Arena Essex: Crowds flock to special meeting

THOUSANDS of fans flocked to Arena Essex raceway at the weekend for a very special meeting on the Banger racing calendar.

The all Ford Granada meeting was in memory of Maya Ford and Olly Moran, the former a 21 month old little girl who lost her life to a form of Meningitis and the latter a former racer. The weekend raised much needed funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation, a cause close the hearts of Maya’s family, who have been involved in Banger racing for many years. 2012 Track Champion, Paul Whiteman, a cousin of Maya’s mother, Louise, had done much of the behind the scenes work to make the meeting a success and there was a heart-warming round of applause for Paul and the families, followed by a minutes silence for Maya and Olly.

Much of the pre meeting hype surrounded the high profile return to the venue of the legendary team “The Suicide Squad”, many of whom hadn’t raced for more than a decade. They were joined by regular sparring partners “The Kent Condoms” as well as many other racers tempted back by the good cause and to have one more blast around the Thurrock oval.

Such was the demand for places during Sundays main event, Saturday evening saw an extra meeting scheduled for those unable to get a booking. Lee Turner won the final, which earned him the last place on the grid for Sunday’s event.

The eagerly anticipated event on Sunday meeting approached with race fans and transporters causing a few delays in the M25/Lakeside area as record crowds descended on the venue to see nearly 200 Ford Granadas do battle.

Six incredible heats were required to split the entry with the first heat giving us a taste of what was to come with the first salvos in the Suicide Squad/Condom war being sounded with Tony Wade using his Mk1 Granada Coupe to follow in Brian Orriss. Chris Whiteman then waded into Wade, Whiteman then getting destroyed by Shane Davies. Ray Sharrod scored with a shot to Neil Partridge only to then get followed into the wreckage by a train of cars headed by Shayn Winsor a lap or two later. Chris Worthington took the win.

Heat two saw more heavy action with a clash between Southern and Northern Ireland on the pit bend, Mike Flaherty and Steve McGrath going head to head before the lively Steve “Cecil” Anscombe, star of TV’s “The Banger Boys”, destroyed Flaherty amongst a huge steam cloud. Deane Mayes took the race win.

A blocked track on the exit of turn four in heat three resulted in some huge impacts Garry Evans found himself in the lead and Phil Wise was pretty much the only other car left in the race. Wise bumpered Evans wide on the last turn but was actually one lap down at the time so Evans took the win, his first in over 20 years racing!

The heavens opened for heat four but the action did not abate with Mark Hughes following in Charlie Callard pretty much at the drop of the flag, leaving Callards car wrapped around a post. Matt Fuller motored to the win and collected his trophy from former BDO World Professional (Darts) champion Andy Fordham, a friend of Maya’s family.

Heat five saw perhaps the biggest set of crashes of the day as the very rare Granada Mk2 Minster estate of Dutchman Pieter Leistra was destroyed by Kieron Fry, Fry was then hit by Willie Blackwell followed by Joe Barrett and Rickie Beasley, the hits all taking place just past the starter at full racing speed. Richard Ahern took the win.

The final set of unraced Granadas were turned out on track for the final heat with Callum Reed following Simon Fixter into the parked car of Jamie Batchelor. There then followed a short delay for some concern for Steve Reynolds who took a heavy hit at the other end of the track, although he was able to walk away from his wreck. The pit bend became a car park once again with some huge hits going in. Mick “Frankie” Holmes in particular landing a huge hit on Colin Farley before getting going again for a lap to steam into Andy Cushion. Karl Douglas was first amongst only a few finishers.

Jason Jackson made sure of his qualifiers spot for the final by winning the first consolation, another event that featured its fair share of pit bend shenanigans. The explosive second consolation saw Kieron Fry dish out a big crash to Bauke Walda, but he took a bigger one from Alfie Lee, who had already impressed by burying the hearse of Mark Cassidy. Jack Foster Jnr got through the wreckage for the win.

With no let up in the action the meeting final saw a scrapyard develop on the exit of turn four. Steve Carter was on a mission in this one and he took several cars with him, including track veteran, Roy Rawlins, who amused onlookers by sitting in his crashed car in a middle of a pile up reading a newspaper as the race went on around him! Jason Jackson took the win from Mark Welland and Harry Rawlins in third.

A non qualifiers allcomers heat followed with Dan Rose getting trashed by Ricky Twell, Twell then wasted by former World Champion, Brett Ellacott. Former Firecracker champion, Steve “Cecil” Anscombe, made up for the disappointment of missing out on qualification for the final by taking the win in this one.

And finally at the end of a long, historic day, in fact weekend, the Destruction Derby raised an incredible total of 57 cars! After 50 write-offs in about 3 minutes the final moments were contested between team mates Ricky Korpiela and Ian Phillips, with the former coming out victorious. Phil Wise took the best wrecker award after a fine display whilst a special driver of the day award went to Kieron Fry, who somehow managed to repair his wrecked car, despite being destroyed in every race he contested!

The end of a huge season of racing at Arena Essex is approaching with just two more events on the calendar. Next up is the annual Firecracker which returns to the venue on 3rd November with a big entry expected of Unlimited Bangers and the popular Reliant Robins in support. Start time is 1pm and another huge crowd is expected to descend on Thurrock.

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