this weekend, was the Saloon Stock Car major title dates for next year.  It had become a badly kept secret over the past ten days or so that the World Championship was destined for Cowdenbeath rather than Taunton as per the rota.  However, what the rumours didn’t pick up on was that it is still set to be an Autospeed promoted and run event (in a very similar way to the traditional Northampton Good Friday meeting and the F2 Semi Finals at Skegness last year) There are a whole host of very good reasons as to why the Saloon World has been moved away from the southwest of England, which I am sure Autospeed will outline via their own methods in due course.  But, Saloon World at Cowdenbeath….what’s not to like?!   I am told that it was announced at Venray last weekend that next year’s BriSCA F1 World is to be at Ipswich.  It is the turn of Spedeworth/Incarace yes and it has long since been mooted that it would be run at Foxhall but let’s wait for an announcement from BriSCA F1.  All of that was upstaged by Rob Speak announcing that he will be retiring from racing at the end of the year.  He is going to be 45 years old in March, and what a great career he has had.  He could still win one or even two more World titles yet. Somehow I do not think it will be the last we see of Robert around the raceways though.

I have enjoyed my little part of things at Arlington this season, a venue I have been going to all my life and genuinely one of my favourites too.   This past Wednesday there were Back to Basic Bangers in Unlimited form and they were very good fun and, if anything, showed just how far removed from ‘reality’ National Bangers have become.  Do not get me wrong, they are still a great spectacle (see below) but have become an extreme and almost professional form of the sport now.  It is progress but what Keith Reynolds and Spedeworth have done with the B2B has shown than it can be pegged well back.  It has saved the Banger racing at Arlington this summer.  A programme of weekly Nationals and/or domestic/1600cc Bangers wouldn’t have been sustainable.  It was Mr Mag himself who won the first race races before Peter Dodge literally won the Final as the last car running.  In complete contrast, 2 litre Hot Rods shared the bill where Martin Codling recorded a heat and Final double to keep his lead going in the Hoosier Tyre series. 

The heatwave was AWOL at Aldershot on Sunday which was a grey and drizzly day, for what will actually be my last visit to what is my most local venue for the latest round of the National Banger World Series, with all eyes starting to look towards the biggest Banger meeting of the year at Ipswich in October.  There was a 56 car entry, far more than were booked with all the main star names present.  The warring factions warred – DWO-v-Black & Grey, mainly in those Ssangyong Rodius’, large hits were dished out and once again the Showdown race was able to continue into an impromptu DD, where the main talking point was an utter mauling for Simon Byrne courtesy of old foes Boxer Jack and the Hughes brothers.  Earlier on the two heats had been won by veteran Sonny Sherwood and Ricky Beasley before the 55 car Wild Card race was won by Lee Hughes.  As Boxer had won three of the previous rounds there were two Wild Card places for the World Final up for this and Sherwood got the other one with second.  The Showdown ended up being just that, but it wasn’t down to the last car during the actual race which was won by Boxer, before he set about Byrne.   The Stock Rods found themselves as support to BWS just as they had done so at Birmingham last month.  A trio of very good races too, even if there ended up being a little too much damage.  None more so than the unfortunate Nicky D’Souza who clipped an inner marker tyre and was launched into a spectacular rollover and collected the plating as he did so.  This left his Corsa looking very second hand.  Dean Blundy, a driver far more experienced than his white roof would suggest won both heats but the Final went the way of Eric Walker, his second in succession.  I’m not too sure what to think of Mascar.  They look good and did produce some good racing.  But these guest or start up formulae, call them what you will are ultimately going to be at the expensive of an established one are they not?  Daniel Ashton, Steve Stanford and Oliver Faller were the days winners.

August 17

Apologies if you are/were expecting a run down on what went on at the BriSCA F2 World Championship Semi Finals. I’m afraid I was not there (see blog entry below) I would have liked to have been, but it was just not possible.  That said, I was more than happy with my lot at the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed working at the “Classic Carnage” meeting at Arlington, where there were 70+ unlimited Bangers, where the idea was to recreate a “1980s” feel to the meeting with how the cars would have looked and sounded then, with material largely from the 1960’s and 70’s on the track.  Thus no mass over-welding, no outrageous engine transplants and so on.  It was the brain child of Mark Glenister, Jerry Ansell and Mark Annetts who had also planned the previous corresponding A60 and Austin Westminster meetings here in 2015 and 2012 respectively. Many of the drivers had spent months sourcing and then building the cars and to add to it there were some drivers from the era back for a last, and or another go too.  None more so than “The Warriors” team who were the super team of their time, although on looking back they were not actually around for that long, as they had called it time by 1987.  They had got back together for one or two specials since then, but they were back for this – all of them – Sean Gallagher (Spedeworth World Champion 30 years ago), Carl Gallagher, Lloyd Gallagher, Steve Johnson and Graham Poulter.  I felt eight years old once again seeing them coming out of the pit gate on the grand parade.  I have to confess I never thought I myself would ever be saying “here come The Warriors” so it was a special little moment for me too.  I will overlook that they used to upset me by smashing up my favourite “Mr Bump” (!) They were not the only ones back out, “Wild Bill” Aldred, the Figure of Eight World Champion of 1987 was back on track too, amongst others from the time, whilst there were sons of on track, and fathers looking on and plenty of faces from the past seen in the crowd and wandering around the pits.  Suffice to say there was a very impressive car list to look on too and the action on track didn’t disappoint.  It maybe did show a bit of a clash of cultures though, as some of the “Generation Z” of the parish didn’t appear to get it, and were expecting relentless train jacking from the off.   It wasn’t like this back in the day – it wasn’t going to be like that for this meeting.  What it did mean though was a big and spectacular Final and above all else a big a spectacular DD, and that IS how it was back in the day.  The race winners were Rob Browning (Rover P6), Paul Korpiela (Austin 3 litre), Mitch McGee (Rover P5 Coupe) before the Final went the way of a son of one of Spedeworth’s original Banger drivers John Dodge, James with ‘Jimbo’ taking the flag at the wheel of a Daimler 250.  Lee Saunders (Rover P4) and Chris Reed (Volvo) won the two Allcomers races before the DD was won by a Warrior in a Westy, with Lloyd Gallagher outlasting them all to win.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and it was great to be part of it.

The following day and it was the other end of the south coast and Smeatharpe, for my first trip there in several weeks.  On a very nice sunny day in front of a large crowd it was another good meeting with the F2’s being in great form, particularly the second heat where a no holds barred battle between Jon Palmer, Dave Samson, Steve Gilbert and Tom Clark.  Big hits on every bend, places swapping and above all else smiles and hand-shakes afterwards.  This is what it is about folks.  My official report can be found here


There was plenty of other news announced – or indeed not quite or actually announced - last week, with further rumours and all kinds doing the rounds.  I know more than some of what is happening, but not as much as you might think, but, I do know enough to know that whilst there are changes being made, they are all (in my view) very positive for the progression and future of the sport as we head into the next decade and beyond.  

August 11

I was back on the mic at Arlington Stadium on Wednesday for what was an all-Banger session, the first of two within a week there and I will be working both, as I have accepted an offer to do the honours at the Classic Carnage meeting, one of the biggest meetings of the year featuring a whole host of big name drivers from times past, reliving their youth and in my case childhood.  Some may be surprised that I am not set to be at Kings Lynn for the BriSCA F2 Stock Cars World Championship Semi Finals and 1300 Stock Car World.  I did have an offer from Trackstar to join their team again for the big event, but unfortunately the logistics of everything for me this weekend meant that it wasn’t to be possible, so it will be Arlington. 

Wednesday was a case of a meeting ending up being far better than it looked ‘on paper’ with the Back to Basics Bangers joined by Junior Bangers and Ladies Bangers and the racing, and associated action, was good all evening.  Yes, there was a single figure entry of Ladies but they put on a great show, each of them (easily) more than capable of going out there with the “men” every week, and in the case of some they do.  It ended up being a heat and Final double for Emma Lester.  The Juniors included all the current title holders and drivers from as far away as Wisbech and Cornwall as well as all points in-between.  Tyler Ivins won the first heat but it was the second heat that was the race of the meeting, with about five different lead changes and the race decided on the very last corner in favour of Bradley Lee.  The Final was all about Lee and Wayne Cotterill III, two of the ‘big guns’.  Lee went in for a lunge on Cotterill, but missed and put himself away and so it was the East Anglian drivers win ahead of Alfie Vince and Charlie Randell.   The Bangers saw wins to Daniel Allen and then a heat and Final double for Aaron Morris.  Enjoyable stuff.

August 5

Whilst it wasn’t the full “plan A”, it was a trip to the English Midlands this weekend and a visit to a pair of historic venues.  The first Saturday of the month means only one thing for many, but fact is that it isn’t always possible for me and I am not going to plan my life around it but it was good to get to Coventry for the BriSCA F1 Stock Cars “at home” for what was the last meeting ahead of their World Championship here next month.  The Stadium recently was given a stay of execution for another year (or so) but there is still a very good chance that 2016 will be the last World Final held at Brandon.  The June event especially, and then again in July had seen some fairly epic action and thus expectations were high for this one.  70 cars were in the pits on the back of a very warm afternoon.  But, all the same ingredients the cake doesn’t always rise and whilst it was still a great show from the big league, it wasn’t a classic.  They can’t all be!  The warm weather did bring about its own issues too as it was a very dusty affair, particularly in the Final and Grand National with the shale drying out so fast.  The heats went the way of John Dowson and fellow former F2 driver Mark Sargent and then Luke Dennis won heat three and Ben Riley the consolation.  The Final was fast and furious and hard to keep up with all that was going on.  Sargent got well away, and had there not been a yellow flag he might, just might have held on for a very rare white top win here.  But there was a yellow, with Mick Sworder in the fence on turn three.  The re-start placed Stuart Smith Jnr right behind ‘Sarge’ and 390 duly went on to win by quite a margin.  Rob Speak and Frankie Wainman – who hadn’t got near each other all race to land blow/s – were looking at the lower end of the top ten at one point but burst through to take the other podium places in the closing stages.  Smith dedicated the win to his illustrious father, who would have been celebrating his 70th birthday the day after and it is also notable that 390 won the last Final at the WF venue before the big race itself last year, when he won the August Final at Kings Lynn.  Frankie Wainman came through to win the Grand National, a highly spectacular 39 car race (and there were four others shut out of the pit gate) The meeting featured several visiting Dutch drivers and also a surprise return for Peter Falding.  I would have thought that a four times World Champion making a return, at Coventry of all places may have had a bit more made of it, unless I missed it.   But, all bodes well for a great World Final meeting next month – half of Holland is coming folks, so if you haven’t got your ticket yet, I would.  I hope to have an announcement as to what my little part in the meeting will be soon, too….

45 miles up the road the following afternoon and a long established event at an equally well established venue.  From the home of Stock Car racing to the home of Hot Rod racing and the National Championship and its associated weekend.  It was for a long time an early Autumn meeting, but has been in its August date for quite some time now with the qualifying heats taking place on the Saturday afternoon and then the big races running Sunday afternoon.   Arriving on the second day of a two-day event, does have the feel of arriving at a dinner party late in many ways.  It was Adam Hylands, already for former 2 litre Hot Rod World Champion and National European Champion who converted his good work from Saturday to get pole position, into a flawless drive to lead every one of the 75 laps on his way to victory.  So another win for another young Northern Irish driver.  The reigning European Champion Carl Waller-Barrett chased him all the way, but all he could really do was keep the yellow 54 car in his sights whilst Rob McDonald made third.  World Champion Adam Maxwell was forced to retire during what was the only yellow flag period in the race, when his engine developed an oil leak.  The yellow was after Glen Bell’s car caught fire.  What followed after the feature race will (maybe) become more of a talking point than Hylands’ great win as John Christie steered the 20-year-old family heirloom Fiesta to victory in the NHRPA Championship.  Food for thought for many, it was a great drive by a great driver. A bit of a novelty to see a driver driving from the driving seat too!   The Lightning Rod National saw Ben Murray win at a canter whist the Stock Rod National was a lot closer with a battle at the front between Ed Trofer and John Smith, until they came across a dawdling backmarker and Trofer was taken out.  This then left Smith to lead, albeit with bent front steering after the same clash and he fought off a great challenge from Siobhan Martin and Gary Butler.  But it was to be the Kent driver’s win.  The BriSCA F2 Stock Cars completed the bill.  There have been many different formulae to have joined the (National) Hot Rods over the years from Midgets, Super Rods, Superstox and even Saloon Stock Cars in the 1980’s, more recently Legends and Classic Hot Rods.  The F2’s were added on last year ahead of the World Championship set to be staged at Hednesford six weeks later.  A wise move, but really I never thought that repeating it for this year was such a great one.  As it was, there were almost 30 cars that collectively raced over both of the days and the drivers present did try their best.  Chris Burgoyne won the Final on Saturday and Michael Green on Sunday, by which time the field had been whittled down to 15 cars.  It is probably time to refresh the support for 2017.

July 25

Busy times this summer. Last Wednesday I was back on the mic at Arlington/Eastbourne, and on a glorious summer’s evening it is a great place to be.  Well, maybe not behind double glazing but you get what I mean….  A good entry of Historic Stock Cars produced some good racing once again and even a win for a Ford Pop with Mark Johnson taking heat one before one of my childhood Banger favourites Nik Wickham won the second heat and the Final.  Collin Moss, ex of Special Rods/Lightning Rods/2 litre Hot Rods made his first appearance in them and looked very fast and would have had at least one win had it not been for a misfire.   The Rookie Rod Sussex Championship was won by Edward Kennett – yes the one and the same as the Elite League Speedway rider.  He just has a bit of a play in the cars at his local track and in the winter months when time allows.  With points scored from the heats determining the line-up for the Final, he sold Anthony Simpson a perfect Speedway style standing start and the race was won and lost right there.   The Back to Basic Bangers were won by National Banger star Ricky Beasley.  A fair way to come from the Cotswolds to Sussex midweek to race a Fiesta on the key, but good to see him never the less.

