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The 2018 Roy Rawlins Testimonial was a two day event at Arena Essex celebrating the career of Roy Rawlins, a really interesting chap who I will be going into more detail about in a minute.
The event also raises money for the Meningitis Research Foundation in honour of Maya Ford, who was sadly taken from this world at the age of 21 months by the infection.
The first day, which I didn’t get to attend, featured all Mk1/2 Granada Bangers, Stock Rods and Lightning Rods and the second day, which I will be covering, saw Pre-1990 Unlimited Bangers, 2 Litre Stock Cars and Ministox take to the track.
Ministox are a good Formula of racing to watch. The formula is designed to produce the stock car racers of the future. The drivers are all aged between the ages of 11 and 15 and they drive 1.0 BMC/Leyland Minis which have been modified with an armoured frame that runs around and through the body.
They may not be the fastest formula on the ovals but they produce some really good wheel to wheel racing thanks the cars being so similar.
The 2 litre stock cars also produce some good close racing but the cars are much faster. They are largely based on the Ford Sierra platform although there are a few BMW E36s in the mix too. They are rear driven and are all powered by Ford’s 2.0 blacktop Zetec engine.
We’ll be backing car number 313 Tommy Langley who was driving a borrowed Sierra. Tommy runs Langley Logistics which is an Essex based recovery, transportation and scrap car collection service. You can find Langley Logistics on Facebook here: Langley Logistics
Finally we have the Bangers! Pre-1990 Unlimiteds bring out some really interesting and unusual cars.
This team who were running grey cars with blue roofs brought out the best in my opinion. This Daimler was absolutely stunning! I’d love something like this as a road car one day, looks really good as a banger too!
They also brought out a couple of American cars. One is a Cadillac and I’m not 100% sure what the other is.
Airbrushing the lights in was a nice detail.
They also brought along a Jaguar and a Granada estate on this Hiab lorry.
I’ve never really paid much attention to these Hiabs before but they are wicked bits of kit. A crane lifts the car from the bed (the crane is attached to the car via metal chains) and puts them down beside the lorry. Between the races, racers use the cranes to pick the cars up to work underneath them like a makeshift ramp.
There were a fair few teams racing today including the Gladiators with their red and white livery.
World Champion Jason Jackson “Boxer Jack” was driving car 331 accompanied by his team.
There were a few other smaller teams
Along with plenty of individual drivers.
Including the man himself Roy Rawlins!
In the event programme there is an interview with Roy Rawlins conducted by Matt Bull. It discusses Roy’s beginnings in the sport and how he came to be such an influential figure in the history of Arena Essex. I’m hoping Matt will publish it online for you all to read as it’s really interesting. If it does get published online I shall link it here. There was one aspect of the interview that really caught my eye though.
In the 1980s there were a lot of teams such as the Suicide Squad and The Condoms who were bitter rivals with each other. The rivalries, or wars as they are known, produced some excellent racing and crashing, which was good for the venue, but sometimes the wars would spill over into the pits, which didn’t do the venue’s image much good.
Roy didn’t want to be a part of the rivalries and subsequent violence. He wasn’t affiliated with any of the teams and would often try to break these things up as they emerged and diffuse the situations.
Being a little older than the drivers involved they used to listen to him and respect his opinions. He was not only able to diffuse these fights and arguments but even got the bitter rivals to work together in teams representing Arena Essex at promotional meetings at other venues such as Ringwood vs Arena.
I have the upmost respect for people who can unify people like that. I think it takes tremendous charisma to be able to unify radically different groups of people to work towards a common cause. If there were more people who could do that in the political sphere I think the world would be a much much better place.
Before the racing begins there is a parade lap. All the drivers go round in the cars with their mechanics, girlfriends and wives, friends, children or parents to wave to the crowd and make an impression whilst the announcer lets everyone know who they are.
The first heat of bangers saw some good racing with only one real big crash.
The yellow Jag was V8 and sounded amazing!
