Rolling Thunder Show 2019 Finals
2 November 2019


Lydden Hill’s “Motormania” event should have been the highlight of the Rolling Thunder Show’s first full season in Kent. For last year’s memorable meeting the sun shone on a full day of circuit racing, oval racing and drifting demos, before the circuit filled up with local families for the evening firework display. Second time round the circuit action was slightly lower key, with the morning devoted to a Borough 19 Motor Club organised Sprint. The plan was for the afternoon’s three rounds of Rolling Thunder Show oval action to alternate with drifting, before a Rallycross demo led into the fireworks. Early on Saturday morning the scene was set with car show exhibits lining the entrance road and a fairground ready to greet the crowds later in the day. But against that, the weather forecasters were promising a day of high winds and torrential rain. And on this occasion the weather men won!


The morning’s Sprint competitors got the best of the day with the 43 entries, ranging from road saloons to single seaters, being rewarded for their crack-of-dawn start by at least getting a practice run and their first timed run in the dry, before the rain set in for their second and third runs, interrupted by a break to pump standing water out of the dip before Chessons. Maybe reflecting the conditions, fastest time of the day went, by some margin, to Fred Ling’s Rallycross Fiesta, before exiting into the bank on its third run.

Borough 19 Sprint results


The Drifters then took to the track and put up a fair display in the worsening conditions, but by this time, as the rain swept across the track, the fireworks had inevitably been cancelled, the show cars had all disappeared and the fair was being hurriedly packed away. For Vince O’Connor’s team, the circuit marshals and the small but select band of oval racers, though, the show went on!


First up were the EUROPEAN LATE MODEL SERIES, whose occasional visits to Lydden we always look forward to. This time, though, of the six cars that arrived, two stayed in the paddock, including leading Dutch racer Wim Moonen. During the first heat the other continental visitor, Peter Reck, pulled out, as did Lee Maddox and Lydden’s most prolific race winner Rod Birley, making a guest appearance in Paul Sweeney’s car, leaving Marcus Bicknell’s Pennzoil-liveried Fusion as the only runner. Second time out Marcus disappeared after the warm-up laps and Peter Reck soon pulled off, leaving Rod as the only one running when the red flags came out. You have to remember, these are cars that in their native environment wouldn’t race in a drop of rain, and they were now trying to plough through nine inches of standing water on parts of the circuit! For the final, Rod Birley was the only taker. Joining the Late Models on track were two open wheelers, Steve Rickard’s familiar Zetec-powered Superstox being chased by Sammy Mileham in the first example of the promised “economy” Sprint Car formula; Sammy was in Grandad Vince O’Connor’s Sprint Car, minus wing and now Zetec powered. Embarrassingly, but not surprisingly, these two soon found themselves a lap ahead of any surviving Late Models. Hopefully the European series will be back, in more suitable conditions, next year.


Coping much better with the conditions were the NINJA SPRINTS although after some big fields for their championship events in the summer, there were just five karts in attendance this time. Murray Hall won the first heat and the final, chased home by Clark Ferris, Callum Gould and Rylee Harvey, while Callum Gould took the lead in the second heat, which was flagged early after Poppy Hendy’s kart was stranded just off the track.


Support for the JUNIOR HOT RODS sadly collapsed during the year, with just four drivers still supporting the class, of whom at least two are due to move up to senior classes next year. Even so, we’re not thrilled about the proposal to replace them with effectively non-contact Junior Bangers (akin to Angmering’s “Junior Prod” class) as our feeling is that any potential Lydden racers would still want to maintain the more up-market appearance of the Junior Rods. Still the four cars put up a good show with Reece Peters taking a heat and final win, chased by brother Bradley, who won the second heat. They had to find a way past Patsy Keenan in each race, with the Croydon girl creating a great spectacle as she aimed her pink Micra for the deepest part of the water each time round the oval link bend. Once the Peters boys hit the front, Patsy had some close battles with the Peugeot of Lily May Burbridge, who has her eye on racing something a little bit bigger next year!


The EURO RODS had a seven car entry, slightly disappointing after 25 cars had appeared at Lydden during the year, but the field was swelled by the addition of three SEGTO Prod As.  Stephen Austen lost no time in getting to the front to win the first heat and final, and also led the second heat when that was red flagged and abandoned due to track conditions finally becoming impossible, with drowned cars parked around the track.  That led to an hour’s delay while tanker loads of water were transferred from the tarmac to the infield. Then the rest of the programme had to be rushed through, before too much of the water found its way back to the track, and before the light went altogether. When the Euros reappeared it was for their final, and the Austen team grabbed the top three places, Stephen chased by Murray Austen and Austen Hayes, with Warren Constable fourth ahead of Grayci-Lou Burbridge. Andrew Armstrong and Aaron Keynes missed the final, but the SEGTO trio survived the day with Peter Tilley leading Thomas and Laura Connors.


The remaining classes ended up with two races each as, after the track pumping break, it was necessary to jump straight to the finals. The HOT ROD field just totalled five cars, although they were also joined by three SEGTO entries. Unfortunately the non-arrivals included Stuart McLaird’s Ginetta; maybe booked in by mistake as he was actually racing in the Slick Car finals at Birmingham. That left Matt Leadbetter’s 206CC as the only Outlaw entry and he won the first heat, chased by Kev Duce’s 2-litre Puma. Chris Reeve’s Lightning Rod Sierra came third, just holding off Paul Apps, who graduated from his Sierra to a Zetec-powered Corsa, and led overall before a quick spin. Jason Anderson’s Sierra was next up ahead of the FWD cars of the three SEGTO boys, Nathan Loader’s 1450 AX heading Paul Lofting’s Super Saloon Corsa and Ben Stockley’s spluttering 1450 Micra.  Paul Apps again impressed as he led the way in the final, but he had no answer to Kev Duce, who pulled away to a dominant win, also wrapping up the Lydden points championship, followed by Paul Apps, Chris Reeve, Jason Anderson, Ben Stockley, whose car was running much better this time, and Paul Lofting.


The programme was completed by the OPEN SALOONS, with six regular contenders joined by three local “Bangerstox” cars, invited to join in with the hope that they’d be candidates for the proposed “Oval Rallycross”, which as yet hasn’t taken off. One Fiesta didn’t make it to the track, but Ashley Byron had a good first run in her Fiesta before hitting problems at the end of the heat, while Dan Astbury proved competitive in a well used Celica he’d bought the previous day – we hope nobody else noticed the sneaky lap of the Rallycross track that he took during the final. Andy Burbridge’s V6 Lexus, with a new engine after a meltdown in the last meeting, led both races in fine style, but eventually succumbed to the quick Civics of David and Mike Burke, with the field completed by two more of the green Civics, driven by Joshua and Patrick Burke. Trev Drayner was having his second outing in the Mazda RX8 that’s replaced his BMW, another one who’d needed a new engine since the last meeting. However, Trev’s run was short lived as he slid into the infield banking while battling with the leading Civics.


Once racing was over, the Drifters took to the track again, but the wind and rain had driven away the last of the spectators by now, so the second Motormania ended up a bit of a damp squib Well done to the Rolling Thunder team and all the drivers for keeping the show going to complete the Lydden season, and let’s hope that 2020 will build on the experience of the first full RTS season at Lydden, and draw more drivers to enjoy the novelty of going oval racing with the benefit of circuit racing amenities.