Ricky was then the first person, and car, I saw three days later at my next port of call and that was a very warm and sultry Birmingham Wheels for the fifth round of the Spedeworth National Banger BWS series.  With Dave Goddard commentating on the long circuits, I was his stand-in on the comms.  The previous rounds had been largely good, lived up to expectation – especially Wimbledon, which was in front of a capacity crowd.  The previous round at Eastbourne was a good one too and for this, most of the stars were there all part of a near 60 car entry.  Whilst Banger racing is never predictable, this was probably as close as it could get to being that.  A pair of very quiet heats were won by that man Beasley and Jack Tuffen.  The ‘Wild Card’ race was the opposite…  no pun intended with the warring factions of Black/Grey/Bro/DWO at war with the Gladitators, Scrapyard Screamers and the lone Barton Boy joining in hitting both/all sides.  There was a race going on too though and Beasley was stopped from the lead just prior to starting the last lap by Noddy from the Glads and it was Jason Jackson aka Boxer Jack who assumed the lead and went on to win.  This was his third Wild Card win of the series and the upshot is now that there will be two Wild Cards on offer at next month’s Aldershot round.  The Showdown saw a second win for Tuffen and whilst it had been planned to let the cars run into a DD, just as had been the case at Eastbourne, it didn’t happen as Gary Madgwick took a large hit from Neil Cornish and the race had to be stopped.  ‘Magic’ was winded but by then curfew time had been reached.   The Support was perhaps not to all the hardened Banger fans taste but I enjoyed it with the Classic Hot Rods seeing a hat-trick from Craig Boyd in the family A40 and then the Stock Rods ran for the first time in Spedeworth’s new experimental format of graded order heats and points determining the grid for the Final.  Not universally popular with all on either side of the fence but it worked well.  Zak Alaoui and Daniel Rea were the heat winners but the Final saw Ed Trofer come through to win, fending off a late charge from Dean O’Dell who had started a long way back.  The first race I ever commentated some 20 years ago (!) was on was Stock Rods at Ringwood and Trofer was in that race so suffice to say has been racing some time now.

With the sun still shining, and the coast full of Americas Cup traffic it was to my local track Aldershot to sit back in a chair and watch on Sunday with the first round of the 2016-17 National Hot Rod World Series.  Yes, it has started all over again for the road to Ipswich in the first weekend of July 2017.  There had been much talk about the rule changes that are set to be implemented, and separately there had been drivers moving on, others selling up and there were others who sat out this opening round, instead focusing on the National Championship which comes up at Hednesford in a couple of weeks and then turning their attention to the World Series.  Whether the latter could prove to be risqué move remains to be seen, as there is/was/is no doubting that the 19 drivers that did race at Aldershot will have naturally got off to a head start.  Unlike the previous visit here back in the Spring, which then was for one of the closing rounds of the 15-16 series, when things got just a tad heated. It was entertaining, but for the wrong reasons.  Some say that Aldershot Raceway is too small and too tight for National Hot Rods.  I disagree and this meeting proved that it isn’t with a trio of good and clean races, and a great battle for the lead in the Final.  Paul Gomm couldn’t be caught in the two heats and that battle in the Final was between Billy Wood and Chris Haird, with Wood getting the better of it.   Considering it was the Supreme Championship for the 1300 Stock Cars – a title that is almost as old as the formula itself dating back to 1993 – the entry was disappointing.  Holiday time of the year, and there had been racing at Kings Lynn the evening before and the World Final at said Adrian Flux Arena is looming up, but even so it was a surprise to see so many leading names not in attendance.  The racing was very good though and that is what matters.  I have written and said many times that it is not a numbers game, the paying public saw plenty of spins, contact and action and that is what counts.  Teenager Fred Walker took his smart new car to the heat one win, Jimmy Morris took heat two but the Final went the way of one Diggy Smith, proving – if it needed proving – that he has plenty in him yet.  The National Micro Banger Teams saw The Dreamers ‘A’ of Steve and Jack Anscombe, Nathan Olden and Darren Terry-Brand complete a hat-trick of wins in such events in 2016 having won at Eastbourne in May, then at the Ipswich Spedeweekend and then here.  The Final was an especially lively one with everyone getting well stuck in.

July 18

The Northampton European Championship weekend represented for me, and indeed several others the third weekender in a row following Ipswich and Skegness.  And with mid-week meetings too, it is busy times at the moment.  Just as with the previous two it was an honour to be invited to be part of the show, and for this Dave Goddard and I made what I thought was a very good team, following on from the first time we were paired up at the F2 and 1300 Stock Car World Final weekend at Hednesford last year.


From talking to some and more so reading the social media and forums, it appears to be growing feeling that the Euro weekend is not what it was, or should be, and needs changing. Really though?  Change shouldn’t be made for changes sake.  Ipswich is what it is, as I have said prior, a festival of all things Spedeworth centred around the National Hot Rod World Championship and an excellent full two days of racing at one of the best venues in the country.  Skegness has the unique holiday feel to it being at a seaside resort and now the long tradition of it being the Saloon Stock Car and F2 weekend.  The Euro weekend dates back over two decades now.  It has been grown and natured by successive promoters at Northampton and I just do not think it would be the same staged somewhere else now.  And it could be that the F1 and F1 European Championships would go their separate ways.  Do we really want that?  Yes, a few years ago I was of the slight persuasion that it could or should be a moveable feast as per the other major titles for both the F1’s and F2’s.  But – and if there is a ‘but’ one has to stop and think – would there not be an unnecessary risk in that?  Would a shale venue want or able to make it the event it is?  I am not saying that they couldn’t, we all know they can but it would probably have to have a different guise.  And then there is the venue itself, losing one of its biggest events of the year could cause financial pain.  Things do need to be at least discussed I would say and things taken into consideration, but I think that moving the titles and/or meeting away from Northampton ought to be at the bottom of the list for now.  Perhaps a change of format and also ways of trying to entice more Dutch F1’s over for the weekend, as only one true “H” was present this weekend (Daniel Van Spijker really doesn’t count, as he is over here every week) There has been a real change in the Netherlands in recent years in that the dirt and shale is huge over there now, the tarmac is on the wane.  But there must surely be ways to encourage those who do race on the tarmac there to take an interest in Euro? That said, not only the Dutch though, where have so many of the tarmac F1’s gone?  It was only three months ago that there was a three heat meeting at Birmingham, yet this weekend there was a sub-50 car total.  The F2’s on the other hand, the numbers appear to have taken an upswing in the past few weeks, but this shouldn’t be taken for granted.


All of the above said, it is not a numbers game. 100+ cars don’t guarantee a good meeting, one of the best races I have seen this year in anything had 12 Historic Saloons in it.  Saturday was a quiet session for the F1’s, but in the past it could be said the Saturday has been too hard and teams have been up half the night repairing cars for the Sunday.  It started with Paul Ford winning the Trust Fund Race whilst the meeting Final went the way of Frankie Wainman with a storming win.  However, he was to start last on the grid for the Euro which meant he would have a lot of foes to overtake.  As it turned out, he tripped up with his biggest foe of all, Rob Speak with a bit of a helping hand from Mick Sworder.  Dan Johnson picked his way through it all to reel in the yellow graded leaders ‘Joff’ Gibson and Shaun Webster to be right with them as a yellow flag was called.  He moved ahead soon after the re-start and went on to win by some margin.  Nigel Green made it through to second, ruing the fact that he held back in the early stages to avoid expected fireworks that didn’t happen and Lee Fairhurst was happy with third, having made a last bend move on Gibson.  The remainder of the meeting really belonged to Mark Gray who was unstoppable in his former Tom Harris car with a heat and Final double, following on from his victory in Saturday evening’s Grand National.  There was more action as they day went on, including a rollover for the unfortunate Ford who had only just repaired his car from a big one at Skegness the week previous.  That is racing of course, though.   The F2’s had the usual format of the top 16 present from July’s National Points seeded through to the European, plus the top six Northern Irish in attendance and top six from mainland Europe and then the top six wild cards (i.e. those not already seeded) from the racing on the Saturday, with the grid then decided via random draw on Sunday morning.  Again, this does not please all as there is always at least one big gun who draws near the front.  But is that not the nature of it all?  The randomness? It came to be a random draw in the middle part of the last decade, after years of having a closed/grid graded start ala F1 and runaway blue top winners.  Much like the who question of the European, there is no clear answer and I honestly do not think it is broken enough to try and fix it.  Ultimately it was a Superstar who drew pole position, Dave Polley with Chris Burgoyne drawing grid three and Gordon Moodie 20.   In what was not the most exciting F2 race one will see, Burgoyne got into the lead very early on and never lost it.  Moodie battled his way up to second, albeit distantly and Wim Peeters made third.  The Saturday evening Final, for the Steve Green Memorial was much more entertaining with several big names crashing out and tripping over each other.  After a great tribute to Dave Leonard, Steve Green and the victims of the Nice atrocity from Incarace supremo Paul Gerrard it was very fitting once again to see Steve’s younger brother Michael come through to win the trophy for the second year running.  Just as with everyone else I was shocked and saddened to hear of Dave Leonard’s passing last week.  We only knew each other to say hello to, including one time on the other side of the world in New Zealand.  I pulled into the car park at Rotorua ahead of a meeting at Paradise Valley, and parked next to him and as we both got out of our cars we noted what a small and strange world it is.  It is now one without Dave, and it is poorer for it.   Ultimately however, the main talking point of the weekend for many was, and still is an absolutely enormous crash in the F2 Final involving Stephen Fishburn, Ben Bate and Michael Green.  The sport came close to a big one and as I said on the PA at the time, it is testimony to the rule makers and the car constructors (in this case RCE) that all three, and especially Stephen walked away.  How I didn’t swear when it happened I don’t know – if I was stood on the terraces I would have, but there is a mental switch when broadcasting and as the late James Hunt once remarked, “for whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen”.  The race was ultimately won by Matt Stoneman, who over the last few weeks has actually emerged as the current fastest English F2 driver and ought to be well cemented into the red grade for the remainder of 2016.


July 11

Remember as a kid when you wished you could go racing every night of the week?  I very nearly lived out that dream last week with the Ipswich Spedeweekend followed up by the Tuesday at Taunton and then to Arlington on Wednesday and then the journey to Skegness on Thursday ahead of the UK Speedweekend.  In the space of eight days that was 100 races!

With the Ipswich Spedeweekend being the original and the National Hot Rod World Championship and a festival of all things Spedeworth, from what were relatively humble beginnings the UK Speedweekend at Skegness has established itself as a must do event.  Just as you will see (for want of a better description) “non” Hot Rod fans happily enjoying the Rod races at Ipswich, you will see those who do not necessarily follow BriSCA F2 or Saloon Stock Cars at Skegness.  The nature of Skegness, the holiday seaside resort as seen it become an annual holiday for many and the Stadium tagged on to that some time ago by annexing the Thursday before as a pre-cursor (and the one after) and also what is the official Stock Car party at the Marine Boathouse just set back from the seafront.  I didn’t expect to be there until the very small hours of Saturday morning, but I was.  A great time it was too.  Prior to that, during the day on Friday I attended an F2 forum which included promoters, drivers and sponsors were various aspects of the current state of BriSCA F2 were discussed.  Everyone was very open with everyone else too.  It had been a while since I had attended such, and it was very refreshing to see and hear and totally different stance to the one I was at in a Northampton hotel room in the Autumn of 2013 where I left feeling totally exasperated. This one was the complete opposite with a genuine feeling that things are moving forward for the F2’s. That point was actually proved over the weekend when both the Thursday and weekend car totals were significantly up on the previous year.  I will not go into the technical rule changes that are planned on here (they will be placed on the BriSCA F2 website) but there will be a better organised fixture list in 2017 and whilst it has hardly been a secret in recent weeks, there will be a Shoot Out for the silver roof next season too.  I know that will not please everyone, I have mixed feelings, but seeing how it has worked in F1’s, it is worth at least a try.

The Thursday session was a very good warm up, with the two Finals and Allcomers races for both the F2’s and Saloons being especially good.  Michael Green won the F2’s and Dan Petters amid plenty to keep the fans talking on the off day, with two F2 drivers loaded up for the evening after a clash and a Saloon driver suspended.  A total of 81 F2’s raced over the weekend and 60 Saloon Stock Cars, all from all four corners of the country and beyond.  The tone for the Saloons was set for the weekend at the end of the first heat when Max Stott was looking set for the win when he clashed with a backmarker and rolled spectacularly off of an inner marker tyre.  This was one of many highly spectacular incidents and crashes over the two days, with the Saloons on fine form.  Since 2015 when it was still half and half, the formula has switched over almost 100% to the Zetec engine and it has resulted in very close and competitive racing.  This was proved in the UK Championship itself, where the grid had been formed from the points scored during the weekend.   There was an absolutely huge cloud burst in the preceding BriSCA F1 race, but by the time the Saloons were on track for their main event the sun was back out and the track drying.  It resulted in no less than seven leaders in the first three laps of the race until Shane Davies forged ahead and survived a yellow flag period to take the biggest win of his Saloon career.  World Champion Simon Welton made second and Northern Irishman Anthony McIvor third.  The latter was especially well done as he had been on the other end of a huge (and potentially illegal) hit the previous evening which resulted in huge damage to the 711 car.  Many would have called it a day, but no, he and his team practically re-built it – giving many a good view of what goes into a Saloon – and got it back on track, to qualify via the last chance race.  What I must do is stop keep getting the McIvor brothers muddled up on the commentary.  I seem to be digging myself in on that one. (Although not quite the muddle I got myself in by requesting the “black customer to return to their car” with what was just a simple request for a car to be moved in the car park.  Blame it on my big night in the Marine Boat House.  I will be on water this weekend at Northampton!)  Following the UK, was the another Skegness weekend tradition and that was the Raymond Gunn Tribute.  Remembering Raymond, who died in 2003 and fellow “Bad Lad” Gordon Barclay along with the always wise words of Davy Gunn and then Deacon Blue’s “Dignity” is played, it is all part of it all.  And then the Saloons go wild!  Dean Mayes emerged as this year winner, another having a great season and looking the likely silver top come the end of the year.  And what of the gold though?  Do not forget that the World Final is at Skegness on September 17. 

