On Sunday night, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In front of me, more than 40 cars were deliberately smashing into each other trying to cause as much damage as possible, while an audience of hundreds looked on laughing and shouting for more.
I am of course referring to my first visit to the Wimbledon banger racing, a bizarre place, but one I’m sure I’ll be returning to none the less.
I’m sure you know the set-up of banger racing. People buy cars from scrapyards for pennies and then strip them of ‘unnecessary features’, such as glass and seats to make them more crash friendly. Then the driver’s go out with the sole intention of causing copious amount of damage to their own cars and their competitors’.
In the first heat, half of the 40-strong field managed to smash their cars up so badly that they couldn’t compete in races two and three. Of most amusement was the announcer reading out the rules before the race started.
“For the first three laps, no heavy contact is allowed,” he said. “After that, it’s every man for himself.” I’m not sure whether he expected to be listened to, because he most certainly wasn’t.
The safety car led them around for a parade lap, before the race properly started. But some people couldn’t wait. Before they’d even crossed the line, at least 15 cars were involved in an almighty pile up at the last corner. And thinking about it, technically they hadn’t even broken any rules as the race hadn’t even begun…
The gear grinding was cringe worthy and you could smell the tyres and probably the clutches burn away as chaos ensued. Some cars looked worthy of competing, such as knackered Fiat Unos, Vauxhall Corsas and plenty of Ford Escorts, but for some others, it looked way too soon in their lives to be out there.
Most saddening for me was the two Mk4 Fiestas gunning around (a car which I own), but my look of horror soon turned into a smile. The real hero was a man in a white Escort, whose car was so badly damaged he could barely go more than 5mph. Yet still he ignored lap after lap of black flags, trying to cause even more damage. In the end, someone punted him off out of his misery. And then he caught fire.
Initially, £12 seemed a fair bit to pay for a couple of hours there, when a club meeting at Brands or Snetterton costs the same. But in the end it becomes quite addictive; stand for two hours, have a couple of pints and enjoy some ‘alternative’ car entertainment, and then be home in 20 minutes without worrying about the traffic or a long walk back through mud to the car etc.
And just a quick thought – if the government has to needlessly crush roadworthy cars under scrappage, why not give them one last hurrah and a proper heroes send off?