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Arena Essex - 20 March 2004
Pictures and reporting by Smiffyman (Dave Smith). Tel 07885 281327

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Windy start to the RTS season opener

The first Rolling Thunder Show on Saturday got off to a windy start, the weather making things extremely difficult for competitors, officials, and spectators alike. However everyone made the most of the conditions and the meeting went off with a bang. Unfortunately for Justin Pay, whose Euro rod expired in a large cloud of smoke at the end of the practice session, the bang was loud and expensive. As he rolled powerless down the pit gate slope, the track staff were left to pick up a bucketful of broken engine block, crankcase and assorted engine parts.

The ranks were swelled by a number of ‘new’ drivers to the RTS, namely from Fleet raceway in Hampshire and from the now closed Alwalton track near Peterborough. The racing all evening was clean, competitive and it was great to see new drivers coming into the junior rod ranks, and in particular a very healthy turnout of UK Modifieds.

A number of the UK Modified drivers choose to remove their roof wings because the gusting winds were playing havoc with their handling setups. New driver to the RTS, Dave Brooks (#65) took a well deserved win in the heats, with Paul Xerub winning the other and just holding off Pete Webb and once again, Dave Brooks in the final.

Special Mention in the Hot hatches must go to Tommy Jones in the ex Mark Miller Nova who won two heats and the Final, he was followed home on each occasion by Paul Smith and Richard Amos. Rumours were circulating in the pits that Tommy was using a ‘track to pits’ radio and a spotter! That should set the rule book readers twitching!

The Thunder Cars, with their variety of cars with differing engine capacities always throw up a few surprises, and this meeting was no exception. A fleet of Toyota Starlets, Gemma Trotter’s Nissan Micra, Steve Stansfield’s, Fiesta, Carl Wheeler’s Sierra special rod, and Michael Freeman’s clean looking Metro, all added extra spice to this very popular formula. The final was one of the best races I have witnessed for some time. Those seasoned campaigners, Richard Sharp and Dick Burtenshaw from Angmering, had a race long battle through the traffic and with 6 laps to go were neck and neck until the very last bend, Dick taking the flag by just over half a length of a cars bonnet. Both drivers gave a superb display of close, competitive, and clean racing, and I was the first to congratulate them when they exited their cars. Ian Willis (cousin of ex National Hot Rod star Mark Willis) made his debut in a freshly prepared Toyota, and looks like a future star in the making.

A good evening’s entertainment, with this number of quality competitors, it bodes well for the next meeting on Easter Saturday 10th April.

Dave Smith (Smiffyman)
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