After last year’s really somewhat lacklustre UK weekend for them, the F2’s were back to their best this time and after Gordon Moodie had won the Saturday night Final, for the Gus Woolner Memorial after what was clearly an inspired tyre call on a drying track, in the bright sunshine of Sunday the UK Championship came down to a great battle between himself and main Scottish rival Chris Burgoyne.  The British Champion had had a great weekend and qualified on pole position and he immediately converted that into the lead, whilst behind the slightly muddled up front grid resulted in a messy first lap and a large crash for Richie Mead and Gary Wrench where the latter went clean over the top of the former’s car.  Others were involved too and soon after the resumption there was another large crash after Nathan Maidment struck the stranded car of fellow southwest driver Justin Fisher head on.  Thankfully both were able to walk away unaided.  It was then that the battle really came into being between Moodie and Burgoyne with Gordon appearing to wait for the right moment to pounce.  When Chris just slightly missed his breaking point on the entrance to the Seaside turn, Moodie was able to make his move on the next bend.  However, surely Burgoyne was not going to give up without a fight?  Of course not.  He came back at Gordon, harder, on turn three and both went wide, hard enough for the #7 car to hit the wall.  But, in all this Luke Wrench who had been not too far back from the pair slipped through with two laps to go and went on to take his biggest F2 win to date.  Burgoyne came back for second, World Champion Kelvyn Marshall third and Moodie fourth.  A great Stock Car race.

I know some die-hards will disagree, but the F1 Stock Cars are in a supporting role for the weekend, as they have their UK Open Championship weekend in May.  But what a support formula!  Yes, they were lacking some big names and favourites but it did include the World Champion, National Points Champion, European Champion and British Champion.  And a first F2 appearance for Jacklyn Ellis who looked highly capable behind the wheel as was voted Stoxnet driver of the driver.  That is a huge accolade Jacklyn!  Shortly before returning to the USA to continue his career there, Tom Harris made the correct tyre call to win the damp Saturday evening Final and then in the sunshine on Sunday Rob Speak took his first Final win of the year.   The reigning World Champion started his weekend well too in the Champion’s Shoot Out against Simon Welton and Kelvyn Marshall.  Not only did he win, but he was fastest in EACH car too….

July 7

Midweek summer racing!  For a long while it was the staple diet of the sport throughout the summer months but for a myriad of reasons, that was waned over the years to the point that there are only really three venues in the country that are able to offer it and they are Skegness (whose entire business model has to work around them) Arlington/Eastbourne and Great Yarmouth, although the latter runs nowhere near the number it once did.

The southwest scene is an example that grew up with the midweek racing, catering for holiday makers in the main with racing at the now defunct tracks of St Austell and Newton Abbot and then latterly St Columb.   Thus the one-off Tuesday evening date at Smeatharpe is a rare treat for all and brings back memories to those that can call upon them of those “school nights” at the Cornish Stadium or the Racecourse.  Pairing the BriSCA F2 World Championship qualifying rounds together at the two Autospeed venues has been something that has worked for a long time now and whilst with this year’s all-shale affair is not really enticing them all in the region and there was a disappointing entry at St Day, to have 40+ cars midweek at Smeatharpe was very pleasing and another spectacular session for the F2’s at the track that suits them so well ensued. 

Here is my official report here  http://www.autospeed.co.uk/race-meetings/results/tuesday-5th-july-2016.ashx

24 hours later I was in the south-east rather than the south-west at a very dusty Arlington for the latest in the summer Wednesdays there.  Sadly it appears that there is no competing with the beautiful game, with Wales playing Portugal in the Euros appearing to dent the crowd numbers considerably.  Never the less it was an entertaining meeting with 46 Back to Basics Bangers along with Junior Stock Cars and Rookie Rods.   Banger wins went the way of Jack Ansell, Wayne Gullifer, Joey Reynolds and then Dom Perkins.  Rookie Rods victories were shared between Dean Bristow, Steve Kirby and then in the Final it was Edward Kennett – yes him of Speedway fame – who took the chequered flag.  The Rods did suffer from the dusty track.  The Junior Stock Cars had an improved entry from their previous visit and they had their moments.  Samuel Dobbs was the winner of heat one before Bradley Boulden took over to take heat two and then the Final.

July 5

It is Speedweekend season.  Ipswich, Skegness and Northampton all on the bounce. In the case of Ipswich it is the original, dating back to the 1960’s and the one that ended up giving the sport the moniker - albeit “Spedeweekend” (sic) because it is all things Spedeworth.  Since 1972, the Hot Rod (now long since National Hot Rod) World Final has been the feature race of the two-day festival, but prior to that it was the Superstox British Championship (the two did actually share joint billing up to 1974 - thanks to GB for picking me up on that one). Different formulae have come and gone over the years, those at the helm of the promotion have changed but the fundamentals remain the same. It is the biggest weekend of them all with 400+ cars racing over two full days. 

It was an honour to be asked to be part of the presentation team for this year’s Spedeweekend.  It wasn’t the first time I have actually worked at the weekend. It almost seems in a former life that I was a lap scorer there as a teenager over 20 years ago.  These were the days before the transponders and whilst we now rely on them, equally the electronic lap scoring needs a manual chart as a backup, plus, there are still several formulae that do not run on transponders.   On the bill for this year’s 35 race event, as well as the National Hot Rod World Championship and all that goes with that were the 2 litre Hot Rods for their World Final, ditto the Lightning Rods with theirs, Stock Rods European Championship, Superstox National Championship, Classic Hot Rods National Championship, Historic Stock Cars, Ninja Karts and National Micro Banger Teams.  Yes, that is a lot of cars…

The National Hot Rods pride themselves on their professionalism and rightly so, for they are the pinnacle of non-contact short oval racing with such a great history to call upon and I think a great future ahead too.  The build up to the big race starts an hour before the race itself with the cars pushed to the grid and myself along with fellow presenters Nick Knowles and Graham Woodward went down the line interviewing the expected front runners. These interviews were filmed by MHV for the official DVD if you missed them….  Rewind 24 hours and they had their lap times to determine how they would line up.  The lap times had (in my opinion) been mucked around with over the years, with group sessions which were confusing and then the qualifying blocks where only those at the top of the respective points could be at the front of the grid and so on were equally as confusing.  TIme does fly though, as these had been in place for 23 years.  I'm getting old (!) but for this year, it was back to standard lap times.  Best of three and the fastest at the front, end of.  It worked very well.  It was Adam Maxwell who put his #76 car on pole position with fellow Northern Irishman Derek Martin alongside.  Both very bright young stars of the future.  The Irish – with defending title holder Shane Murphy from County Cork included – had won 15 times between them, could it be a 16th?  The answer was yes.  The English drivers never got a look in in the 75 lap race as it came down to a battle between Murphy and Maxwell.  After several attempts at looking at getting by the young Ulsterman, Murphy made his move on the back straight and did get up the inside but the two came together and the #970 car was sent spinning into the wall.  What many watching do not – or did not realise – is that there are CCTV cameras all around the Foxhall track and the Steward’s had looked and decided that it was a racing incident between the two before the race had finished.  So, the National Hot Rod gold went to Northern Ireland once again, and as one of his prizes, Adam will get the chance for a fully paid up trip to race in South Africa next month.   Dave Casey from ROI made second, Carl Waller-Barrett the first Englishman third and Danny Fiske fourth, having come from a long way down the grid and was left to reflect on what might have been in what was to be his last weekend in a Hot Rod for the foreseeable future.

The 2 litre Hot Rods had two qualifying heats on the Saturday afternoon to determine their grid positions, and the Final was under the floodlights on a wet/dry track after what can only be described as a rain storm of biblical proportions shortly after the early evening comfort break.   It was certainly a highly watchable race, even if it was perhaps a little bit the other side of the line in the non-contact sense of the word (!) Joel Richardson can consider himself unlucky, for without a yellow flag he could, could, have held on.  But, such things are part and parcel of all forms of 21st century motorsport and what it did do was set up a very frantic last third of the race with he, Paul Wright, Wayne Woolsey and Dan Smith all in the mix.  It looked like Wright had done enough, having got up the inside, but he appeared to break the front suspension on his car in doing it and that forced him out and it was Smith who took the lead, and despite massive pressure from behind he held on to take a very popular win.  Woolsey was second across the line but was dropped two places for repeated contact throughout thus Richardson was gallant in second and Gordon Alexander made third for a fine result.  Highly entertaining, if controversial and with their World Final run along the same lines, albeit with the big race on the Sunday afternoon the Lightning Rods were not to be outdone either.  A pair of bruising heats did lead to an all English (and East Anglian) front row, but a crash at the start eliminated Lee Skoyles and several of the other front runners.  The complete re-run did allow the 10-minute repair time but it was minus Skoyles and Ben Furness had the front row to himself for take two.  He held sway in the lead until he came across a floundering Winston Weir.  This lost Furness the lead and it was Richard Stewart who moved ahead, tracked by fellow Northern Irishman Gary Beggs.  The gap ebbed and flowed, but it looked like that is how it would stay.  However, in the closing laps backmarkers came into play which held Stewart up significantly.  On starting the very last lap he clashed with Jason Gibbs and went careering across the inner shale with a broken front wheel.  Hardly believing his luck Beggs came through to take the title. Ben Murray was second and Roger Dormer third.   The Stock Rod European Championship on Sunday afternoon was another very close race, and another Ulster victory with Derek McMillan taking the title but only after holding off a very fine and spirited drive from Siobhan Martin.  It was unfortunate that on her last lap attempt to get around the outside the pair encountered a backmarker.  Jack Grandon completed the top three to make it another Irish-Scottish-English podium, just as in the 2 litre Hot Rods.  It is still amazing how ultra-competitive the Rod racing drivers are from Northern Ireland.  They could have swept to all three World titles on offer but never the less can look back on another successful raid to the Ipswich Spedeweekend.  I’m sure it will not be the last either.  I can claim to genuine County Tyrone blood in my veins, so well done guys!

There are some, who are old enough now (myself included in that then) who do still remember the great England-v-Scotland battles in the Saloon Stock Cars at the Ipswich Spedeweekend.  Those days are gone, previous Spedeworth administrations should never have let it happen but they did.  However with the 1300 Stock Cars now a strong class in their own right north of the border they the said battles with the old enemy were very much in evidence for this British Championship weekend.  They even included a name and face from those “old days” in amongst them in one Mr Andrew ‘Diggy’ Smith who put himself about and showed a few from Scotland that he knows exactly who they are.  He wasn’t the only one for there were some big hits going in, plenty of wars all keeping the contact racing fans in the crowd well catered for.  This was as close to those old days as you will get.  And yes, this is coming from me – I haven’t gone native, it’s true.  No need for peaches either…… The British on the Saturday afternoon looked like it was headed to Scottish yellow grade 322 Marc Hughes until he was stopped by several English right in the closing stages and then came down to a near dead heat at the line, but it was Adam O’Dell who successfully defended his title, just from Ian Beaumont with Hughes recovering for a credible third.   The Superstox were on good form with a 40 car field.  Jason Cooper won both Saturday races but in the National Championship he just failed to dislodge David Miles with a last bend lunge in another race that ended in a near dead heat.  Terry Lawrence was third and Chris Bradbury fourth and as an aside it is noteworthy that the World Champion has switched to a Zetec engine, which is bold move.

It was a face and name well associated with the sport who won the Historic Stock Car Final on Sunday, an Australian chap called Dougie George took the win behind the wheel of a Triumph 2000, just as he did in the Banger English Championship at the Spedeweekend in 1989 and 1990.   He was racing in the Micro Banger Teams too which were only on the bill on Saturday.  A largely southern entry saw some great little wars going on between The Animals and The Dreamers, and ultimately it was the Dreamers A Team who won of ‘Cecil’ Steve Anscombe along with son Jack, Darren Terry-Brand and former Saloon Stock Car driver Nathan Olden.   The Classic Hot Rod National Championship was won by Clive Richardson in a Leslie Dallas inspired Escort ahead of Gary Goodswen and Lee Wood (after second across the line Andy Steward was docked two places) and finally the two Ninja Kart races were won by Charlie Hardie and Kasey-Jay Jones.

A very fine weekend which I greatly enjoyed being part of. No rest though…. Taunton on a school night next. 

June 22

The weekend was the first of four Speedweekends in five weekends for me and coming over the Solstice weekend could a bit of summer weather not been too much to ask?  Alas whilst Saturday was fine at Smeatharpe, Sunday was in the main drizzly and damp.  Still a great weekend though with the Saloon Stock Cars and BriSCA F2 Stock Cars in fine form.  Two new title holders were crowd too with Willie Skoyles Jnr finally getting that big win that eluded him for so long in the Saloon European and Mark Gibbs taking a popular win in the F2 Benevolent Fund Trophy.  The meeting Final featured the return of the Ray Tyldesley Memorial, remembering Ray as the first winner of the Ben Fund back in 1979, but also as the great Stock Car driver he was in both F1 and F2.  From this point in, the two trophies are entwined and will feature as the trophy for the meeting Final of the Ben Fund meeting each year.  On Sunday it was won in storming fashion by Gordon Moodie, who appeared genuinely pleased to have won such a trophy, remembering a driver he watched race against his dad as a youngster.