The big crash happened when the red and yellow Jaguar at the back was pushed into the wall by the grey and blue Granada which you can just about see hidden behind the red Volvo. The Granada spun across the track opening the door for the red and white Jag to plow into the back of the red and yellow car.
2nd race was much of the same.
Roy Rawlins was on the grid this time and it would be rude not to put the star of the show into the wall wouldn’t it? Most of the field seemed to think so!
This green Supra then charged in to finish Roy off.
Then a Volvo followed to finish the Supra.
Then there was an interesting play. As the yellow Jag tried to get out of the pile up it pushed the Gladiator’s Volvo across the track to make getting through more difficult for the traffic coming around.
Cars had to either squeeze between the wreck and the curb or between the wrecks to get through.
At the end Roy’s car was so twisted up the break down truck couldn’t move it, it had to be lifted out.
Once all was cleared up it was time for round 1 of the Ministox.
The race was simply dominated by car 599 driven by Alfie Aldous. We’ll be hearing more about Alfie a little later. His driving was amazing all day!
Stock Cars heat 1.
I was hoping to do a shining report on how Tommy Langley and car 313 took a flawless victory.
However, a tangle with a grey and red car caused a mechanical failure.
There would be the Banger finals followed by an all comer’s round sponsored by Brentwood RC Raceway. The bangers final was pandemonium. As you can see the grid stretched along the entire back straight.
There was of course plenty of action in the race that ensued.
At the end of the race there was a huge pile up on the tavern corner. Boxer Jack, who had one the past two heats and was about to win the final threw the win away to be a part of the crash. That’s the spirit of bangers though, it’s all about putting on a good show for the crowd!
There was now a lot of twisted metal sitting in the pits. Would many of them be running again by the all-comers race?
Thankfully they had some time to get the cars sorted whilst the stock car classes ran their next heat.
The next Mini race was also won by car 599 by a considerable distance. Little Alfie will be one to watch for in the near future I reckon!
In the second heat of the stock cars, Mr Langley sadly had to pull off with mechanical issues once more.
The rest of the race was good though. 2.0 Stock Cars and Lightning Rods are my favourite oval Formulas so far. I must go and see some National Hot Rods at some point though.
Finally, it was time for the all-comers round sponsored by Brentwood RC Raceway. Amazing most of the cars had been patched together for one last go.
Yes, this estate was moving under it’s own power!
Mr Roy Rawlins even managed to straighten out the Granada enough to have another go.
After the ensuing chaos it was Boxer Jack who took final victory.
The trophy was given to Boxer Jack by the guys at Brentwood RC and he gave it back to young Peter who races at Brentwood.
It may seem a bit of an odd thing to give your trophy away but it’s a bit of a tradition of Jack’s that was passed down from Roy who often gave away his trophies. This quote from the interview explains it really well and I think summarises the spirit of grassroots motorsport, of every description and why these young men and women who partake are some of the best people you will ever meet.
“It’s like giving your trophy away. I remember when Boxer Jack was a youngster – he asked me why I gave my trophies away. I said, what are they worth? A couple of quid? And what would I do with them? He said to me He’d put them in the garage on a shelf. I said nah – you’d end up with them in a black plastic bag in the corner of the loft. He said it’s disrespectful giving them away. I said no way – I’d still accept it and take it round on the lap of honour, but then I’d give it to an 8 year old, who will always remember that day. To them it’s a treasure.”
Roy, of course, kept the bigger important trophies but I think giving the other trophies away is a great idea. To the kids they are a treasure and they will be so proud to have it. Hopefully this inspires more kids to get into motorsport.
I’ve obviously been banger racing before and for the past few months have been going to Brentwood RC and CCORC. I’d always said though that if I were to do oval racing I’d do stock rods or stock cars. Having learnt a bit more about some of the characters in the sport I’m really inspired to have a go myself.
Arena is under threat of development and has been for sometime. I’ve always said I’ll defend it for the drifting but the other forms of racing that go on there are just as important. For a concrete oval built on a dusty old cement works, Arena Essex really is a special place for me and many others.
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By Richard Francis