Rolling Thunder Show Winter Round 1
14 January 2023


Our 2023 season started in a low key way, at the first of two out of season events for the Rolling Thunder Show at Norfolk’s Swaffham Raceway, which promised very little in terms of entries, but ended up delivering some quite entertaining racing.


To be honest, it was maybe the lowest-key oval meeting we’d ever attended, with the current RTS promotion still in the very early stages of building an identity and support for the Saturday meetings at Swaffham. This weekend was scheduled to see the return of the Oval Racing Expo, but although there was some enthusiasm from potential visitors, particularly the SEGTO racers who had fond memories of the Expo in its Arena-Essex heyday, this wasn’t really followed up on. The substitute Saturday afternoon race meeting would inevitably also struggle. The RTS in its Swaffham era has very much depended on the success of two home-grown formulae, the Front-Wheel-Drive Hot Rods and the Junior 1-Litre Hot Rods. With the key players in both of these excellent classes having opted at the end of last season to “go professional”, there hasn’t yet been much indication of how quickly they’ll rebuild their support on the RTS programme, although it seems the “leavers” have by no means taken everyone with them.


So, by the time racing started, apart from a few stragglers who’d only been there for the morning practice, there was a grand total of 19 cars in the pits, although one of these was to be shared across two classes. With seven formulae listed to race, that obviously didn’t spell big grids. One class, the Lightning Rods, could be immediately crossed off. Single entries for Hot Rods and Superstox meant practice/demo runs for them, although these did provide a highlight as Anthony Amis debuted his replica Royal-Mail liveried Norman Woolsey Peugeot 205 Hot Rod. Built from a shell believed to have links with Norman himself, and powered for simplicity by a 2-litre Duratec, the car’s due to feature in the “Sunday” Swaffham promotion’s new “Retro Hot Rod” class and looked very promising in its shakedown runs, on slicks on a track that was more wet than dry.


The lone SUPERSTOX was Rob Taylor, also shaking down his familiar car after switching to Duratec power. He could have had company, but Steve Rickard, on seeing that other potential entries hadn’t materialised, opted to cut his losses and take the long drive home without unloading.


RTS is continuing to offer the 1-LITRE HOT ROD class for the benefit of those who might decide life with Spedeworth isn’t for them. Two cars turned up and raced very competitively with local driver Emilie Smith holding off Sussex-based Owen Langridge on all three outings.


The NINJA KARTS had the biggest field with seven racing and they also laid on some impressively closely-fought races. Archie Carter led the first heat virtually throughout, with the challenging Stanley Mattioli getting in front for a brief moment before spinning out. Another to spin away his challenge was Charlie Junior, who restarted a lap down and had all but caught the leader at the end. Charlie made a steadier start in the second heat and came through to take the lead in the closing stages, chased by Archie, Stanley and Daniel Holland. The final was led most of the way by Archie Carter again, with a big battle building up behind him. Finally Charlie Junior came through for another win, with Archie holding second from Stanley, Daniel, Maddilyn Davis, Parker Smith and first time racer Marley Smee, who performed very well in the tricky conditions.


The JUNIOR SCREAMERS had a five car grid and the first race saw four of them fighting for the lead until it all went wrong when they caught the fifth car and havoc ensued after the leader accidentally spun the backmarker out. George Davis recovered to take the win from Evie Smith, but if there were any penalties given then Jack Pilgrim might have won, finishing two laps down after spinning out of the lead! Danny Coombes, dropping down from the 1-litre Hot Rods, won the second race after being eliminated from the first with a puncture – maybe that was the secret as the replacement tyre that Emilie Smith’s team loaned him seemed to make all the difference! The final saw the lead passed between Evie Smith and George Davis until George pulled off, and Evie took the win from Jack Pilgrim, Danny Coombes and the Ka of Lillian Goddard.


The adult SCRAPYARD SCREAMERS brought out four cars after they were joined at the last minute by Nick Coombes, sharing Danny’s junior car. Scott Davis’ Focus won the first heat, then Nick Coombes impressively beat all the bigger cars in heat two. Nick didn’t come out for the final, in which Dan Booker’s Astra beat the focuses of Scott Davis and Joe Barber.