Here are my official reports from all that happened over the two days.



June 16

Whilst to the north, in the middle of England (where the roads approaching Birmingham Wheels were flooded) and to the south (in France, where Le Mans has thus far been blighted by rain) it was a dry, dusty and sunny evening at Arlington Stadium for the latest mid-week session in Sussex and this week it featured Rookie Rods, Historic Stock Cars and another session for the ever popular local domestic Bangers.  41 cars present midweek- many venues couldn’t command that on a weekend now, so all good.  It was another typically lively one with Steven Penfold rounding out this weeks winner. 

When the Historic Stock Cars became a fully-fledged formula I admit I was sceptical.  But, I do now have to admit I love the sights and sounds of the cars from the late 60’s and early 1970’s charging around the track.  Well before my time, but I can just about remember the days of Eddie George in a twin cam powered Escort and Eddie Aldous in something so tatty (but fast)I couldn’t tell you what it was!  The nature of the Arlington track suits the rear wheel drive cars too, plus Spedeworth capping the age limit at 30 has been a wise move and the ‘old boys’ – yes some like Mark Simmonds are my own contemporaries put on a great show.  Danny Verrall is new to the class this year having been a Banger regular for many years won heat one before Nik Wickham won heat two.  Nik was one of the biggest Banger stars with Spedeworth from the mid-80’s to early 90’s before taking a long lay off and chose the Historics to mark his return.  However, a crash saw him injured in 2014 and then the same happened again in 2015 so hopefully this will mark a crash and injury free return this time.  The Final was one of the best races I had seen this year in anything.  There was a great battle at the front and also a great one further back.  The one towards the back featured Gordon Coull, Simmonds, Chris Olding and Jack France – with about 200 years between them – whilst at the front, it was Glen White who just held off a hard charging Wickham, after both had reeled in long time leader Mark Johnson.

June 9

If you were to ask me my two most favourite current venues – and indeed of all time – my answer would be Taunton/Smeatharpe and Arlington/Eastbourne.  The latter, Arlington Stadium really gets the Eastbourne name from the Eastbourne Eagles Speedway team which has run on the site since 1929.  Stock Car racing came to the venue in 1961.  Famously too, for it was the opening meeting here promoted by Les Eaton that triggered what was to become the great Spedeworth/Board of Control split.   The two sports grew the Stadium together, and whilst it hasn’t changed much in the more recent years, it remains a charming venue, on the edge of what is now the South Downs National Park.  It was, I believe, former Spedeworth promotions man the late Dave Gay who wrote the words that remained on the Spedeworth fixture lists for many years that “the South Downs feel so close that you could reach out and touch them” Very true.

It was what were to become Superstox that appeared at that first Stock Car meeting 54 years ago and they have been a popular mainstay there ever seen.  Regretfully, and for varying reasons not so often now, but it is still obvious how fondly they are regarded there.  I for one had many a happy childhood evening watching at Arlington.  Or actually did I?!  Back then the track was a post and wire fence and it actually scared me to watch there!  The concrete backed Armco came in 1998 and hasn’t detracted from the action.

Despite a modest 14 car entry for the Superstox it was actually a pretty heavy session for them, with plenty of hard hits and big battles.  Two of the hardest hits came in heat one when two laps from home Luke Hamilton went in hard after a big hit from Bobby Davis Jnr.  The two lap dash re-start closed everything up and for white grade Tom Noughton, a double whammy from Davis and Chris Roots, coupled with the banked track on turns three and four saw him go in hard in his relatively new RCE chassis.  Sadly for Tom, who had come all the way from Cambridgeshire, it was the end of his evening.  Hamilton did make it back out for the Final.  It was David Miles who survived the two lap re-start to win.  Heat two saw Jason Cooper come through from the back to the front to win, having caught and passed Martyn Coles, who is nowadays a Sussex resident.   It was Martyn who looked like he was set for the win in the Final, but two yellow flags brought Cooper into contention and he went on to win.  Chris Bradbury was racing, returning from his recent injury, but had no answer for 482 who has now won seven of the 11 Finals this year.  Coles did try to fight back, and is starting to become a real threat in his Dave Polley built car and Nick Roots was third.

Since the 1980’s it is Banger racing that has been the thing at Arlington with a strong local scene and whilst other Banger racing strongholds in other parts of the country are maybe no longer what they were, that is not the case in the deep south of East and West Sussex in particular.  Many are now second generation drivers to those who were around in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s – the times of “The Brighton Bashers”, “Munch Bunch” and so on.  Who recalls the season long EF Language School sponsored series of the 1980’s?  A certain Deane Wood won it one year….  It was another good and lively session this time too from a mid-30’s entry, although slightly marred by a nasty injury to Dale Fairless.  It was “Shifty” Sheldon Grimes who took the FInal victory.

Finally, the Junior Micra Stock Cars completed the bill, with what was a small entry of cars.  As I recall saying when I presented the launch for this particular formula on the stage at the NEC a couple of years ago now, I think they are a well-conceived idea.  Minis are becoming rare and expensive in every way, there are still plenty of Micra’s around.  But the problem is they are struggling to find their niche in the market as there are also Junior Rods and Junior Bangers, ORCi Ministox are still going strong (including within the Spedeworth group at Incarace and HRP) and there are even some drivers from the far south who race NMSC Minis too.  Maybe they will take off, but time is also ticking.  For what was a small entry though, those there did put on a good little show with a heat and Final double for Tyler Scott and the other race going to Joe Giles whilst Callum Searle was doing a bit of lurking.

June 2

Bank Holiday Monday and I was heading west once again, for one of the biggest meetings of the year at Smeatharpe Stadium; Crashamara.  Like so many other “big” National Banger meetings it is not what it once was in the late 90’s and the early part of the last decade but then so very few are.  It is still a big meeting and on a day like this when the sun was shining it commands a very big crowd with a mix of the hard core Banger fans and the more irregular goers.  The meeting will probably be long remembered for a large crash in the first Allcomers involving Steve and Andy Bailey and Jack Reynolds.  It was a very dramatic moment, and even left the Banger fans debating whether it was OTT or not.  It is a shame to hear that Andy – dad of ‘Pikey’ in case you were not aware – has injured his foot, but if you look at the videos that are online both he and Jackstar were lucky.   For the official video http://www.dtvideos.co.uk/ will do their full production of three camera edit and in car Go-pros.

Here is my official report for the Autospeed website which tells the full story of the day; http://www.autospeed.co.uk/race-meetings/results/monday-30th-may-2016.ashx

May 29

Another sunny Sunday and it was my most local venue Aldershot Raceway on this particular Sunday, actually for the third week running as I sneaked in a trip last weekend too.  On that occasion it was interesting to see the Mascars for the first time in a long time for myself and also to see the Ninja Kart British Championship, which was won convincingly by Charlie Hardie in a Kart painted up in Gordon Moodie colours, and carrying the #7.   This Sunday it was a good looking and even “old school” looking trio of Superstox, 2 litre Hot Rods and Bangers in back to basics form, and with a couple of figure of eight races thrown in too.  All watched by a good crowd, proving that radio advertising does work.  I confess I am guilty of listening to BBC radio probably far too much, aside from LBC, but it is clear that many surely do listen to the local UKRD stations and that is good.

With it being a Bank Holiday, it is just that, a holiday weekend and it would seem that across many of the regular formulae there were absentees this weekend due to drivers taking their annual holiday to coincide with the school half term.  The upshot of that is/was that entry numbers were down on the norm in the Superstox – and as you will read in my next entry – they were from the BriSCA F2’s, particularly in the southwest this weekend too.  But never the less, the 19 Supers that were present put on a trio of interesting races.  Chris Bradbury injured himself at work in previous week and loaned his car out to white grade Paul Seymour, who is in-line to have a new chassis from Chris in any case.  Paul carries a very famous Spedeworth Superstox number #320 and he went on to win the first heat.  He then followed it up with another in heat two in what was a great battle race long with Glen Woodbridge and Ritchie Mead and then latterly joined by Jason Cooper.  Both the latter two fought past the pair of white graded drivers on the last lap, but then were preoccupied with each other, Seymour impressively saw his chance, went in with the bumper on both which sent them wide and he nipped through on the inside to take the flag.  However, there was to be no chance of a hat-trick as engine issues forced him out of the Final.   That race came down to a dual between Martyn Coles and Cooper.  Coles had led from halfway on but was caught by Cooper.  In a bit of a strange clash, Cooper seemed reluctant to go in too hard with the bumper, and Coles “put the brakes on” on the back straight on the last lap.  It didn’t work out for though as Cooper was able to drive around 511 on the final corner and come through for the win, but it could have almost gone the way of third placed Nick Roots.  The 2L Hot Rods are actually in their 30th anniversary year, I thoroughly enjoyed covering them for Motors TV at Wimbledon late last year and maybe it is a little overlooked, but their World Final is also on at the Ipswich Speedweekend this year which will surely be a race to see them at their best.   Three races and three different winners, and that is always a good thing, with the second race being the pick of them.  Daniel Bennett and Dwayne Peacock won the heats and then Michael Mills won the Final.

Enough standing watching for now though, time to return to the microphone and Smeatharpe Crasharama ahead of a busy summer season with both Autospeed and Spedeworth, with one or two guest appearances too.

May 15

Whilst old news in some respects now, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Big Van Banger meeting at Eastbourne (will always be Arlington to me) and working alongside Paul Huggett on the commentary and presentation.  It may have been a cold, grey and damp afternoon on the Sussex coast – not quite matching up to my childhood memories there – but there was an absolutely enormous crowd on hand to witness one of the hardest Van meetings I have ever seen.  In-between all that there was some good racing from the Spedeworth Stock Rods and Rookie Rods too.  The latter were back there 9 days later for the first of the mid-week meetings at the venue, to which it is synonymous and were on great form once again with some very close racing, and a highly entertaining domestic Banger meeting too.

This weekend offered a vast range of meetings to go to, from the Speedweekend at Cowdenbeath, which featured the Saloon Stock Car British Championship (well done to Kyle Irvine on his win) and BriSCA F2 Scottish Championship (big thumbs up to Dennis Middler on his victory) to the all-Granada Banger meeting at Ringwood (which, it appears did live up to the hype), the first of this year’s Skegness Speedweekends for F1 and F2 and the Superstox European Championship at Ipswich – which was won by Matt Carberry, and Chris Bradbury extracted revenge on Barry Stephen in a high flying moment.  But, I had an important family matter to attend to. There are times when one has to take stock and realise what is more important, and as I wasn’t committed to any of the above I didn’t go.

I was not to be starved of oval racing entertainment though, for a sunny Sunday afternoon at my local venue Aldershot dished up it in bucket loads, although maybe not for all the correct reasons.  The National Hot Rods came to the meeting heading toward crunch time (no pun…read on) for their World Championship that will take place at Ipswich on the first weekend of July.  This year, it is just the top 18 from the English points chart set to make the grid and for some it was a highly significant day, whilst at the top end there are no “groups” this year to determine the grid, it is simply all in the fastest at the front, but there is good prize money via the National Hot Rod Partnership for those at the top end.  So, plenty to play for. Aldershot Raceway is hardly the biggest oval in the land, neither is it the smallest, so I don’t buy into the notion that it is too small for the formula.  It is tight, there is too much grip, or not enough, which makes passing hard and it was always going to be a bit of a day for them, just as rounds here have been in the past.  But, it is probably fair to say they excelled themselves with controversy on this occasion.  Who would want to be a Steward…..!?  Yes, those of us looking on had plenty to discuss, and were still talking about it on the social media and messengers well into Sunday evening.  But, as I say, not for the right reasons.   Leyton Milsom was the winner of heat one before Mikey Godfrey took heat two and he looked to be clear in the Final too, but was hunted down and chased home in a near dead head by European Champion Carl Waller-Barrett.  It was great for Godfrey – he of the blog – to have a good afternoon to move himself towards one of those points paying positions, whilst for Waller-Barrett, he clearly likes the tighter tracks (such as Lochgelly where he won his title) but he also come on form at just the right time to challenge what will always be the fast Irish – from either side of the border – in July.   These two ended up well ahead of the chasing pack.  I’m not going to dwell on any of the controversy.  I will miss the next and final round and Thunder 500, both at Ipswich with commitments in the southwest but I am very much looking forward to being part of the presentation team at the Ipswich Speedweekend on that first weekend of July.

It wasn’t only the National Hot Rods that had a bit of a “teasy” afternoon (as my friends in Cornwall would describe) as the domestic Bangers were in a round of their Gold Rush Series but the main focus was the on-going feud between the two predominantly south coast based teams “Team Trim” and “The Dreamers” and there was also some great racing from the 1300 Stock Cars, including a near dead-heat for them too between Jason Scopes and Jamie Blackman in heat two whilst the other two races went to Jimmy Morris.  Do smile Jim – it might never happen ;-) …

May 4

I hadn’t actually followed up on the updated news on Wimbledon Stadium on here, so I will redress that now.  It was great to hear that Boris Johnson – Mayor of London until this week – had called for a full review into the planned building of flats and Football Stadium on the current site.  All of this was in no small part down to the hard work of Peter Gray, Michael Burnage and Dave Baldwin with their lobbying of all the right people in the right places, as well as a local resident’s association who were doing their part too.  What happens next?  Well, in the short term nothing on the face of it. The review will take place and this take time, hence the owners Galliard have offered GRA a two-year extension to their lease and Spedeworth can go ahead with their planned fixtures in the second half of the season and most likely all in 2017 too.  Beyond that, we wait and see, but we must stand together as one on this.  Our voices were heard. 

