THE YEAR THAT WAS
It is the time of year when just about everyone starts to look back at the year that has just gone, and naturally look forward to the one that lies ahead. There certainly seems to be plenty of doom and gloom out there generally…. There is no denying that for many it is, and we can only hope that 2012 is a good one. We will certainly be doing our best at Mendips Raceway to add some fun on selected weekends, just as we have been doing every year since 1969, and the season that has just gone whilst appearing to go by in a flash had plenty of moments to be looked back on and locked into the memory bank.
The 2011 season kicked off in March with the first running of the Micro National Banger meeting and it proved to be a great success with a lot of variation in cars and plenty of on track action. The meeting Final went the way of 27 Dean Quinn. Suffice to say it is a no-brainer that the meeting will be repeated for 2012, and it will again kick the season off on March 18. The next offering went from one extreme to the other, with the all Hearse and Limousine “Matches and Dispatches” meeting which also served as something of a testimonial for John Worstencroft, the driver from the north-west of England who made Mendips his home track throughout the latter years of his long career of Banger racing and retired at the end of 2010. A big entry is not needed with such big cars and the meeting on Easter Monday in front of a big Bank Holiday crowd went down a storm once again. 88 Tim Wood, to be fair does not win too many races, but he took the Final honours for this one. There will be more from the Hearses and Limo’s on Easter Monday in the new season. Next up, on the Mayday weekend came one of the highlights of the year with ‘Thunderbolt’. A 50 car entry, with drivers from all over the country – including one of only a handful of Banger outings this season from Stock Car legend 218 Rob Speak put on a very heavy show with the south coast drivers in-particular getting well stuck in, and the Devon based “DWO” team (whom were part of the “Midnight Runners” prior) likewise. It was former track champion and now veteran star 58 Martin Dalton who showed that there is plenty of racing life left in him yet by taking the title ahead of 162 Brett Ellacott and 989 Dean Arm. The following afternoon it was under 1800cc cars and local boy 15 Ben Tovey took the Final win, on another lively affair. However at the next meeting over the next Bank Holiday he took a heavy, and what many considered an over the top hit from 341 Andrew Jones which has put him out of racing. This meeting also saw 891 Darren Wade land himself in trouble by attacking 363 Sam Trim on the centre, and there was plenty of other DWO-v-the locals during the course of the afternoon. It was returning star 790 Dominic Gumbleton who took the Final win. It was back to Unlimited the following afternoon for the Spring Bank Holiday Monday, and to the surprise of many – not least their own Promoter, the ‘DWO’ gang from Devon arrived for more action, and, that was duly supplied with a very heavy meeting for a World Championship qualifying round. However, the day was dominated by old-stagers 40 Pete Stanley and 517 Scott Weldon and the points they scored at this meeting went a long way to getting them into the big World Championship Final meeting at Ipswich in October. The June Saturday and Sunday double-header once again saw the ‘British Beef’ meeting on the Saturday, and again it was a real night of nostalgia with the rear wheel drive cars such as the Ford Capri and Cortina all getting a night of glory. The action was heavier at this meeting that it has been in recent years, with the DWO-v-the local’s feud once again taking centre stage. Having just missed out on the victory in the Final in 2010, 198 Marcus Goldsmith took the win whilst one of the stars of the meeting, on his first visit to Mendips was 84 Jerry ‘Bleach’ Ansell – the long serving star from Sussex, and he already plans to be back again in 2012. The following afternoon was the ORCi English Championship and this saw (more) drivers from all over the country pay a visit, including many for the first time. It was not so much about the on-going battles at Mendips this time, as the ‘war’ between “The Condoms” and “Team Black” found itself imported for the day. There was a lot of heavy action, and some drivers found themselves in trouble with the Steward. At the end of it all, 162 Ellacott took the victory with 67 Ricky Beasley second and 239 Steve Carter third. Taking into consideration events over the previous few meetings, the promotion decided to withdraw bookings from certain drivers at this point in the season, and this included the annual team meeting for “Filo’s Crashmania”. Once again the theme was pink and with the BriSCA F2 Stock Cars also joining in on the charity fundraising efforts, ultimately £8,000 was raised for the very worthy cause. On track, one of the Devon drivers not included on the ‘no list’ was Ellacott and his team, ‘Team Brett’ comfortably took the win on what was a far quieter meeting for the National Bangers this time. It was the end of September meeting before the National Bangers were back, and returning too were the ‘DWO’ drivers with a new/refreshed set of rules laid out by the ORCi to what had to be adhered to. There was a very heavy opening heat, which was all above board but did decimate the field somewhat and the Final win on the day went to 190 Steve ‘Pikey’ Bailey, his only victory at Mendips this season. And so then it came to the traditional end of season feast, the West of England Championship. However, for 2011 for varying reasons – the biggest one without being the Ipswich World Final meeting being moved to the week after, it was not a classic event with a disappointing entry of cars. However, all that said, the meeting had its moments and a surprise winner too, with 114 Nick Courtier who was on his first Mendips visit in a number of years taking the title. 190 Bailey was second and 719 Chris Storey third. The points title that had run all season had the two veterans 40 Stanley and 517 Weldon at the head of it throughout. With Stanley not present at the West of England, Weldon’s points on the day were enough to secure him the right to wear the silver roof for 2012. All of the usual events will be back for the new season, with the team meeting this time replaced by the first ever running of the Banger Olympics (see main news item) and what was the English Championship in 2011 will revert to being the Summer Open in 2012.
