Three weeks on from the season opener, it was time for the second of the nine scheduled Rolling Thunder Show Saturday afternoons at Lydden Hill. Although pretty well everyone had gone home happy from the first event, this time the entry was disappointingly reduced in a number of classes, although the major factor in this simply seemed to be the date; with the Lydden fixtures having been confirmed relatively late, some of those who'd have liked to be here had made other arrangements for the Easter holidays.


There were a couple of exceptions though, most notably the Ninja Sprints; after only attracting five entries for their first couple of Lydden outings, this time there was a full field of 17 karts, from as far afield as Scotland, to prove that the Ninjas have no problem at all with the big fast Lydden oval. The other class showing a positive trend was the Open Saloons, a class that The Rolling Thunder Show has great hopes for, as they look to build up local support. The boost this time came from slightly further away than Lydden's core support, as Silverline Autos sent a transporter from Southampton, loaded with a very welcome six cars from Ringwood Raceway's Thunder Rod class.


Lydden's paddock was a lot quieter than on our last visit. We'd been expecting the oval racing to follow a drifting event, but lack of support had caused Lydden to drop the drifters and lay on a bike track day that, at the short notice, only drew in fifteen or so entries spread between their three groups. The bikes also had the misfortune to be on track during the sleet and hail showers that blew over during the morning, leaving a bright and sunny, but rather cold, afternoon for the oval racers.


With the bikes finishing early, there was time for a quick practice session for the Ninjas and the Ringwood visitors, before racing kicked off with the JUNIOR RODS. Newcomer Alfie Hunt's Micra led away the seven car grid for the first heat, but the race developed into a three way battle with the Micras of Daniel Freeman and Reece Peters holding off last time's winner Lily-May Burbridge's Peugeot. Alfie Jeakins returned with his K12 Micra, despite his move this year to Junior Rallycross, and after problems at the start of heat one, Alfie fended off Daniel and Reece to win heat two. Bradley Peters dropped out after the first heat and Alfie Hunt and Lily-May Burbridge had problems at the start of the final, leaving just four cars, but the top three laid on the closest race imaginable. Daniel Freeman managed to hang onto the inside line all the way with his challengers often alongside but never quite ahead, so Daniel crossed the line a fraction ahead of Alfie Jeakins and Reece Peters. Chasing the battling trio home was Jackson Francis' Corsa.


There were eight EURO RODS present, but only seven drivers as Stephen Austen couldn't make it despite his car being on the top of the transporter carrying son Murray's and Austen Hayes' Corsas. As it was Austen, having his first race out of Juniors, needed a spare car and switched to Stephen's for the second heat. Both heats were won by Cliff Hutchings' Corsa with Sophie Constable second and Cliff went on to lead the final all the way, closely chased by Austen Hayes and Grayci-Lou Burbridge, who'd also stepped up to Euro Rods, having turned sixteen just two days earlier. Murray Austen and Sophie Constable were both brought to a halt by Chris Amos' spinning Tigra, but Murray recovered to catch the leading bunch on the last lap. Cliff held on for his third win of the day, Austen didn't feature in the results due to his car change and Murray just grabbed second from Grayci-Lou, who made a most impressive debut to get in the trophies on her first senior outing. Sophie Constable and Tracey Gilbert completed the top six with Chris Amos in the immaculately prepared Tigra pulling off.


The class billed last time as Group A Hot Rods had this time reverted to ORCi-spec STOCK RODS, but just drew four entries; two Stock Rod Corsas, Dave Lamb's trusty Starlet, which as far as we can tell qualified both as a Group A and a Stock Rod, and Chris Constable's Corsa, which sadly appeared to qualify as neither, the contentious points being its 1400 engine on twin 40s and its Yokohama A048s (at £15 a tyre, making Chris understandably reluctant to switch to Stock Rod rubber!). This meant Chris was moved to the Outlaw Hot Rod grid while the others shared the track with the Euro Rods. Dave Lamb came from the back to win all three races in fine style, while Gary Hicks had a good run to second but Paul Haralambou's car went off song after leading the first race. Hopefully, whatever the future brings for this class, enough stability will be found in the rules to allow entries to build up again.