Although running late on my journey to Kings Lynn on Saturday thanks to the M25, I was determined to do as I had planned and slightly detour to play a long overdue trip to pay homage to the old Wisbech Stadium.  The site is now a two story Tesco and cinema and restaurant complex, and in a very nice touch on the inside foyer of Tesco is a montage of the history of Wisbech Stadium, which ran as a Stock Car and Greyhound venue from 1970 to 1994.  It always seemed to struggle for crowds, in the 1972 Spedeworth published book “Living with Spede” it brings mention to the “small but enthusiastic crowds that gather there”, although this was largely down to it (then?) being in one of the more sparsely populated areas of England.  But that said, it did stage many a grandee meeting with several big races for Superstox and Saloon Stock Cars in particular – some of the latter, such as Deane Wood’s (ultimate) World title win in 1988 can be found on YouTube.   It was a fast concrete circle with no real straights and I have many memories there, marvelling at the speed and action it put up, and finding it quite scary to watch at too, such were the speeds under the floodlights.   It was never really a Banger track – throughout the 1980’s it was the “famous three” of Superstox, Saloons and Ministox that those who did like to go there wanted to see.  Who remembers the 50 car Ministox race at a Speedweekend one year?   East Anglia has always been a stronghold of Saloon Stock Car racing and whilst it wasn’t the whole reason, Spedeworth effectively losing them in the early 90’s didn’t help at Wisbech.  The place was already under threat, with the land owners looking to sell for prime building land and a “last ever” meeting was staged in November 1991.  It was a fully sponsored meeting featuring five or six formulae if I recall, although even at that last meeting, rumours were that Spedeworth had signed an extension to their lease but went ahead with the last ever meeting anyway (!) Sure enough in March 1992 it was running again, but it was during that year that things went awry with the Saloons, and to add to it several of the top Superstox drivers switched to BriSCA F2. The 1300 Stock Cars were a well-conceived idea, but were simply not Saloons and their supporters naturally went where the drivers had gone, to Skegness, Swaffham and Kings Lynn instead. It is sad to say that throughout 1993 and especially 1994 (where racing was oddly switched to Saturday afternoons) it hardly went out with much of a bang. Despite not being old enough to drive myself, and it being 160 miles from home I managed to get to most meetings in those last two years and I was at the last ever meeting in November 1994 (lap scoring).  Not that it was staged or advertised as a last meeting like the one three years earlier had been. There were mediocre entries of Superstox, 1300 Stock Cars and Ministox on that damp day, the crowd was small and sadly the place went out on a whimper.  David Stevens won the last Ministox race, Tony Roots the Superstox Final that day and it was Neil Dunne who had – and has – the honour of winning the last ever race at the track, by taking the 1300 Final.

Spedeworth were losing money and simply didn’t renew their lease I believe.   It wasn’t as if the bulldozers moved in a few weeks later as had been the case at Aldershot two years earlier.  Quite the opposite, it sat there idle, then dormant and then derelict until 2009.   There were several rumours and indeed one or two genuine attempts to reopen the place, not least from the current Ringwood promoter’s Trojan (didn’t they even go as far as advertising a meeting?)  It wasn’t to be though, and rather than having an old stadium going to wrack and ruin on the road into a town it is fair to say that what is there now is an improvement, and many of those from the Stock Car families who grew up watching and racing at South Brink still continue to do so that the fantastic facility up just 15 miles up the road at Kings Lynn.

So not all bad, still a stadium lost, but at least it is not forgotten.    

May 1

Bank Holiday weekend and a different one for me as it is/was the first time in 15 years that I had not headed west at any point.  It was actually north and east first and after the winter like weather leading up to the weekend it was nice to not step out of the car at Kings Lynn and not have the bracing east wind nip the nose.  As I have written before on here, the Adrian Flux Arena is one of the favourite venues, and that of many other too.  You get back what you put in and it is one of the finest Stock Car and Speedway venues in Europe.  Anyway, we of course have BriSCA F1 and for a pukka BriSCA meeting with the F2’s paired (for the only time here this season) along with the BriSCA Ministox this was too good to miss, despite a long and typically arduous journey, sat on the M25 for an hour for no real reason other than there were too many cars on it.  I did divert via Wisbech as planned though, and I will update on that in a few days’ time.

There were good entries of both the F1’s and F2’s.  Not the case with the Minis as it would appear that the National Ministox Club and Trackstar currently find themselves on a different page.  Still, those that were there put on a trio of good races.  For the F1’s it was a World Championship qualifying round with the majority of the big guns all present, and it turned out to be a pretty brutal session for them.  After Colin Nairn took a rare chequered flag in the white and yellow grade race, the heats were won by Mick Rogers – who often goes well here – and white top win for young Austin Moore in heat two and to complete the lower grade domination of the preliminaries Nigel Whalley took the consolation.   It looked for a while as if this could continue in the Final as Bradley Harrison, who had only just scraped into the race via 12th the consolation could just hold on.  Past the halfway mark Mick Sworder and John Dowson had got up into second and third, but once they did they did not appear to be making enough inroads into Harrison’s lead.  But, a yellow flag for stranded cars changed all that.  The track was watered during the pause in the action, which is something that always happens here – Buster Chapman prepares a fine track, it is his to do what he wants with, so thus I was surprised that some were surprised standing in the grandstand behind me.  Any yellow flag towards the closing stages of a feature race would change things, but this especially so.  Those at the front quickly headed for the slick outside part of the track, young Bradley had no answer for the big guns (which was totally understandable) and these big guns took fire at each other!  Dowson’s car failed at the re-start and there was a heavy exchange between Sworder, Rob Speak and Frankie Wainman Jnr, which the latter got the better of and went on to win by a comfortable margin in the end.  Sworder made second and it was Paul Harrison third, who was absolutely nowhere at the lap 13 re-start and this came after Speak took Matt Newsome, and himself out on the last lap.  The World Champion crossed the line on three wheels for fourth.  If the Final had been hectic, the Grand National was even more so.  There were two yellow flags, a lot of damage and a further clash between FWJ and Sworder and then the latter found himself in another battle with Nigel Green, who planted 150 into a large marker tyre.  Joe Booth won.  This was all top drawer stuff from the Big League.    The F2’s were hardly to be outdone though with a very lively session on the Norfolk shale, the penultimate time at the track ahead of their World Championship Semi Finals in August.  54 cars in attendance including three from the Netherlands and first time shale track appearance for Northern Irish teenager Bradley McKinstry.  In a brand new car Wim Peetes stormed to the heat one win and then 606 Andrew Palmer took heat two, therefore a good start to the evening for local chassis constructor TLF.  103 Carl Issitt won the consolation which set things up for the 31 car Final.  It quickly settled down into a fast and furious race with Will Clement leading clearly, until there was a yellow flag after Chris van der Elst crashed with Micky Branston and the Dutchman managed to put himself harder into the plating than he did his opponent.  Michael Lund took over soon after the re-start and from then on pulled further and further clear and went on to win by as big a large margin.  Some way behind him it was a great battle for second which Billy Webster (look out for a feature on him in this months unloaded 7.3 magazine) and Dave Polley.  More fast and furious stuff in the Grand National, with Peeters taking his second win of the evening after his challenge faded in the Final.   This was a meeting that lived up to expectation - and then some!

A nice sunny Sunday and with Superstox and Oval Track Legends paired at my local track Aldershot, these two being on the same bill is actually a rare treat and I headed there.  With Spring suddenly appearing the rest of what felt like the entire world were out and about too, though.  Cars and MAMILs ahoy…. Farnham isn’t the biggest place, but everyone there owns a 4 x 4 it would seem and they were going to use them today!  So even somewhere half an hour from the front door proved to be a challenge!   The battle for supremacy in the Supers continues between Jason Cooper and Chris Bradbury and the pair took a 1-2 in the first heat.  However, in heat two Cooper found himself embroiled in a battle with Nick Roots with tit for tat from each and a game of cat and mouse thrown in for good measure too.  Both were later spotted heading off to the Steward’s room and – more significantly – shaking hands afterwards.  That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this surface again at some point.  With this going on, it gave Bradbury a clear run but it was Sarah Cooper who took some catching and 886 gave a perfectly timed and executed last bend lunge to take the win.  It was actually missed by many who were looking on at the shenanigans between 77 and 482.   On a surface that was as much spill dry as tarmac after the preceding Banger race, it was dusty to start with in the Final.  Bradbury looked to have the upper hand to start with on J Cooper, as once again it was Sarah who opened out a good lead at the front.  As the laps ticked off, Bradbury was catching but in turn Cooper was reeling him in, almost like a game of chess, it was coming together.  However, a pile up on the exit of turn two left David Miles stranded and brought out the yellow flags.  This proved to be doubly significant as not only did it bring the pack together but Bradbury was deemed to have overtaken under the yellow flags and was disqualified.  This did ruin a potentially good race for the resumption but rules are the rules.  J Cooper was shown a black cross, as there was discussion as to whether he had too but the Spedeworth officials do have instant video replays to call on, and if there was no evidence on Cooper, nothing could be done.  Therefore, after he had moved past his sister he went on to cruise to the win.  Jordan Salmon made second and Sarah C third.  Only eight cars lasted the distance.   For the Legends, I had not seen them for quite some time and now I have twice in a couple of months!  The previous time was Wimbledon in March, which had the potential to be destructive but aside from one unfortunate case it wasn’t.  However, this time it proved to be quite a damaging afternoon for many, especially in the Final.  There was only the one winner with Jonathan Hoggarth recording a hat-trick of wins.  It was far from simple though as he had to hold off a chase from Miles Rudman in heat one and then managed to get around James Hyett right on the last lap of heat two.  The Final was strewn with crashes and associated yellow flags – the Legend Cars phone will be busy for spares on Tuesday morning I would think.   This put Rudman right on terms with Hoggarth again, but try as he might he couldn’t get by him. 

April 25

There was once again a real choice of where to go for many on Saturday, but alas clashing meetings will always happen, it’s life.  The promotions within the sport are business’ and they couldn’t function being run for half a dozen times of the year.  But for me, it was Northampton for a unique mix of BriSCA F1 Stock Cars, National Hot Rods and Spedeworth Superstox.  Without doubt the first time that all three had shared a bill, but not quite as rare for the F1’s and Nationals to be together (it was only last October at Birmingham for them) and the F1’s and Supers had been paired together previously at Ipswich.

On a another (am I miserable or are we enduring an endless winter?) cold Spring evening, but dry throughout it was a good hard and fast evening, where all three formulae were at their best.  All week there had been internet chatter that it was a “nothing meeting” for the F1’s (is there such a thing?!) and this was compounded by World Champion Rob Speak opting to chase F2 World points up the road at Coventry instead.  This was actually something he did at this corresponding meeting last year too.  Ultimately there were 28 cars and with all cars in all races it meant that there were a quartet of hard races which were almost like three or four standard Finals, with the star men present racing each other in every race.  I know many would have preferred a two from three or full format (with the lower grades racing in both heats) but that isn’t an ideal situation and each meeting has to be taken on its own merits.  The four races gave those who had paid their money a really good show, and that is what it all about.  I would prefer a proper feature race too, but if the numbers are not there, they are not there.  It could be debated over and over.  It did lead to a yellow flag strewn first heat, which gave the stars a chance to hit the front towards the end and Frankie Wainman took the win, the second heat started with a big pile up on turn four and saw a good battle at the front between Murray and Todd Jones until it was Nigel Green who came storming through to win.  Under the floodlights the Final looked awesomely fast and featured a rollover for Micky Randall, who actually flipped underneath Henry Hunter.  It was to be a second win for Green who managed to break away from Matt Newson and Wainman after the re-start.  Ryan Harrison took his first win since his return to F1’s in the Grand National.   For the Superstox, it represented a one-off visit to the track for this season and the cosmopolitan 35 car entry included six from Scotland and the two from the Netherlands and most notably a return to the formula for the first time since June 1992 for Mick Sworder.  He was driving a car from European Champion Matt Carberry, which is/was/is literally just a deal between he and Mick.  He was actually going better than the nil results would suggest, after getting caught in what would be termed as racing incidents in the heats and then suffered a puncture in the Final.  Matt Sole took his first win in three years (I’m reliably informed) in heat one.  Heat two was headed for much of the way by Ritchie Mead in his new Chris Bradbury built car until he was caught and passed by Sarah Cooper and she went on to win.  The Final went down to that continued battle for supremacy between Jason Cooper and Bradbury.  Phil Proctor took some catching, but after swapping places a couple of times Cooper forged ahead and went on to make it a pretty unique evening, not only for the family but the sport itself with a brother and sister winning races at the same meeting.   The National Hot Rods are getting towards the sharp end of their World Series and the 25 car entry from them put some very good Hot Rod racing.  Yes, there were incidents and accidents, but that is the nature of it all.  Chris Lehec won heat one and then in a very (very!) close finish to heat two it was a near dead heat between Lehec and Leyton Milsom, after some great side by side racing.  It was so close it was tough to call, in horse racing circles it would have been known as a photo finish, and  it went down to the transponders where it was Lehec who had the victory by 0.001!  Hot Rod racing at its best.  With the grid for the Final set on the points scored in the two heats, Lehec was the early leader and it came down to a great battle between he Jack Blood and Rob McDonald, and then over the closing laps newly crowned European Champion Carl Waller-Barrett joined in too.  But, it was the Scotsman who does most of his racing in England who took the win, doing his current position within the all-important top 18 no harm at all.  Blood and Waller-Barrett were the placemen.   

