Another fine sunny evening for the Rolling Thunder Show at Arena Essex featured an 8 formula, 27 race meeting, although perhaps the biggest story of the night concerned a class conspicuous by its absence – just a few days before, the Street Stox class had finally been dropped from the RTS programme.


The “limited contact” 1400 FWD class had never really fulfilled its promise – when the grids did begin to grow at one stage, some controversy about the acceptable degree of contact soon saw the numbers drop off again, and the promised support this year never materialised. Ironically, one or two recent meetings had shown a way forward, with the 1400 cars proving very evenly matched with Angmering’s 1-litre Micra Stox, but it was too late to save the RTS class.


It’s been good to see the SPRINT CARS out more regularly at Arena this year. They’ll only race if the forecast shows less than 40% chance of rain, but there was no doubt about that tonight. Even with only three cars, they’re always good to watch. Their first run was ultra close with Paul Haralambou at last getting his car running consistently to hold off Ashley Boam and Vince O’Connor. The other two races saw Big ash holding off Vince, with Paul close behind.


The OUTLAW HOT RODS were also low on numbers. The meeting was billed as their “World Cup” but only attracted nine entries with just five cars in the pits, of which Andy Owen’s 2 litre Corsa never appeared on track – due to the Outlaws’ title race, none of the regular 2-litre contenders were entered. Neal Smith’s Corsa headed Paul Trimmer’s 206 and Arena veteran Roy Rawlings’ 205 in the first heat. Paul headed Neal in heat two, with Graham Fulker’s 206CC joining in for third. The “World Cup” hit rock bottom when Paul Trimmer lined up on his own for the final, doing a couple of laps to claim the trophy. We can’t help thinking that this was a case where the RTS policy of never publishing entry lists had scuppered what could have been a good event. Drivers with cars of this level just won’t commit to race without knowing if they’ll have anybody to race against, whereas an open online entry list often works in building up some enthusiasm.


A dozen NINJA SPRINTS signed in, with the one to beat being Harry Fryett, who came from the back to win all three races. Ollie Jones made Harry work for it in the final and came in a close second, with Joshua Perfect third in front of Charlie Soane, Poppy Hendy, Clark Ferris, Murray Hall, Charlie Hensby, Kenzie Gibbs and Ellis Snow, with Freddie Chandler and Jayden Steward being non-finishers.


The novice JUNIOR RODS were again given their own races although many of this year’s newcomers had now been upgraded, leaving just four cars in the novice races. Former Ninja racer Ash Shaw and Archie Fryett proved evenly matched with Ash winning the first heat and final but Archie reversing the order in heat two. Zak Brunning, with a misfiring engine, didn’t come out after the first heat so third went to Farnborough-based newcomer Patsy Keenan, driving well in a striking pink Micra.


The graded Juniors had a 13 car grid for all three races. Daniel Freeman had swapped his Nova for a Micra and took it to a win in the first heat, after getting past long time leader Grayci-Lou Burbridge. Grayci-Lou excelled herself in the second heat, leading all the way to the finish under great pressure from Josh Hilton and Dylan Moore. With all but three cars starting from the yellow grade, the grid draw was vital and Callum Searle took pole position and led every lap in the final, surviving two restarts for incidents that eliminated nearly half the field. Josh Hilton took second while Albert Webster grabbed third on the last lap, with Gayci-Lou, Alfie Jarchow and Reece Peters crossing the line three abreast, just in front of Jack Simmons. The casualties were Daniel Freeman, Dylan Moore, Ben Spence, Warren Lown, Bradley Peters and Lily-May Burbridge.


A 17 car field of EURO RODS (there were 18 in the pits but Jordan Beach’s new Corsa didn’t appear on track) was reduced to 13 cars by final time but they managed to avoid too many incidents.  The main story was a guest appearance with Junior Saloon Car circuit racing star Steven Chandler, of course last year’s RTS Junior champion, at the wheel of Craig Stansfield’s Corsa. Steven led the first heat but pulled off when the race was restarted, leaving Ryan Mayling in front until Billy Stickley came through for the win. Steven again led the second heat away, but yellow grader Ted Rowley soon hit the front and stayed there to the end. Steven Chandler then led the final all the way, despite an early caution after Ted Rowley hit the armco. By the end the top seven cars were all together with Steven holding on to win from Andy Reynolds, Matt payne, Mark Payne, George Morris, Chris Smith and Dean Webster. Georgina Goodchild and Alan May completed the finishers; Paul warren had a sick engine, Joe Allen spun into the infield tyres and Ian Talbot also retired. Non-starters were Ryan Mayling, Billy Stickley, Paul Burgess and visitor “John from Galway” in Ollie McKeough’s car.


The SUPERSTOX again had a small field of 6 cars, although they included long time Arena Banger racer Sonny Sherwood, having his first run the other way round. Chris Langridge’s immaculate car held off the Enright brothers in the first race, while Steve Rickard led the second heat all the way, chased by Andy Enright and Chris Langridge. Steve again led away in the final, but Chris Langridge made it past at half distance and went on to win from Andy and John Enright, Steve Rickard, Sarah Rash and Sonny Sherwood.


The 10 car STOCK ROD field was led for most of the first heat by newcomer James Killick, in the ex-Matt Coburn Corsa, with John Seex trying for lap after lap to pull ahead on the outside. Eventually Luke Cornish nipped past both of them on the inside and took the win despite John coming back on his outside. James Killick led another five laps in the next race, but this time John Seex got past and pulled away to win as Georgie Biggs took second from Pete Harris. James continued to impress in the final, staying in front for 12 laps this time, but Georgie Biggs found a gap on the inside to take a good win over John seex, with James taking third from Luke Cornish, Ash Braim, Hayley Tait and Mark Shirley. Two more newcomers, Andrew Buckett and former SEGTO Junior Kirstie Hawkins, completed the finishers with Pete Harris retiring.


The last group on track were the THUNDER CARS with six cars joined by a couple of Bangers who were allowed to join in and start from the front, where they were hard to catch. Jordan Webb in a Rover Coupe won both heats and led up to the last corner of the final, by which time the Thunder Car regulars were on his tail. Michael Burke tried going round the outside in his Civic, opening the door for Danny Ellis, who took his Lexus through on the inside. The top four crossed the line side by side with Danny getting the win from Jordan, Michael and Billy Perry’s Civic. Grant Kirburn in a Civic came fifth from David Burke’s Civic and Mikey Day in the BMW Compact.


The slightly “trimmed” programme helped towards an early finish, with the last race leaving the track at 9.15, when it was barely getting dark.