This season we saw the debut of a new rising star from the Mendips fold - Mike Parry of Thunderpix fame.
We took five minutes out of his busy schedule to find out how he has got on and what makes him tick...
1. So this was it – the debut that you have been building up to for how long??!
Yeah it's been a long time coming! I've been watching at Mendips pretty much since I was born, so about 20 years. It was earlier this year that I decided I was going to get on the tarmac (I'd already done a couple of meetings at a dirt track, Trent Raceway). I think I had about 2 or 3 months to get ready for the bank holiday meetings but I had lots to do for my first meeting. To be honest I did have my doubts as to whether I'd make it or not and the preparations weren't always easy or enjoyable, but those two days of racing made up for it all, surpassed all my expectations, even though I managed to finish off both cars!
2. Tell us the story of how you got the bug for banger racing?
Being introduced to the sport from such a young age, it's always been there and meetings have always been something I look forward to. I think since starting taking photos (about 2005) and since starting ThunderPix (2008) my interest in racing, particularly bangers, has thrived. Whereas we would usually go to about 5 meetings, mostly Mendips, we now go to most of the 14 Mendips meetings and most weekends in between we're visiting other tracks to get our fix of bangers!
3. Give us a brief bio of who you are, your family background, what you do and what makes you tick?
I'm a 20 year old student from Gloucester, studying a masters in Automotive Engineering at Loughborough University. Loughborough is about 160 miles from Mendips which can make it difficult to get to meetings during term time. In the holidays, I work at the local breakers yard, Twigworth Breakers, where I dismantle cars and look out for the next car to race! As many people already know, my road cars are a bit unusual - a Reliant Robin and a farina MG Magnette! Outside of racing, I like going to classic car shows, I play violin and guitar and I like walking in the countryside.
My family are also into their racing - I go to most meetings with my brother Chris and between us we run ThunderPix. Chris has also started to race on the dirt at Trent, and we share a unit and take turns to race. My dad first started watching bangers in 1974 at New Brighton and Kirkby in Liverpool, then Crewe in the 80s. When he moved to Gloucester he had a break from the sport for a bit, but in 1991 he took us to Mendips and the rest is history! Dad has never raced despite watching for over 35 years, but we're hoping to change that! Mum always used to stay at home and do housework and was never remotely interested in racing, but she came to watch me race at Trent and then came along to Thunderbolt earlier this year and now she goes to most of the meetings at Mendips.
4. Who is your biggest inspiration in the banger racing sport and why?
My biggest inspiration in bangers is 198 Marcus Goldsmith and the Wacky Racers. I think when I was young I just like the colour scheme, but I soon realised Marcus was one of the best racers Mendips has had. Racing is always more exciting when there is someone to support, and with Marcus racing at most meetings, it didn't disappoint. What I think makes him a great driver is his ability to race and wreck in anything from coaches and ambulances to hearses and caravans! It was great to see the Wacky Racers out in almost a full team at British Beef this year, and hopefully we'll see more or them next season.
Other racers I rate highly are 23 Tibbs because of his 'never say die' attitude and 260 Keith Reynolds for racing just about anything he can find!
5. How much time, money and effort does it need to get a car onto the oval?!
Well I'd say it takes a lot of time and effort, but you don't have to spend a lot of money. Personally, I like to spend a fair bit of time getting the car running nicely, get used to it, try to understand how all the fuel and ignition systems work, etc. I find this helps me if the car stops running.
I know a lot of people can prepare a car in a few days, but it tends to take me longer. The Cortina took me 7 months from purchase to track - most people would expect world final prep for that long! I'd never prepared a car before, not even helped out or anything. So I was building it on my own and learning how to build bangers at the same time, which made hard work of it! I built the H-frame, fuel tank and door plate, which saved money but all took time, as well as sorting out the engine.
When I got it, the cambelt was snapped and the engine was siezed solid after being sat for 10 years. After dragging it around in gear for a while, the engine started to free up. I put a new belt on it and it fired up! I've never had any problems with that engine, it's all original , I didn't even change the oil! I also like to paint the cars up and do a bit of signwriting, which took about 2 or 3 weeks on the Cortina. I wanted something cool for my first car, which was why I went out of my way and spent £200 buying the Cortina; the other cars I've got free through work or friends.