April 19

It was a very busy weekend, with a trip to Ipswich on Saturday for the Steve O’Dell Testimonial meeting, then briefly returning home and then off to Smeatharpe on Sunday.  It was actually a difficult decision with the clashing BriSCA F1 and F2 World Championship qualifying rounds taking place at Birmingham on Saturday evening too, and it would have made much more logistical sense to have done the latter.  But, Ipswich seemed just too good to miss with large entries of both Saloon Stock Cars and 1300 Stock Cars, all in tribute to a driver who had given 30+ years of great service to the sport.  I wasn’t to be disappointed as it was a great meeting of all that is good about Stock Car racing, even if the weather was unseasonably cold for mid-April.  40 Saloon Stock Cars from all over the country and some great racing.  It is a very fast track for them and whilst it wasn’t relentless action ala the old Speedweekend days, there was a lot of big hits going in and it was all very close.  The closeness and the big track meant that the big names, of which all the big English stars were there, struggled to catch those ahead.  Dan Petters won heat one, for a rare win (and I think his first on tarmac?) and then Andrew Pridham took heat two.  With yellow flags in the Final, the star men did get on to terms and it came down to a great last bend move from Eddie Darby on Barry Russell with Ross Thomas nipping through too to make it a southwest 1-2.  The 1300’s perhaps shaded their bigger brothers, and did have race of the night where the second heat had a four abreast finish with Ian Beaumont taking the win, this was after Bill Bridges grandson’s Ollie Lammas and Wilf Bridges scored a 1-2 in heat one – with cousin doing a last bend lunge on cousin, and even tried to spin him across the line.  The Final was won a Starlet, driven by Paul Brown, a driver very much from Steve’s era so pretty fitting.

Then, less than 12 hours later I was in Devon – as indeed were several other Saloons who raced at Foxhall – where the F2’s were absolutely brutal for the annual ‘Remembering Rog’ meeting.  Here is my official report from the meeting on the Autospeed website


I mean what I write, words do not do this meeting justice for the F2’s, it was an epic encounter that will, when the dust settles be remembered for the big crash for Sam Weston and Danny Withers and the feud between former World Champion James Rygor and resident Wildman Dave Samson, which appears to have now left 783 sat on the naughty step.

10-15 years ago I regularly criss-crossed the country to watch, write on and talk about Stock Car racing almost every weekend.  I’m not so sure I could do it every weekend now! But, this was great weekend. 

On returning home on Sunday evening though I learned some very sad news, and that was the passing of Pete Welland.  Pete was a true legend of Stock Car racing and someone who I had known all my life, and owe a great deal of gratitude to.  He had a career that spanned an amazing seven decades, having first appeared as a teenager in 1959 in the then FII Stock Cars before establishing himself as a leading contender in the Spedeworth Superstox throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, where in both 1970 and 1972 he came close to winning the World Championship at Wimbledon, losing out to Biffo Sweeney in ’70 when it started to rain halfway through the race, and then Geoff Goddard in ‘72.   In the latter half of the 70’s, budgets started to increase and Pete struggled with the associated power and whilst still a regular blue/red driver, he didn’t get close to a big title win again.  It was during this time, before I was born, that my parents just happened to buy a house in rural Surrey next to his regular mechanic George, and a friendship was forged between he, my dad and Pete and when the Pinto engine was introduced in 1984, my dad as an engineer was tasked with putting one together for Pete.  This instigated a bit of a return to the fore in his Superstox career, he won the Final first time out at Wimbledon using it, and what remains one of my earliest memories in life was him buying us all Fish and Chips afterwards and he and his son Mark – who went on to become a National Banger star – and I sitting on the kerbside in Tooting eating chips.  A rare late night treat at that age!  He went on to return to the Superstar grade using an engine from my dad, who by then was also racing himself and I have many happy childhood memories travelling to meetings with the Welland’s. Pete raced right up until the old Aldershot closed – he and my dad actually shared a car at that last very wet meeting there in November 1992.   By then Mark had moved from Ministox and into Bangers and Pete was offered the job as Steward at Arlington and occasionally Wimbledon.  At the end of 1993 Spedeworth parted company with Alan and Lynn Cullen, Alan was known as the commentator but his wife was the lap scorer.  They had their reasons for it I’m sure, but it was pretty sudden and it did leave them somewhat stuck.  I had been helping out as a “runner” at meetings, putting the results on the board and so on, a job Pete had got me doing, and despite being still at school and on hindsight very young for such an important job, it was Pete who put my name forward to the then Spedeworth bosses Dave Smith and Rod Tanswell, because “that boy knows everything, every car every driver, give him a go” They did, and I was thrown in at the deep end, lap scoring at Wimbledon, Arlington and then all of Spedeworth’s tracks during the 1994 and 1995 seasons.  Whilst I had always dreamed of being a commentator, quite simply without Pete putting my name forward at that time, things could have worked out differently as it set the ball rolling.   I departed Spedeworth in 1996, Pete continued as Steward up until the middle part of the last decade.   When the Heritage F2’s were introduced not long afterwards, Pete, like so many others of his era found that he could genuinely re-live his youth in similar machinery and so his Indian Summer commenced – even with George on the spanners!  Typically, he didn’t do things by halves either with two cars and last season, despite failing health, he raced at every meeting and won the National Points Championship.  I never thought I would commentate on Pete Welland taking a hat-trick of wins, but I did just that at Bristol last Spring and then again when he won a race at Taunton in July.  The fact that he managed to do what he did last year despite everything, just shows what a determined man he was, and how and why he was so successful in his racing career.  The late Denys Jones described him as a “will-o-the-wisp” man which was very apt in many ways.  When I last spoke to Pete in January he was clearly struggling, yet still watching at Wimbledon where he congratulated myself and Graham (Woodward) on the Motors TV programmes that were shown at the end of last year and he was genuinely pleased that I was set to be working with Spedeworth from time to time again this year.   I will miss our chats, I really will.  Thanks for the memories Pete and I send my sincere condolences to Mark and Suzie Welland and the rest of his family.  RIP #264

April 10

A sunny spring afternoon – I somehow managed to get sunburnt – and a short trip to Aldershot Raceway for a bit of a local meeting.  It could be that many reading this will not have been to the Rushmoor Arena venue. It is not a palace, but considering it is what it is, or was, in that it is a piece of multi-purpose MOD land it is a well-appointed venue with grass banking at one end, hand standing at the other, a small grandstand and a tarmac car park. 

It was the first of the season here for the Superstox and whilst yes, the entry could have been better than the 23 cars that were in the house, this was obviously easily enough for some good racing and there is promise for many more new cars and faces to be coming soon, things are a little slow in getting going. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that 98 drivers raced in the formula in 2015 across the whole of the UK.  There were some new cars though, with the latest from the RCE workshops appearing in the hands of Brett Wesbroom.  He went very well too; I think he maybe even surprised himself that he was able to knock on World Champion Chris Bradbury’s door in his first race.  Bradbury was in fine form all afternoon.  Just as he was on many occasions in the F2’s, particularly at tracks such as Bristol and Taunton, the rest really didn’t have much to offer him.  John Saunders did hang on to win the second heat and the rapidly improving Jake Sturt took a lot of catching in the Final, but there was no doubt that it was 886’s day.   The battle for supremacy between he and Jason Cooper continues.  A bit hit from Bradbury to those in front on the first lap of the Final resulted in the unfortunate white grade Chris Brown upside down.  This meant a complete re-start but even in take two, Bradbury was able to forge ahead of Cooper.  Interestingly the next Superstox meeting is a Northampton.  A one-off meeting for them this year, paired with the BriSCA F1’s and National Hot Rods, it could prove interesting.

The rest of the meeting consisted of the V8 Stock Cars, Ninja Karts and domestic Bangers.  For the historians, the V8’s are actually the descendants of the SCOTA F1 Stock Cars from the mid-1970’s, when there was a “southern” breakaway from BriSCA at that time.  That split did not last, the big names that thought they were doing the right thing drifted back to BriSCA but with a few very keen drivers taking up the formula and not wanting to go quite the whole hog to the big league, it remained on Spedeworth’s roster and suffice to say still does so.  There has never really been a huge number of cars, a link-up between the Hot Stox in the mid-90’s was never really going to work and so they continue.  They look good, sound good, but struggle for numbers.  Whether this can continue I don’t know, but I heard the same things being said today as when I was last involved Spedeworth over 20 years ago – so there is hope!   There are a keen bunch and only really need another 6-10 cars to make it a really good little formula… There was a hat-trick of wins this time for Malcolm Burton Jnr.

March 30

After “Storm Katie” had swept across much of the country overnight on Easter Sunday into Easter Monday it was off to Smeatharpe.  For appeared that the southwest did miss the worst of the wind, which hit further east and resulted in the meeting at Kings Lynn being called off due to now power whilst the meeting due to run at Buxton was snowed off.  This did lead into an extra F2 appearing at Taunton, as Gordon Moodie was already on his journey to the Peak District when news broke and he continued on south instead.  His level of commitment was never in question, but this just confirmed it.  It was actually to be a relatively blank day for the Fifer with DNF’s in both the Final and Grand National.  There is of course all bar one month of the season still to run, and anything can happen, but it would be a major surprise if the silver roof didn’t head back to him for 2016 and few could begrudge him of that.  Next year though, it is looking increasingly likely (but NOT 100% confirmed) that there will be an F1 inspired ‘Shoot Out’ series for the silver. Controversial yes  but it is all about the show and creating and keeping the interest levels up.  Just as long as the season long points winner is noted in some way is all I ask, as I cannot help but feel that as much as Dan Johnson deserves his silver roof in the F1’s, equally Frankie Wainman is justified to feel slightly hard done by. 

Whilst they are still struggling at other tarmac tracks, it was another fine showing from the F2’s at Taunton, as detailed in my official meeting report below. 


March 28

Easter.  Statistics are that it is ten times more likely to snow for this particular feast than at Christmas and for many parts of the country this ultimately proved to be the case.  Winter isn’t done just yet and with Easter not at the same time every year (just where does the Moon come into it, really?!) with just about every oval racing track and promotion running at least once during the long weekend they are susceptible to whatever the weather is, more so than usual.  This year though it was Storm Katie that came along during Sunday and into Monday which, at the time of writing has had an effect on Easter Monday meetings.

However, Good Friday started the weekend on a very pleasant spring note with Northampton under clear blue skies and sunshine and a very busy meeting for Autospeed’s annual away day.  The only time that the BriSCA F2 Stock Cars, National Hot Rods and Saloon Stock Cars appear on the same bill.  It ended up being quite a long meeting, with a lot of the action leading to delays in proceedings.  Here is my official report from the day: http://www.autospeed.co.uk/race-meetings/results/easter-sunday-27th-march-2016.ashx

For the past 14 years, Easter Sunday has meant one thing for me; working at Mendips Raceway.   This year it is where I was once again, for the BriSCA F2 World Championship qualifying round but it was with a big difference as I have stepped down from working there as commentator.  Whilst I had announced this on my twitter feed some months ago, many were not aware.  It was not an easy decision to make as 14 years is a long time, but with an offer from Spedeworth/Incarace to join their roster of commentators/presenters for selected meetings this season, alongside my Autospeed dates as well as guest appearances at Kings Lynn and Skegness I decided to move on and allow somebody new to take up the role, and the opportunity that Pat and Graham Bunter gave me back at the start of the previous decade. I will always remain grateful they gave me that chance, I remain good friends with all at Mendips Raceway and the door is open for me to work there again in the future.  The commentary has been left in good hands, with Jonny Hoare taking over and he did a fine job for his first go.  It isn’t easy! 

What was a shame was the somewhat lacklustre entry of BriSCA F2’s.  Just 26 cars raced for the second tarmac World Championship qualifying round of the season which really tells several tales.  That the formula really is struggling on tarmac this season – I did warn of all this brewing folks – and the World Championship and Semi Finals taking place on shale tracks has rendered them irrelevant for many, especially in the southwest with so many appearing to sit out Sunday to race at Taunton on Monday instead.   That said, the racing was good with plenty going on, as is always the case around the unique Mendips track.   A huge downpour of rain, sleet and hail just prior to heat one soaked the track and mixed up the order and saw Kelvyn Marshall win by over half a lap in the end.  This race featured a clash between one time leader Luke Wrench and Jon Palmer.  It was back to a dry track for heat two and indeed the rest of the day.  Paul Rice won heat two and Wrench heat three.   In the Gerry Dommet Memorial Trophy Final, after an initial false start it was track debutant Joe Marquand who headed the 25 car grid away whilst there was early trouble for two potential favourites in Chris Mikulla and Wrench who both spun and then a few laps later earlier heat winner Marshall also gyrated after a coming together with Julian Coombes.  Rice relieved Marquand of the lead and from then on opened a sizeable lead.  Neil Hooper moved through to second in the last quarter of the race and did whittle the margin right down, but Rice was still clear at the flag to conclude a large haul of points and book himself a return to the blue grade.  Justin Fisher rounded out the trophy places.  Marshall took his second win of the afternoon in the Grand National

March 22

For me, there was only one place to head on Sunday evening – regardless of what was on, and that was Wimbledon Stadium, somewhere I have been going all of my life.  The meeting was not a “special” billed as the “last ever” or anything like that as it was on the face of it just the conclusion of the 2015/16 season at the venue, for it traditionally runs over “the winter” and featured National Bangers, Junior Bangers and Legend Cars (actually an unusual mix in itself.

