Thursday, December 7, 2023

Arena Essex: Lee is the general in Essex champs

DAGENHAM’S Georgie Lee became the new Essex Champion in the National Banger formula at Arena Essex on Sunday.

Lee not only defeated Essex’s finest, but he also was pitted against several of the countries top racers, including West Countryman and current 2 Litre Banger World Champion, Steve Bailey, as well as Lincolnshire youngster Jack Foster Jnr.

In a day that featured more racing than crashing for once, South Ockendon’s Sonny Sherwood continued his successful return from a racing ban to rack up two heat wins whilst Dan Gardiner was pretty much the only one out there for a crash, although he was mainly on the receiving end it has to be said.

A lively exchange between Ricky Hutton, Jamie Harding and James Steele enlivened the final whilst the star drivers battled at the head of the field. Predictably none of them actually reached the finish although all were repaired and ready to go for one last crash in the Destruction Derby. This time they were joined by a game Dan Gardiner who dished out a particularly hard crash to Steele after Steele had met Harding in a crunching head on. Gardiner went on to battle Alfie Lee and Wayne Cotterill in the closing stages, Lee seemingly expiring on the home straight whilst Gardiner went on to perform what everyone expected to be the DD winning crash on Cotterill along the back straight. However, despite seemingly not taking an active part in the closing stages, Lee was awarded the win with Dave Bull taking another trophy for winning the race which had preceded the DD.

The Stock Rods provided their fair share of controversy throughout the afternoon, particularly in heat one which saw David Burton seemingly attempt to impede the leading car of Richard Miles, perhaps with an aim of helping brother Malcolm to take the win. Miles suddenly had a swarming pack of cars all around him and with Gary Hicks trying to get up the inside and Jamie Lee Potter around the outside, Miles’ car suddenly went off the pace and dropped back, baulking Hicks slightly, allowing Malcolm Burton to join Potter in a new battle for lead. Before Burton could mount a sustained challenge, the race was stopped prematurely as Wayne Shackleford went barrelling into the armco on the exit of the final bend, Wayne laying the finger of blame squarely on the shoulders of Paul Hunter.

With all parties told to cool it down, heat two still saw a little bit of needle as the battle for second between Malcolm Burton and Ian Jardine, which became a battle for third when David Burton successfully weaved in between and past both, saw a bit of contact along the way, nothing appearing serious, although Burton became a little physical on the rundown lap. Gary Hicks was already far enough clear to not get overly worried about the closing David Burton.

The final was a good race with Hicks again hitting the front and pulling out a good lead as the Burton brothers duelled over second. David eventually got clear whilst Malcolm dropped back behind Darren Clements, who had his own duel for third with a repaired Shackleford over the final laps. It was close at the flag, but Hicks just had enough.

Shackleford got his own win in the final race of the day, benefiting from a last corner move by David Burton who got up the inside of the leading car Malcolm Burton, forcing him out wide and losing him a bunch of places. With David docked places for the contact, Shackleford took the win and was quick to thank his team for doing wonders to get his damaged car back out on track.

With erstwhile points leader Karl Douglas suffering mechanical difficulties which took him out of the SuperBanger action after heat one, Lee West was unchallenged as he raced to four straight victories during the afternoon.

The days racing was watched by staff and children from the Southend Toy Library for handicapped children. The library organises several fun days and outings for children receiving hospital treatment or with special needs. To add to their enjoyment of the day, several of them presented trophies and joined the race winners on their victory lap in the pace car.

The next action at Arena Essex is a double header over the Bank Holiday weekend. On Sunday 25th August the Rookie Bangers make their return after a long break and there should be a great turnout of racers all keen to crash. Lightning Rods and Junior Mini Stox provide the support with the Lightning Rod class competing for the British Championship, ensuring a full grid of cars from across the UK. Home grown talents such as Anthony Lawrence, Chris Reeve and Gary Greenland will hope to keep the title at home. Bank Holiday Monday sees the return of the Big Van Bangers with Stock Rods and SuperBangers in support. Kids go for a quid at both meetings and the start time each day is 1:30pm.


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