The mixed HOT ROD field ended up with two Outlaws, four Super Rods and five Lightning Rods in "Group B", joined by Chris Constable's FWD Corsa. Trevor Ward's Outlaw 206 had little problem winning all three races, with his sparring partner from last time, Matt Leadbetter, unable to make the meeting. Kevin Duce's Puma was moved from Group B to the Outlaws, despite its standard Zetec engine, and took second after enjoying a couple of races battling with the best of the V6 Super Rods, John Wicks' Sierra. Dave Leeks won the first heat in the Super Rods and battled for second with Jim Wicks in the second heat, with Dave taking the place after Jim pulled off in the final. Sadly the fourth Super Rod, Gavin Cocks' Sierra, suffered the day's heaviest accident when a couple of the Lightning Rods clashed in the first corner of heat one, firing the unfortunate Gavin at high speed into the tyre wall. In the first race Chris Constable outpaced everyone except the two Outlaws, which led to Chris being placed at the back of the grid for the rest of the day. Jason Anderson was best of the Lightning Rods in the first heat, while Chris and Marcus Reeve headed the Sierras in their second race, but couldn't keep the Constable Corsa behind them. In the final, though, Marcus Reeve stayed in front of Chris Constable to win the "Group B" trophy, with Chris Reeve in third despite blowing his engine in a big way through the last corner. Jason Anderson and Paul Apps completed the finishers while Brian Smith found Chris Reeve's oil slick and shot off into the infield tyre wall.


Local man Trevor Drayner had impressed in the OPEN SALOONS at the first meeting, and this time there was no catching Trevor's BMW in the two heats. Trevor was then placed right at the back for the final, but quickly came through to join a five car battle for the lead, as Nathan Moat's BMW Mini held off the BMW 3-Series of Ringwood visitors Mike Chapman and Neil Waite, plus Darryl Mundy's BMW. Steve Cross' Civic joined in the fun as well, with Mike Burke's Civic also getting involved, while the Mini dropped back leaving Neil Waite in front. It ended in a chaotic last corner as Neil Waite and Mike Chapman scored a 1-2 for Ringwood while Steve Cross got out of shape, sending Trev Drayner spinning down the escape road. Mike Burke came through to third, Steve Cross gathered it together for fourth, and Darrell Mundy took fifth. Nathan Moat was sixth ahead of the Ringwood BMWs of Neil Tiffin, Marian Stroe and Scott Roper, with Elliott Parr mixing it in with the BMWs in a tail happy RWD Subaru Estate with, he reckoned about 330 bhp! Dan Rawcliffe's Fiesta, the only non-BMW on the Silverlake transporter, came next with Trev Drayner rejoining at the back. David Burke's Civic pulled off on the first lap and Andy Burbridge retired his Sierra after problems in the second heat.


The NINJA SPRINTS proved once and for all that the initial concerns that the track might be too big for them were misplaced. The close packs of karts provided a very impressive spectacle, although all three races ended up with the same winner - a brilliant showing by Bailey Millar, who made the trip from Scotland worthwhile by adding the "King of the Hill" trophy to all his other recent successes. Swaffham based Callum Gould was among Bailey's closest rivals as the star grade drivers came through from the back, but he was out of luck in the first heat and again in the final, Toby Parfitt was runner up ahead of Ellis Snow, who'd impressively led more and more laps in each race. Kyle Wells was well in contention in fourth place, while most of the field took the chequered flag in one big pack, in the approximate order Daniel Nicholson-Howden, Josh Parfitt, Thomas Percox, Poppy Hendy, Murray Hall, Rylee Harvey, Jayden Steward, Jack Pilgrim, Lewis Riley. Lewis Pyne and Addison Sibley completed the finishers with Junior Cruickshanks and Callum Gould retiring.


So, two meetings into the nine-round season at Lydden, the quality of the racing and the atmosphere in the pits and trackside is promising a great future for the Rolling Thunder Show's new venture, especially with guest formulae like the European Late Model Series and MASCAR set to join in during the summer. It's very frustrating that clashing Autograss commitments are likely to keep us from the next few Lydden events but we hope to keep up with all the news and we'll be back as soon as we can manage it.