But, of course there is/was/is the chance that it could be the last ever meeting at the historic old south London stadium.  As detailed in my blog entry still featured below (January 3) the short version of the story is that the long time owners of the venue, the Greyhound Racing Association sold it some time ago to Galliard Homes.  They hung on to it, bided their time, run it down, closed half of it off and then applied for planning permission to build 600 dwellings, shops, a crèche and the cherry on the top being a new Football Stadium for the low ranking club AFC Wimbledon.  The planning permission was passed in December and that looked like that was that.  Spedeworth themselves had their hands tied, they couldn’t do much publicly due to their tenancy with the GRA and the GRA’s tenancy with Galliard.  They had to just sit and wait.  But, under the guidance of Michael Burnage, Peter Gray and Dave Baldwin – a trio of fellow lifelong fans – they set out on the campaign, the one you will have all seen and (I trust) been part of with the petition which raised 13,000 signatures, visits to Parliament and City Hall perusing the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson whose ultimate decision it was to be.

Today was the day, March 22, for his own review and decision.  He could have done one of three things.  Either approved the whole planning permission and signed it off, thrown out the application entirely or put it out to further review and consultation.  It was the latter he chose to do.  Given that his tenure of Mayor is all but up, he is passing the buck to an extent on to whoever takes over.  But, there is no getting away from it in that it DOES give more time, the case isn’t closed and does of course mean that there is a chance that racing can continue, at least in the short term.   Spedeworth already had their fixtures planned for the start of the 2016/17 season, beginning in October and with this review by the Mayor – which will take many months – there is now the chance that these will take place once again.  It is not clear cut though, as the GRA had already announced that they were going to vacate the premises after their annual Derby in the summer regardless.  Whether they now decide to backtrack on this decision remains to be seen. If they don’t then obviously it means that the Stadium, owned by a property development company will be there simply waiting for a passed planning permission to be reviewed.  Quite where our sport could fit into that scenario would remain to be seen.  There are clearly more twists and turns in this one yet, but, at least it is not over.  Yet.

I really enjoyed watching the Legends, and a good entry of 24 of them too.  Perhaps Wimbledon with its post and wire fence is not a natural bedfellow for the pocket rockets and this was compounded with a nasty crash in the first heat when Tony Smith found himself involved in an accident that was not of his own making and ended up heavily into the wires and struck a fence post, which resulted in a lot of damage and a fire.  He was taken to hospital and later diagnosed with back and pelvis injuries, which is obviously very unfortunate and I wish him a speedy recovery.   This did not deter the rest from giving it a really good go for the rest of the evening though with some very close racing and great battles.  Richard Poulter won the two heats and then the Final came down to a big battle between he and the top man in the class at present, Miles Rudman.  Have to say that Rudman pulled off a bit of a F1/F2 move on the exit of the fourth turn to win the race, but, equally that is racing.   Sam Beasley won the National Banger London Championship, a title is actually one of the oldest titles of them all in Banger racing, the last ‘race’ for the Bangers was won by Martyn Perkins and the Junior Final went to Charlie Randall. 

Whether Liam Lake, who took the honours in the DD will be remembered as the last ever winner at the track of course remains to be seen.  He would far rather race there again than have this little piece of history attached to his name. 

Keep the faith – the tubby man has spoken, and thus the fat lady isn’t quite yet singing.

March 14

The first meeting of the season at Smeatharpe - known as Taunton to most - promised much and certainly did not fail to deliver BriSCA F2 Stock Car wise.  There was a great entry in both terms of quantity and quality and there are not going to be that many domestic meetings this season where silver and gold appear together, but they did here.... 

On what is an epic bull-ring, there was plenty going on.  Things of note; as well as the usual battles for supremacy amongst the stars, it was that they very much had the upper hand.  What is so unusual about that you may say?  Well, often at the start of the season there are quick lower graded drivers, and whilst I'm not saying the white and yellow grades were 'slow', it does very much seem it is a case as "as you were" in the pecking order from 2015 into 2016.

There is no denying that BriSCA F2 isn't in great shape everywhere, but another good year is clearly in the offing in Autospeed land - and that isn't me being blinkered, the facts are there...

Here is my official report on the Autospeed website:


March 6

Hooray!  The start of the new/main season (as let’s face it, hardly a weekend has gone by in the “winter” without some form of oval racing being on, somewhere)  Someone forgot to tell someone to turn “Spring” on though, for the first Saturday in March had a decidedly wintery feel about it.  My winter hibernation in Australia worked wonders then…..  It was not the first time that the opening Birmingham and King’s Lynn meetings had clashed, but it did still leave a choice for I’d have liked to have attended both.  But, it was Norfolk I chose with it being an all Stock Car affair and you never forget your first love after all.

Coming from the empty roads of Western Australia, just 12 days earlier, the western side of the M25 jammed for no reason whatsoever on a grey and cold Saturday lunchtime was also a bump back to earth.  The forecast wasn’t great, shale on a wet night doesn’t mix – in the rest of the world of course they don’t race on such a surface in the rain, but us hardy northern Europeans do not have a great deal of choice.  Imagine the hassle of a “rain out” here?!

There was ultimately a very busy pit area at the Adrian Flux Arena, one of my favourite venues of all, and since most were there, and mine was in October there were yet more improvements from Buster Chapman and his team with a very large new building on the home straight which includes a new Race Control and will ultimately include corporate rooms and so on.  The entries for the BriSCA F2 Stock Cars, Saloon Stock Cars and 1300 Stock Cars had to be capped at 60 in each such was the unprecedented demand for bookings at this meeting – and there ended up being reserve lists too, particularly the F2’s.  Wind the clock back 12 months and the meeting had just 48 cars in attendance total.  That is quite a change!  2016 is “the year of shale” with the World Final and Semi Finals on the loose, and it is showing already.  Those Semi’s will be at KL in August – and nicely paired with the 1300’s World Final too. 

There is little anyone can do about the weather though, and actually arctic weather at the beginning of March is not unusual.  It is also statistically 10 times more likely to snow at Easter anywhere in the UK than Christmas, but we won’t go there….  The icy rain showers fell throughout the day and on and off during the meeting.  Last year the meeting was pretty much wrecked by persistent rain but this time it just put a dent into it, and conditions did improve as the meeting went on which did mean that the important races were in the best of the evening.  There was some good races throughout from all three formulae – so well done to all concerned from the drivers and staff for getting the meeting on and through.

It was slick for all the heats and F2 wise Josh Coleman won the first and Andrew Palmer the second before there was a career first F2 win for Scott Aldridge in the consolation – Scott being a former Saloon Stock Car star man, now reinventing himself in the open-wheelers.  The Final went the way of Rob Speak, who converted his front row start of the star grade into the lead of the race before the halfway stage.  He did have to survive a yellow flag, and was seriously hunted down by Palmer over the closing stages, but he had that covered.  For all the talk that keeps doing the rounds that the reigning BriSCA F1 World title holder was “finished” with F2, he so clearly isn’t and this year represents his best chance to lift his ninth F2 World title for three years, as his Darren Bingley prepared car for the shale is a competitive ride.  Another huge score at Belle Vue a day later means that Rob is already pretty much in a Semi already…  His placemen for this, Andrew Palmer and Carl Issitt are all likely to be right up there come World Final night in September.  Jake Walker won the Grand National, watched by very few folk by then who had departed, frozen after the Final(s).  Jake then went on to win the Final in Manchester the next day. 

The Saloons and 1300 Stock Cars both were going for the Clive Grief Memorial and produced not only a great entry from both but hordes of new drivers and new cars in both.  In other parts of the country – yes namely the southwest – it would not be possible for the two types of Stock Car class to coincide with each other like this, but with the long history of both in East Anglia now and good management from Trackstar they are going strong.  Very strong – I would even go as far as saying now that the Saloons are in stronger form now than in the days of Wisbech.

I cannot recall seeing so many new Saloon Stock Cars arrive in the same place at the same time, we are certainly not going to have any trouble filling the Virgin Racer pages of unloaded 7.3 for the April issue.  And, yes, the 1300’s act as a good feeder for the Saloons with several switching from the smaller cars to the bigger, and yes, some vice versa but as long as they are all still racing, that is the point.   There was even a white top race for the Saloons and in what were the worst conditions of the evening, there was a great race and very close finish with Richard Colk making the most of Shane Emmerson’s spin (he of that now famous crash at the Skegness Speedweekend last year) Ryan Santry won the first heat and in another close finish Dan Parker took heat two.   The consolation (not often one gets to write, or say “Saloon Stock Car consolation”?!) saw a four car scrap go all the way to the line, with Carl Waterfield winning.  Much like Speak in the F2’s, World Champion Simon Welton had done all the hard work by the time there was a midway caution flag in the Final and he duly went on to win ahead of David Aldous and Marcus Skeels.

The 1300’s were definitely enhanced by the presence of the Smith’s in Diggy and Billy, the latter in the immaculate new car he had on show at the NEC in January but never the less a great show from all.  Martin Taylor and Dan Booth (another in a car that was on show at the NEC) were the heat winners and Kevin Shinn the consolation.   The Final was a runaway win for Billy Smith, but Diggy consulted the family paperwork in the closing stages and messed up those who were chasing – Booth and Barry Wade – just in case.  Entertaining to watch though, and then as if to make a point Billy the won the Allcomers too after a gallant attempt by Todd Payne to beat him.   The World in August will be top drawer stuff.

February 27

What HAS happened to playing the National Anthem prior to a race meeting in this country?  Serious question.  I obviously only really go to the venues in the Netherlands for a big meeting, but is their Anthem played usually? (I know it is prior to the World/Gold Cup weekend)  In Australia, as in the USA and New Zealand it is played before every meeting, and sung with gusto by a local singer at the bigger ones.  Everyone stands and most remove their head wear.  Yes, I appreciate that is probably “too American” but can’t we respect our country and stand for the Anthem prior to racing.   This always used to be the case here, I certainly have memories as a kid at Spedeworth meeting where Alan Cullen would ask patrons to “stand quietly for the National Anthem” and it was also played at Coventry under the Ochiltree ownership.  I recall that on numerous occasions the First Aid team were caught unware and ended up stood halfway between the track and their station on the centre.

Obviously there has been a lot of talk about the National Anthem, and what to use for England games and sports, when it is England playing rather than Great Britain.  I am not a republican, but neither am I that religious.  Maybe the time will come when we will have a new Anthem that sings about the people and the country itself – just as in the afore mentioned former colonies – rather than a God nobody much worships and a Monarch that we take for granted. 

But in the meantime, I am going to enquire to the Promoter’s I work alongside as to why or where the National Anthem has gone to… even if for the big meetings.  I’m not going all Nigel Farage, just genuinely wondering by comparison.

I have been lucky enough to watch oval motor racing on three different continents across the globe and yes, by in large it is the same.  The flags, the rules, the culture all stem from the same DNA after all.  As you will have read from my previous blog post, in my recent trip to Western Australia I added two new tracks to my list of those visited.  The Perth Motorplex (which is actually 45 minutes from Perth itself) and the Attwell Park Speedway in Albany, which is actually one of the most remotely situated oval track venues on the planet.  Not that it is far from the town itself, but it is where the town is situated in the far southwest of Oz.

The two most obvious differences with the Australian venues and those in the UK – and Europe – is the smoking and the filming.  You may think “wtf” ?.  But look around the next time you are at a busy meeting of ours here, especially when National Bangers are on but not exclusively so.   I’m not going into the what is being smoked, I will let you make your own mind up, but both venues I visited in WA were non-smoking, even though they were 95% open-air.  In Albany it was announced that if you need to smoke, we invite you to go to the car park!  Nanny state gone too far?  Or a genuine effort to make it a family sport and family night out?  I would say a bit of both, but I do not disagree with it.   The second is the filming.  There was a sign at both gates – just as there was at the venues in Adelaide and Sydney I had visited previously – that there was strictly no photography or filming.  Bullshit you may think.  Spoils the fun, you can’t show your mates at work what you saw the next day, yes maybe – but believe me everyone in the house adhered to this.  You did not see anyone stood there periscoping, or putting something up on YouTube in a flash.   What they do though, is make the phones part of the show by inviting everyone to get them out and put the light on ahead of the famous four wide formation so that the drivers can see it and those looking on can take the pic, just as I did.  Yes, there is security on hand (just as there is as all of our venues now, even if not always visible) and if caught, the camera or phone owner is politely asked to put it away.  But, as I say, from what I see, everyone simply adheres to it.  This is something that is never going to happen here, is it?

We are spoilt here though, by what we do get dished up week in, week out even from the most humble Rookie Banger meeting – and just look at the near 200 car meeting for example coming up at Kings Lynn next weekend - so we should be grateful – but the above are all very interesting comparisons to draw.  Banning smoking in Stadiums here too is probably inevitable, so if you are one that has to have a funny fag whilst watching, maybe the time has come to think about getting a Burger instead, rather than getting a shock when the time does come.

February 19

As many of you may know, I have been on my travels (again?!) of late and to Australia.  I have made many trips “down under” previously but this was my first to Western Australia, which now ticks off every State and mainland Territory visited, since my first complete with a backpack in 1999.   “WA” is a huge State, and Perth and its surrounds are actually the most isolated “populated” places in the world.  That said, it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you are there.  Whilst Australia is a long way away and very different, equally there is a strange air of familiarity about from the moment you arrive.  Much the same applies to New Zealand.

Whist on the trip, it wouldn’t be correct to not take in some racing would it?  And, as luck had it I not only managed to take in two meetings but rounds of the Australian Sprint Car World Series at that.  Yes, World Series is grand, but there were big names present and in the “World” of Sprint Cars they are big names.  Add in the fact that Californian Kyle Hirst was racing and it is legit anyway.  Where as the New Zealander’s went down a similar route to the UK with their “Stock Car” racing, Australia thus followed the Midget route which led into Sprint Car racing.  Starting in Sydney to begin with (Jack Brabham was a Midget racer of note back in the early 50’s) and then across the whole of Australia.  Links were forged with America and in time the 360 Sprint Cars were upgraded to 410’s and thus the same spec as the USA.  There has been a lot of driver interchange over the years with many Australians heading north for the season there and Americans south to Australia for the season there.  This year, just Hirst from the USA, although Ian Madsen is Iowa domiciled.

