15- year-old Lauren Overy provided the perfect swansong to her Junior Mini Stox career with a finely judged victory at the ORC Championship at Arena Essex on Sunday.
Drivers from across the country converged on the Thurrock venue for one of the sports major championships and for Lauren the race meant more than most, with her 16th birthday looming, imminent retirement from the junior category made this her very last race at the venue.
Such was the entry, three heat races were required with each driver racing twice. A number of rapid lower graded racers made life difficult for the star graders, who struggled to make progress from the back of the grid.
The Championship race was started in points order from the heats, so the cream was expected to rise to the top in the end result. James Waite won both his heats to take up pole position for the final grid, alongside the other heat winner, Tony Elbourn. Reigning ORC Champion, Charlie Morphey was back on row four whilst reigning Track Champion, Overy, was mid pack, after a disastrous crash in the second heat which saw her spin to the infield minus a wheel.
West Country star racer, Cameron Laurence looked the best bet out of all the star graders from row three, but he was soon on the sidelines with a puncture as the early fraught laps saw the lead change on several occasions and a few casualties. As early as lap four it began looking like Overy was making a charge to the front, as the front runners battered each other wide, Overy was sticking to the inside line and making up lots of places, including vitally finding a way past long term rival, Charlie Morphey. Out front, Cole Atkins had created quite a lead by the time that Overy got into second with Morphey soon following her through too. The gap had closed by half distance and Overy struck on the home straight, knowing that any delay would allow Morphey to strike, she spun Atkins aside in a perfectly judged manoeuvre. From then the lead see-sawed between Overy and Morphey with backmarkers first allowing Morphey to close and then finally causing him to drop back and allow Overy a free run to the flag. Behind Morphey, Dan Santry took third followed by Luke Dorling.
If we were in any doubt what this win meant to Overy, the celebrations after were amongst the most emotional we have seen at the venue. Once coaxed down from the roof of her car, Lauren’s Banger racing legend father, Carl "Jack" Overy was on hand to present her with the ORC Championship trophy. Lauren’s next step in oval racing is to race in the 1300cc Stock Cars, with a car being sourced for a debut perhaps in the latter part of August. Provided all goes well, a new car for 2016 could well be in the offing.
The event that drew the biggest proportion of the crowd to Arena on Sunday, was the annual Caravan race. 18 combinations made it onto track and the chaos started at the drop of the green flag with a huge pile up developing on the exit of the pit bend. In the midst of the pile up, John Avery managed to invert his car and he was pushed around the bend whilst upside down to bring about a race stoppage to allow him to escape. The opportunity was taken to clear some of the debris and allow a few cars to get free but the restart was only a matter of seconds old before another log-jam in the same place brought everything to a grinding halt again. Roy Rawlins sat in his car reading a newspaper whilst a few marshals and drivers attempted to free a number of the cars, to no avail. So instead Roy drove the wrong way round the track and buried himself into a caravan. As he backed out, Chris Whiteman went charging across the infield and piled into Roys caravan on the startline, possibly incensed by the age-old legend Roy had painted on his caravan "NTAW" – Never Trust A Whiteman!
The first PRI Banger heat was their liveliest of the day with Daniel Mann taking the win after two race stoppages to allow recovery time for Jamie Webb and T-Jay Powers. Mann was out of luck in the final, going out in the same crash that brought the race to a halt as Mark Hughes received an accidental shot in the drivers door. Sonny Sherwood took the win. Jordan Webb won the allcomers race at the end of the day, with the Destruction Derby tied between Rich Cuddington and David Greenstreet.
The Junior Banger action saw Bradley Lee take a heat and final double whilst Josh Mackey came within a few feet of winning his first ever race. Leading into the final corner he was pushed wide by Jamie Murrell and then spun into the fence whilst Charlie Murrell nipped up the inside of both cars to steal the win on the line. Charlie looked on course for the final too, spinning Alfie Jones out to take the lead. But Jones rejoined and spun Murrell in revenge before running into Tommy Carter and getting hit by John Gillman, bringing the race to an early finish with Lee the victor.
Finally on a packed day, the 2L Stock Cars provided Nick Glover with his first wins in the class, taking an accomplished heat and final double. The change from Pinto to Zetec power made all the difference to Glover’s pace, he only failed to win all three when a water leak dumped fluid on his tyres and he flew fencewards. In fact that proved to be the race of the day with Brian Jarvis taking the win as the rest of the field battled hard and cars spun in all directions.
The next action at Arena Essex comes on 2nd August when the much awaited 8 man team racing tournament brings some of the biggest names in Banger racing to the area. The day is raising funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation and as well as the headlining Banger event, there are also the Essex Championships for both the Stock Rods and the Lightning Rods. Start time 1pm.
Photos courtesy of Matt Bull.