There were three meetings for the Rookie Bangers during the year, and all three were a resounding success with large entries of cars and some good entertainment, proof that it does not always need heavy action to provide it. It has, understandably left to a call for more Rookie meetings for the new season there will be a first, with an all diesel car meeting to Rookie rules (aka, basically ‘nudge and spin’) on July 8. This should be a very interesting day, and the three other Rookie meetings will also return. As for last season, on Easter Sunday 246 Ryan Sparks showed them all the way whilst on August Bank Holiday weekend 929 Sam Baker won on the Sunday and then on the Monday 54 Tom Davey was the victor, not only in the meeting Final but also the annual caravan race too and all of this was enough to secure him as the points winner for 2011.
BriSCA F2 Stock Cars
The F2 Stock Cars have been part of Mendips Raceway since day one and whilst 2011 will not be looked back on as a vintage year for the open-wheelers at the track, there was never the less plenty of good, close and fast racing. It was the entries that suffered, but this reflected a national downturn, largely down to the economy et al but there does seem to be fewer more ‘local’ drivers than there has been, but there is a school of thought that this could be a phase. The World Championship qualifying round on Easter Sunday has been a tradition for a very long time, and always sees plenty of long distance travellers. 218 Rob Speak paid his annual trip (in his Stock Car at least) but he had a rare day of bad luck and likewise 886 Chris Bradbury had a rare spill in his heat when he rolled. He bounced back (no pun intended..) to come second in the Final though, behind 676 Neil Hooper. This race was for the Gerry Dommet Memorial trophy, the man who built and operated Mendips Raceway until his death in 1998. Hooper then followed that up with another Final win on Mayday Monday but on the next Bank Holiday Bradbury was back in charge with a huge haul of points that put him to the head of the track points and it was a lead he was never to lose, as he took the track championship for an unprecedented fourth year in a row. The F2’s were on the July meeting for the first time in a number of years and the first time for the ‘Pink Ribbon Trophy’ and a fund raising day for cancer research. The drivers and crews certainly played their part in the day with the pink theme, and as stated above, along with the Bangers on the day, a large total was raised. 76 Chris Rowe took the Final to win the trophy, and it will be raced for again, along with fund raising efforts in May in 2012. Bradbury then took the Final’s at both the August meeting and the September one. Also at the latter meeting the Rookies Reward for the white and yellow graded drivers was won by 954 Jamie Beere. The F2’s will be very much part of things in the new season, indeed they have an extra date with the Grand National Championship at the October meeting, the season long title was last raced for in 2004 when (then 79) Gordon Moodie was the winner. He is the current holder of the title and is expected to lead a host of stars on the day, whilst the rest of the season will follow the tried and tested pattern, with the Rookie’s Reward back for its 11th season.
The class may be based around the humble and yes, even dated Ford Sierra but it remains popular and a good form of budget motorsport and all the time the interest remains as strong as it is, then it will continue. On top of all of that the racing is often very close and always competitive too and the 2011 season was exactly that, with the points chase going down to the very last race of the season once again. Things kicked off at the opening meeting in March where a two from three heat format was used, and it worked well, but there was never a need to use it again from then on as the split heat format was re-deployed. 23 Ross Stuckey took the Final at the March meeting and then followed it up with another on Easter Monday. Several young drivers have progressed into the Sierras over the past few seasons and one of them, 122 Joe Rowe took the Final win at the Mayday weekend meeting and then at the next Bank Holiday Monday meeting, the reigning silver roof points champion 18 Russ Colenut opened his account for the year. All the while both he and Stuckey were starting to edge away in the points, but certainly not anywhere near enough to have any kind of breathing space with 47 Richard Howard in-particular never far away. 44 Sam Howard, another of the young-guns took the Final in June and then after a summer break, they were back on August Bank Holiday Monday and for Howard he continued on his winning ways, and took his second Final in a row but a good days from both 18 Colenut and 23 Stuckey saw the pair set to dual for the title going into the last meeting of the season, the West of England Championship in October. In a real case of it is never over until it is over, to start with it look like it was going Russ’ way after Ross found himself in a crash and a lowly score in his heat, but then in the main race it turned completely around as Colenut fell backwards and Stuckey put in a storming drive. At the front there was a great battle between 198 Marcus Goldsmith and 210 Paul Barnes and the latter made his move right on the very last lap, up on the inside to take an excellent win. Then on the last corner Stuckey also pipped Goldsmith to take second and with it the points title. As ever, expect more of the same in 2012 and with extra sponsorship from Polleysport for the big event of the year, they really will have it all to race for.