Yes, I do know that there IS a similar kind of racing to BriSCA F1 in Australia, but this is confined to a small area of the northern State of Queensland.  A shame that such doesn’t catch on in the rest of the country.  The Sprint Cars are a great show but some of what the rest of the paying punters down under sit through, does appear to be pretty low key.  Or maybe we are utterly spoilt in the UK?

The Perth venue is mightily impressive.  The Perth Motorplex is 40 minutes south of the city and purpose built in 2000, after the old Claremont Raceway was closed to make may for a larger showground.  It also incorporates a Drag strip, but the ‘Speedway’ is carved into a bowl with three levels of terracing (seated in front of the main straight – gold, seated at either end of the main straight – silver and then general admission, where you sit, stand or bring your own fold out chair or whatever)  It is a very big place to fill, but on a balmy evening there was a large crowd on hand.  The racing was very good, but it came after a week of record breaking temperatures where the temp was over 40’c several days running.  My fair skin knew all about that and so did the track surface.  Despite the best efforts of the track prep, it was practically baked hard under the top surface and this led to problems in the feature race of the night, over 30 laps with tyres letting go.  Some who suffered this were lucky to enough to just have a retirement and missed opportunity, others ended up on their head.  Talking of lucky though, Hirst went on to record his first Australian World Series win but he did have a very charmed life.  He was almost taken out by a wayward back marker at one point and then suffered a blow out on the very last corner, and held on to win by three tenths of a second from Steven Lines, a former Champion who had come from 15th on the grid after winning the ‘B’ Main/Final.

Also on the bill were ‘Wingless Sprints’.  They are a good starting point for those with dreams of joining the Sprint Cars at some stage.  There are various series of local and National Sprint Cars, both 360 and 410 but these Sprints feature no aerofoils (obviously) and run on 2.8 Ford Pinto Engines, which are still reasonably available in Oz.  ‘Formula 500’ are like Micro Sprints, powered by 500cc engines and again, a race class for the working man and a good grounding for those with hopes and dreams of being the next Brook Tatnell…

Totally by luck of how I had planned my trip, I just so happened to be in Albany, a very nice town four and a half hours south of Perth six days later when the next round of the World Series was staged.  This was 10 of 12, 11 would be at Banbury the following evening.   Albany is not a large place, and is a lot more remote down in the far southwest of WA.  Thus, something like this coming IS a big thing.  Imagine a BIG meeting being staged at say, St Day or Workington on a Friday evening and you wouldn’t be far wrong. All over the local radio and TV were ads for the meeting, a centre spread in the local newspaper, posters on roundabouts and so on.   It later transpired that some of the drivers and teams had been to local Primary Schools the previous day to promote the meeting and the sport as a whole.  With it being far flung, and not a domestic round combined with the World Series there was only half the number of cars present that there were in Perth six days earlier and as a consequence the format was tweaked accordingly.   The Attwel Park Speedway is a much smaller venue than Perth, a much more regional track run by a club committee.  They have a great little venue – and hopefully the World Series coming to town was a success for them.  The track had a totally different surface to Perth and on what was actually quite a chilly late summer evening with the wind coming in off the Southern Ocean (a bit like being a Skegness with it coming off the North Sea) the issue ended up being dust.  The track required a lengthy regrade halfway through, to which presenter Ben Bishop made great use of getting amongst the crowd and making them feel a real part of the show.   The Final was a fast and dusty one won by Steven Lines.  The rest of the programme was made up of Street Stox and amongst their number was former Saloon Stock Car driver Freddy Kinsella who now resides in Albany.  He was going well until damage in a clash put him out of the racing early.  There were only 10 cars present, again, the issue of the Friday evening rather than the usual Saturday to accommodate the Sprint Cars.  The bill was completed by a demonstration run of Modifieds.  There were four present and they are the same as those in the USA and UK, where numbers continue to grow slowly and they are looking to be introduced in Australia.   As I have written and said many times, I am all for new classes, just so long as they give to the sport rather than take. 

This was a meeting that was made up of a total of 30 cars, watched by a large crowd and lasted four and a half hours (including the long regrade) and many were also happy to stay behind at the end rather than dash for the car park.  It was a great show, just as it was in Perth. 

And hey – let’s bring back the National Anthem before a race meeting?? (Even if it is only the big days)  Or is Britain really that broken?

January 25

The Autosport International Racing Car show has been the first big event of the season for some time now, indeed “our” part of motor sport has been a bolt on to the main show since 1999 and has included the Live Action Arena.  Yes they are not races as such but never the less the BriSCA F1’s and F2’s and National Hot Rods played a good part in it, throw in a Banger Figure of Eight race, Autograss (who always go well to town for this, and is great to see) and various other forms of motor sport and stunts.  The packed houses for each show (up to 3,000 seats…) tend to suggest that it is still very much a significant part of the show.  The show as a whole featured its largest footfall for a decade and walking around it – which I did all too briefly late on Saturday afternoon – it becomes immediately apparent just who big and important the Motor Sport industry is in the UK.

For the third year in succession, and the fifth time in total I was honoured to be asked to be the presenter on the stage in Hall 10 – the “oval and festival area” it was dubbed this year.  That part of the show, the static part also took on a different look this year.  The brainchild of Paul Brown primarily, along with Deane Wood and Steve Rees, gone were the separate F1, F2 and Spedeworth stands and instead was a grand stand from the collective ORCi, showcasing all what short circuit racing has to offer in a grand co-promotion.  Some would say this was well overdue.  It featured cars from all the current main reigning World Champions, the majority of them new 2016 offerings and a host of other new cars too, totalling up to 40 cars under the new hashtag #watchitraceit which is what the ORCI has adopted as part of this forward thinking approach.  Yes, it was different.  There were confused faces as to where the F2 stand was and where the Spedeworth stand was, but that was because folk do not adapt to change naturally rather than there being anything wrong with the concept.

As for my part, over the Saturday and Sunday on the hour every hour I played host to a different segment and this did largely stick to how things had been done in the previous two years with a named segment each hour, rather than a named list of guests, which is how the ‘main’ stage in the show presented by Henry Hope-Frost operates.  Thus, BriSCA F1 Stock Cars were hosted on both days with six great interviews which were an absolute pleasure.  Saturday I was joined by 2014 World Champion Craig Finnikin – who revealed a possible F2 World Final assault this season – National Points Champion Dan Johnson (who also had a new shale car in the show) and BSCDA spokesman Paul Hines, no mean driver himself of course.  We discussed the situation with Coventry Stadium, which didn’t go down well with all, but it is what is being discussed out there by drivers and supporters alike, so to ignore it would have been folly.  The talk of that did continue with my first F1 guest on the Sunday, as I was joined by Nigel Harrhy, a Coventry man who has raced both two and four wheels at the Stadium and he had his shale car on display, which is liveried up as a tribute to Coventry Stadium.  I was also joined by Danny Wainman and Chris Cowley, both working hard in the LAA and were due to fly to New Zealand the following evening, where they have already competed ahead of racing for Team GB in the Championship there early next month.   The F2 content was on Sunday only where George MacMillan was presented with his National Points Championship trophy, after the long slog for the silver throughout 2015 which was the tightest battle since 1997, or even 1979 when Bill Batten and Dave Bunt were said to have met in a service station on their way to Aycliffe and decided to share the honours… That did not happen with George and Chris Burgoyne of course, and I interviewed George who put to bed some claims about some things that had been written and said on the social media and also confirmed that whilst he wouldn’t be chasing silver again this season, he equally would not be packing in.   World Champion Kelvyn Marshall, who is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment with not only his “World Champions glow” but also his car constructing business gave a good and honest interview.  What you see is what you get with Kelvyn.  I was also joined by Dave Massey and Sam Wagner who explained how the new/revised cooperation between the drivers and Promoters is taking shape within BriSCA F2.   In the past, there had been a slot on the stage on both days for BriSCA F2, but their Saturday slot this year was taken by the Saloon Stock Cars whose official presence at the show was long overdue in many respects – and this year there were more new Saloons on display that ever before.  On the stage the top three in the National Points were presented with their trophies and were interviewed on stage, David Aldous, Dean Mayes and Danny Colliver – who put in a barnstorming season and was typically forthright with his interview.  Paul Butler, Trackstar supremo and SSCA Chairman also explained how the SSCA works, where the Saloons currently sit and where they are going.  Fact is; the Saloon Stock Cars are set to appear at all the main ORCI promotions in 2016.  Yes….this also includes Spedeworth, with the return to Ipswich in April for the Steve O’Dell Testimonial meeting.  Spedeworth had two slots on the stage at noon on both days and they have so much available content.   Saturday saw National Hot Rods take centre stage with their presentation of their 2015 awards, which were democratically voted for via their website www.nationalhotrod.com   Shane Bland won the Most Improved, and was interviewed on stage – he currently leads the English points going into the ‘second half’ of the season – Adam Hylands, a Hot Rod mega star in the making (already European Champion and 2 litre World Champion) the Best Newcomer, likewise interviewed on stage and also reigning World Champion Shane Murphy.  The odds on an Irishman – be it from the north or Republic winning gold again in July?  Short, I’d say.  Also from Northern Ireland I chatted to reigning Lightning Rod World Champion Scott Cochrane, who will be defending that title at the Ipswich Speedweekend too.  Later on, Carl Boadley expanded on what had been announced in Motorsport News earlier in the week with regard to his return to the National Hot Rods, albeit not as a driver, with the Ginetta body shell and I was also joined by two other legends of Hot Rod racing, Sonny Howard and Dave Longhurst who is the current Chairman of the NHRPA.  On Sunday, Shaun Taylor explained that he is having a great season so far and could prove to be a dark horse come the summer and also Spedeworth Stock Rod World Champion Dean O’Dell joined me to discuss his title win, his racing and naturally his dad’s afore mentioned meeting at Ipswich in April.  All of this was interspersed by Spedeworth and Incarace’s head of Promotions and PR Dean Cox.

The stage also featured Autograss (their very own Steve Langley is the man for that) BTRDA Rallycross and other forms of their clubmans sport and also the Pick Up Truck class, which whilst not an oval class per se, it most definitely has oval racing DNA and plenty of names and numbers known to the short ovals.   All of this was filmed, and will hopefully appear on YouTube at some point.  The copyright for the content has been signed over to myself, so I will ensure that it does happen this year – and I’m sure there is plenty of interest for those that couldn’t make it, as I appreciate that it is an expensive show to visit.

A busy weekend it was, and a busy season lay ahead for myself and many others……. Next up though, is the BriSCA F2 Dinner and Presentation Evening at the Royal Court Hotel in Coventry.  I won’t go so hard on the questioning this time George!

January 3

Happy New Year to you! 

For me, the first meeting of the season was at Wimbledon Stadium, just as it has been for several of the years over the course my life for the “Winternationals”.  A good meeting it was too featuring the Superstox, Stock Rods, Lightning Rods and Bangers.  All in front of what was a very good sized crowd.  But, could this have been the last?  Obviously we all hope not, you never realise you miss something until it is gone but, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks you will have noticed that the venue is under serious threat.  The site has been sold for a housing development and a Football Stadium (to house the low league AFC Wimbledon Team) and this was passed by Merton Borough Council’s planning committee last month.

But, the fat lady has not sung.  Superstox driver Peter Gray, a resident of London started a petition on www.change.org to save the stadium and he and primarily Michael Burnage as well as several others – myself included – have spread the word on the social media and online radio shows such as Stoxradio over the past few weeks it has hit and passed the 7,000 signature mark.  10, 000 is a highly significant number in petition terms and it is hoped that this can be achieved before a delegation from Spedeworth meeting the local MP to discuss in the coming days.

If you haven’t signed yet, the please do here: https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-save-wimbledon-stadium-from-demolition-save-oval-racing-in-london?recruiter=153990645&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

Indeed, some have been heard to say “what’s the point” and yes I can see where they are coming from, but they are also missing the point.  Yes, the Stadium was formally owned by the GRA and they sold it to Galliard Homes.  Property building is what they do, and thus it was inevitable that planning permission would go in.  However, there are many, many more “if’s but’s and maybe’s” with this planning application and we, as an oval racing community simply have nothing to lose by signing and having our voice heard.

The list of closed venues in this country – and beyond – is now bigger than the number that survive.  Several closed very suddenly and even on a whimper, St Austell being an example of the former and Wisbech of the latter.  Remember the old Aldershot Stadium closing?  That too was considered an inevitable done deal, and it was known to be closing several years before it actually did but towards the end there was a petition that garnered a lot of interest and signatures.  So much so that it ended up on the desk of the Secretary of State at the time Malcolm Rifkind.  His recommendation was that the local council find a suitable replacement in their area for the sport.  They actually did!  It was Rushmoor Arena on the other side of the town.  Quite why it was the Fleet Motor Club that ended up running there at the end of the 90’s rather than Spedeworth I'm not sure (water under the bridge now in any case)  But, when Deane Wood, an Aldershot man, took over the running of Spedeworth he did ultimately bring the mainstream of the sport back to the town in 2008 and whilst it is heavily restricted to the point that it couldn’t be considered a “replacement” for Wimbledon, in terms of taking on its winter dates, at least it is there.

Had there not been that petition in 1992?  Who knows? And recall the highly successful petition when Ringwood Raceway, way out on the edge of the New Forest, looked like it was going to be turned into a housing estate in the middle party of the last decade?  That only went as far as the local planning committee, but it certainly went a long way to saving the venue.  So, please, again do sign it if you haven’t already and we will see what happens next.  It is worth fighting before as this may be Wimbledon Stadium, a venue you haven’t been to or is on the other side of the country to where you live etc, but, your local one could be next….