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Regular readers of this blog will know of my local track, Arena Essex from my various posts on the King Of The Ring drift competitions and banger racing meets.
As you may have seen from the banger posts, teams are a big part of banger racing and Arena Essex often sees teams like The Creams and The Gladiators go head to head but the golden era of team meets at Arena was in the 1980s and early 1990s, when The Condoms would battle the Bexley Heath Suicide Squad.
Every weekend, thousands of people would descend upon Arena Essex to watch the pink Condoms and yellow Suicide Squad battle it out. The rivalry was fierce, the racing was close, the crashing was heavy and the crowd loved it!
Two of Essex’s RC tracks; Brentwood RC Raceway and Chelmsford Carpet Oval Racing Club (CCORC), would host a two legged Essex derby where 30 of the best from each club would face each other. One leg would be at Brentwood and the other would be at CCORC.
The club’s management weren’t overly happy with it anymore though. It was exclusive to only those racing at those clubs and if someone didn’t quite make the cut for the teams then they wouldn’t be able to race which didn’t seem fair. So they came up with the idea of doing random teams out of a hat and running the teams as the famous Suicide Squad and Condoms with 2 Litre stock cars and Formula 2 stock cars acting as the support classes.
Jamie Townsend and Simon cut out and painted 32 yellow and 32 pink shells. The shells were models of Mk1 Ford Granadas, Triumph 2000s and Austin Westminsters, popular bangers at the time the real teams were racing.
The shells on the night would cost £8, which is only £2 more than buying the shell uncut and unpainted. They also included a ‘The Condoms’ or ‘The Suicide Squad’ sticker made by K-Tech Signs. With the shell and entry fee the total cost of racing for the evening was £15 which is a pretty cheap night’s entertainment!
Once all the names were drawn, it was time to get the cars mounted to the chassis’ and stickered up! This was my Triumph 2000.
I was lucky to have some really good drivers in my team, most notably young Shaye; who wins everything!
Big Dave is a regular to Brentwood.
Midge and Divvy. Midge owns the club and Divvy is a part of the team that helps run it.
Parked next to Midge is Stuart Tink with car number 311. A very friendly and helpful chap who comes to race at Brentwood from his home near Brooklands, about an hour’s drive away. I’ve pitted next to Stuart a couple of times now. Top chap!
It was also nice to see car 572 ‘Rocket’ Rob Barnard make a return to the ovals having raced 1/10th scale buggies this summer.
This car belongs to Alec Quarman of the Basildon Model Banger & Stock Car Club (BMBSCC) based at the old Hadleigh fire station. I’ve yet to go there but I’m sure I will be able to go to a meet there soon!
Here were the rest of our team:
I know there are a couple of cars that aren’t featured here. My camera was struggling to work with the pink for some reason. Some of the shots came out blurry and I must admit I was too engrossed in the meeting to really check them at the time. Apologies!
This is the line up of the dastardly Suicide Squad *boo hiss*
The bangers were divided into 2 heats of 30 cars. 15 cars of each team in each heat. The heats would be reworked after every round so I tried to judge my performance in the races on laps rather than overall position as in some races I would be with drivers much better than me and in other races I’d be with drivers less experienced than me.
In the first race I came in 14th place with 32 laps. I bent a kingpin which I thought was my passenger side hub from turning to the right. After changing that it didn’t sure it so I took it apart 20 times and asked for the opinions of John and Stuart who I was pitting next to. After changing the alignment on the other side it seemed to free the passenger side back up. How? No idea.
The second race was an amusing one. I got an improvement of 33 laps but finished 18th. Halfway through the race the lights went out! We all stopped whilst the Brentwood team restored the power. In the third race I finished 8th with 36 laps which was a nice improvement and in the final race I finished 6th with 35 laps.
Normally this would be the end of my evening. There is always a Demolition Derby after the races but I normally pack up and go home about that time. I just never really fancied it. I always saw it as breaking stuff for the sake of breaking stuff. However, looking around at the state of some of the cars following a hard night’s racing and looking at my relatively clean car. I thought I’d have a shot!
I only had two cracks in the front body work. Tinker let me use his super fast drying adhesive to patch it up with some spare plastic I had in my box.
Good as new!
The DD was an interesting experience. I was trying to avoid any crashes with the more solid cars and instead was aiming for the cars with body work and other bits hanging off of them.
Whilst the car survived until the near end in good condition, one thing I hadn’t thought of was battery life. As I was driving around bumping into things, the car was draining it’s battery which, of course, led to me stopping and losing the DD. So whilst one has to be considerate of the targets you are hitting, one also has to be considerate of the amount of time you actually spend on the move to retain battery life.
Winning the DD is something that may look very unskillful but actually requires a fair amount of thought and tactics. It’s not something I will do every meeting but it’s a laugh every once in a while for sure!
A big thanks needs to be said for Jamie, Sam, Simon, Gill, Divvy and all of the Brentwood RC members for organising and executing a fabulous evenings racing and to Tinker and John for the help.
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By Richard Francis