Grass Roots Motorsport
Photographs by Paul O’Connor.
The Mental Breakdown
How do you squeeze as much fun out of a quarter of a mile of motoring? It’s obvious to someone like 42 year old Wayne Allman. Stick a custom made, Supercharged hemi in a fully certified frame he made himself. Rack up the cavali count to 1700 and slip a beautifully finished, metal flaked split screen pickup body over the top of the whole mentalist creation. Grass roots motorsport in creative extremis. “It is a bit daft. But the whole point is to get a six second quarter. This is the one that’s going to do it.” Wayne spent his youth within earshot of Long Marston drag strip (now renamed ‘Shakespeare County Raceway‘) “It wasn’t long before we gathered the courage to cyle over to the strip and see it all for ourselves”, he tells me. And there began a lifelong obsession.
The West Anglian Regiment
Chris Middleton presides over a coterie of around fifty teenagers eager to become racing mechanics. “It’s a fun course, to teach as well as to take part in. I mean look, we get to play with toys all day long!” Matt Carron, 17 (back) and Joe Soames-Waring are just a couple of the hugely enthused trainees whose motoring ambitions reach out beyond MOTs and regular services. “It’s be brilliant if the F1 world championships came back to England again, says Matt. “The success of British teams is definitely an inspiration. But it’s very competitive out there, says Chris, whose Automotive engineering degree has led to a wide and varied career working with the likes of Mclaren, both in Europe and in Australasia. The course aims to give three levels of school leavers experience in working on true, live racing cars. The students prepare, support and rebuild Formula Ford and Formula Renault cars. “That’s where we are different, “Chris continues, ” Students here get to get out there and gain experience before they even attempt to get into the labour market.”
The Jedi Warrior
Rob Sayell is a true racer. His chops were honed on the oval tracks in the Grand Prix Midget class. In his first season he finished third, and eventually won the championship six times. Graduating to the Jedi formula was all a question of ambition crossed with application. Money from his day job as a heating and plumbing engineer meant that he could make the investment of about £15k to buy the Jedi frame and engine and parts and pieced the car together with the help of his father, a professional HGV mechanic. The Jedi formula cars pack true punch: powered by the Yamaha R1 engine, it can accelerate to 100 in five seconds from the grid, and at tracks like Snetterton tops out at speeds approaching 150 MPH. “I was really pleased to have won the Club Class championships in my first year out. Unfortunately, to graduate to Championship Jedi racing is a big budget leap.”
Yes, that’s Jacques. He was born in the year that French Canadian wunderkind Jacques Villeneuve stormed the world F1 championships. And yes, you guessed it: racing is in his blood. The 12 year old racer is about to step up into the senior class of Bernie Ecclestone’s Master Kart racing series. Where up until now he has shown flair and aptitude in karts that can make fifty miles per hour plus on the back straight, the next step up will see closer to 85MPH. “I’m still getting used to seeing him race in the smaller karts”, His mother Claudia tells me whilst clutching the family dog Toffee in the kitchen extension that serves as the team Morley Karting workshop, “This is going to be truly frightening!”
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