The Hot Rods have been an integral part of the scene at Mendips Raceway since the 1970’s and have had their ups and downs in recent years. 2011 was neither one nor the other really; more frustrating in that if all of those who had raced during the season appeared at once then we would have had some very good entries. Never the less, there was some great racing to be had. There was no stopping 718 Colin White at the opening meeting in March as he swept to all three wins and then took two more on Easter Sunday. However, consistency from fellow veteran 282 Steve Hunt kept him firmly in touch in the points. Having been missing from the previous meetings 904 Wilson Hamilton bounced back to win a heat and Final at the Mayday weekend meeting but White bounced back to win all three once again at the next Bank Holiday. He was missing due to his long circuit commitments on the Saturday evening meeting in June and Hunt made the most of it by winning the Final after Hamilton had taken both heats. White was back for the next meeting in July and whilst he took the Final, Hunt’s consistency once again meant that he took the points title. The West of England Championship on August Bank Holiday Monday was outside of the points championship once again and there was an early scare for White in the first heat when his car parted company with a wheel but he came back to take the title with Hunt second and 89 Mick Cave third.
The Junior Rods had their first season having morphed from the Mini Rods, which had served for so long and seen so many Banger, Stock Car and Rod drivers come through their ranks. However with the 1000cc Leyland favourite now long in the tooth the decision was made during 2010 to allow other cars of the same cc to open the scope. There were fears that this would lead to a wholesale shift, with those still using a Mini effectively redundant but thankfully this proved far from the case. There was a variety of cars, none more so than a classic A40 from 796 Dan Steads but in the end it was the Mini that reigned supreme still. As ever there was some very promising racing from the 10-16 year olds and the points championship went down to the very last meeting of the year. The first meeting of the season, which was them was on Easter Monday actually opened with a race solely for newcomers, there were that many present and 87 Callum Richards had the honour of winning that. 404 Macaulay Mills went on to win the meeting Final on the day whilst at the next meeting on Mayday, 127 Louis Aldom took the honours to put himself at the top of the chart and then further compounded that with a heat and Final double on the next Bank Holiday. However, 510 Sid Harrison appeared as his closest challenger and was never too far back. At the next meeting in June, 404 Mills was again the victor in the Final whilst the Allcomers on the day had to be brought to an early halt when it was felt that too much contact was going on. The August Bank Holiday weekend saw 7 Aaron Charles return, for what was to be one meeting only at Mendips in 2011 but he certainly made his mark, and a point as he totally blew away the opposition with a comprehensive heat and Final double. Both Aldom and Harrison had low scoring days, the latter the better of the two and this meant that the two would head into the last meeting of the season, the West of England Championship very close in points. Cometh the day though, Aldom rediscovered his mojo and Harrison’s challenge faltered. Aldom took a hat-trick of wins, with his heat, the West of England and then the Allcomers too to make thoroughly sure of the silver roof.
With only a limited number of race meetings at Mendips Raceway available, there is always more interest from visiting and independent classes than can be accommodated each year. There have been a variety of different classes over the years, most recently Mascar and Grand Prix Midgets but in 2011 the only ones to secure a date were the annual visits each of the Heritage Stock Cars and Rebels. The Heritage cars were part of the June two day meeting with racing on the Saturday and for the F2/Junior Stock Cars it was their biggest date of the year with their World Championship up for grabs. The cars may be old replicas, and some of the drivers (old?!) originals but never the less they take it very seriously and give it their all. 763 Andy Bateman took the title – the first driver from Cornwall to win a ‘World’ title for many years indeed. There was also more of a display of the F1/Senior cars which looked and sounded great, and a reminder of what the sport of Stock Car racing actually looked like when it came to this country almost 58 years ago. 146 Roy Clarke, who has been a prime mover in the Heritage racing scene since it came into being a decade ago was the winner of both of these races. The Heritage cars will once again have their regular date on the June two-day affair in 2012. The Rebels, the 850cc purpose built and identical cars have been a popular addition for several years and they again put on a good show in September, with many of the drivers having travelled a long way to race in Somerset and one of them was 156 James Joyce and he took the Final honours.