After spending so long on the Cortina, I was determined the Micra was going to be a quicker build as the plan was always to finish off the car in one day's racing. Working out the electrics took a little time, but the rest of it was straightforward. Again it was left all original - engine, tyres, etc. which proved to be cheap and reliable.
I must say that my racing is made much cheaper by the support of my work (Twigworth Breakers). They give me the cars, tyres, radiators, suspension bits, fuel and use of a recovery truck. Without their support I either wouldn't be racing, or I'd be spending a lot more to get out on track, so I'm very grateful to them!
6. That was a bumpy first couple of days at Mendips?! How did you and the car fare??!
Yes I certainly got a lively initiation! The Cortina was pretty much scrap at the start of Sunday's meeting, but it still ran alright so I thought it may as well get finished off in style. I only just managed to cross the start line when it all went wrong. I copped a big T-bone and it moved the passenger door to the middle of the car. It didn't actually hurt that much despite the horrific wreck, probably because the car took most of the impact. Tom (#54) did a brilliant job of straightening it out and which a bit of bodging we got it out for the allcomers and got a few laps in. I spun someone out, but then got caught up and he got his revenge, spinning me out and giving me 2 puntures. The car still drove off the track but it was too twisted and probably unsafe to race again. It was great to finish the car off in style and at my favourite track, 20 months after I bought it!
The Micra was a totally different experience - it was really quite quick and great fun. In heat 1 I spun out a Mondeo and gave a few other cars some enthusiastic nudges! Being so small, it was great for getting out of pile-ups. I picked up quite a bit of damage, bent in the front wheel, although one time I hit the front wheel on another car and it seemed to straighten the wheel up and it went faster! Over 30 started the race, and only 11 finished, I got 9th so managed to qualify for the final! I really wasn't expecting to qualify given how much action I got stuck in with. Thanks to Tom and team who pulled the car out again and got it back into a driveable state. The final was a similar story and the car was getting crippled. I was crawling down the home straight when I got followed in pretty heavily and the front end snapped. The little car had kept coming back for more, but this time it had had enough.
7. What did you learn that first weekend?!
I've learnt that it's more fun racing than watching, and definitely worth all the effort! I found the Cortina was fun because it was old and RWD, but the Micra was fun because it was nippy and wouldn't stop! I think the most important thing I learnt was that what I'm doing is great fun and I don't need to change anything, just keep doing more of the same.
8. How did it feel as you tore away from the starting line that first time?
In the Cortina I wouldn't really say I 'tore' away, more like drove off! My main concern was that the car wasn't quick enough and the suspension was all twisted so I was hoping to stay out of trouble by keeping to the outside. But as I moved out, I got spun against the wall and it all went wrong! From then on, I was just thinking how much longer before I get hit and how much will it hurt.
After a bit of practice in the Cortina, I thought it would be easy in the Micra, but starting on pole with 35 cars behind me, the adrenalin was pumping more than ever! I spent the whole time thinking there was someone right behind me about to spin me out, but apparently I'd made up a fair lead. Nothing gets the adrenalin going like the rolling lap of a banger race with Mouldy Old Dough playing!
9. Is there anyone you want to thank (or blame) for helping you to make it all happen?
There are too many people to thank and I'll probably miss out loads, but I'll have a go. My family have been a great support, my brother for towing the trailer and doing the pics/vids and doing some signwriting, dad for his mechanic help, mum for making the tea. I get a lot of help from my work and sponsor, Twigworth Breakers, as I mentioned earlier. My boss, Chris, deserves particular mention for always going well out of his way to get me on track. At the bank holiday weekend, #54 Tom Davey and team were brilliant, going to a lot of effort to straighten the cars out on his truck and get me back out there - without their help, I would have had half the amount of track time. Also the track staff and marshals do a great job. I really appreciate all the efforts of everyone who has helped me although I'm sure I've missed some!
10. Tell us about your Banger Racing ambitions. What’s your goal?! – What’s next?!
Looking ahead to next season, I'm hoping to race at all 3 Mendips rookies meetings, and race a few Standlake street banger meetings in between. It would be great to have a few more rookie meetings at Mendips as they seem to attract the drivers and crowds. I don't think I'm ready for National Bangers yet, but the Micro meeting is tempting as I like the little Micras. I'm hoping to race more rusty old tin and a few quick modern cars. My main goal is to keep racing when I can, and keep doing what I'm doing. It's great fun and I'm enjoying it while it lasts, I don't want it to stop!