Fireworks at Arena Essex

ONE of the races of the season rounded of the Arena Essex season in style on Sunday as the annual Firecracker Banger event brought drivers and spectators from far and wide to the Thurrock venue.

Four of the nations top Banger drivers duelled over the final laps of the Firecracker finale with Steve Bailey landing a hit on Sonny Sherwood which carried him into the leader Jason Jackson. As Sherwood and Jackson struggled for traction on the outside, Bailey dived up the inside for the lead. At the next corner Sherwood and Jackson connected allowing Bailey to get clear, but as Sherwood and Jackson again struggled around the outside, Dale Hughes arrived and all three went into the last corner of the race alongside each other, Sherwood somehow using the outside line to his advantage on this occasion, grabbing second from Jackson on the line.

For many of the thousands of fans braving the showers on the terraces, the thrilling race in the finale was little more than a sideshow to some of the most spectacular Banger crashes of the season, as the Banger racers once again brought along several limo’s, hearses and big American cars to mix it with the more standard fare. One of the American cars, a Chysler Imperial driven by Andrew Jones, had already raced at a number of meetings and although badly battered, was able to dish out many more crashes. The very same type of car is banned from American Demolition Derbies as it is built on a truck chassis and considered too strong, the British promoters have yet to act in a similar manner and "Jonesey" has used this fully to his advantage.

Heat one was a lively start to the day even though the crowds around the venue and the chaotic pit area meant it featured the lowest grid of the day. Jason Jackson took the win whilst South Ockendon’s Jason Mortimer took the first of the days big damage as Tom Filmer spun him on one lap and then took another lap run up to destroy him into the pit turn. Robert Broughton took identical Volvo damage courtesy of Taylor Sowter, whilst Kieran Briddock crashed several, including Dan Matthews.

Rayleigh’s Danny Brown was competing in his last Banger race before retirement and chose to go up against Jonesey’s Imperial in heat two. He managed to spin the huge beast and land a blow before Jonesey pushed him into the inner kerb and rolled him over with a little "assist" from Wayne Cottrill. With a brief hiatus to rescue Danny, the race resumed with Dave Bull using his Cadillac Fleetwood to crash Joshua Lee, Lee then getting a huge hit from World Champion, Scott Cornish. Steve Bailey took the win.

Heat three saw some more huge monsters out on track, although the Cadillac Limo of Dutch racer Maarten Steenbekkers was singled out for plenty of attention, not least from Danny Webb, who travelled the length of the home straight the wrong way to destroy him. Alfie Lee and Paul Korpiela joined in the bloodbath which saw the limo wrecked and Steenbekkers awarded a special trophy for being the most trashed car in the race! Ritchie Ahern took the win.

Luke Broughton took heavy damage from George Kelly at the start of the consolation with Jason Curtis going in hard on Paul "Stormin" Norman. Alfie Lee followed Thomas Bulow heavily into a parked car and then got a follow up shot from Tom Filmer as Steve Carter raced to victory.

Continental visitor, Klaas Slager had enjoyed a good weekend’s racing at Ipswich and Arena Essex but his weekend was finished within seconds of the start of the Firecracker final thanks to a thunderous follow in from Paul Whiteman. After a brief delay to allow Klaas to escape, the race resumed with Andrew Jones writing off the huge Limo of Bill Wenham and Steenbekkers deciding that to beat them at their own game he would take the back straight flat out going the wrong way, eventually landing a glancing blow to Scott Cornish.

The Destruction Derby looked like it was to go the way of Jones in the indestructible Imperial but despite ripping the side out of Ricky Domine’s American beast and writing off a number of other cars, including Terry Ratcliffe’s Lexus, he was eventually silenced by a Jaguar! Carl Sowter sent up a spectacular shower of sparks as he attacked Jones head on. Both cars remained locked together with Jones car eventually bursting into flames as Jones frantically spun the wheels trying to get free. Danny Green impressed by attacked both Jason Jackson and Wayne Cottrill before expiring, whilst Cottrill went on to attack the warped car of Domine. The final blows came between Jason Curtis and Taylor Sowter with the former getting the verdict.

Reliant Robins provided the support race action with countless rollovers recorded throughout the afternoon. Run to full contact rules there were several hard crashes, not least from Karl Douglas, who’s demolition of Adam Rowell in heat one saw both cars fly high. Stuart Palmer and Gary Harvey won the heats with Palmer again victorious in the final. Ray Layton won the Destruction Derby with a big head on between Brian Jarvis and Steven Willis largely finishing the event.

All photos: Matt Bull/RacePixels.co.uk.

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