It’s the morning of the Hot Rods and Rookie Bangers World Final and lined up on the starting grid at the Southern Autosport Association race track in Horndean are rows of banger racers ready to do battle.
The brightly-coloured cars are covered with dents and scrapes.
Some vehicles barely look like they’ll start, but as the lights turn green the cars scream into life, careering round the chalk oval track at dizzying speed.
Within minutes drivers are smashing into each other, sending cars spinning across the track, slamming into walls and each other. Debris litters the ground and clouds of chalk dust fill the air as the cars jostle for position, cheered on by a crowd of screaming fans.
Simon Stevenson is the executive chairman of the SAA and acknowledges that bangers are a big draw for race fans.
‘Banger racing means crashing and people love seeing cars crash,’ says Simon. ‘Drivers will wear shin and knee pads and sometimes upper body protection and neck braces because there’s no padding in the cars – you’re pretty much bouncing off the inside of a metal box.’
As well as banger racing the SAA Raceway plays host to a range of different racing classes.
‘There are 11 different classes here,’ says Simon. ‘They get progressively harder and there are contact and non-contact races. We have classes for kids from 10-years-old and our oldest driver is 75, but he can still beat me hands down!
‘I started racing in 2000 as a full-contact national banger driver, then I raced production stox which is semi-contact and now I drive prod-b which is officially non-contact, but you still get a bit of damage.
‘My current car is now into its second season which is good going. In national banger racing you would be rebuilding your car once every couple of weeks.’
The oval raceway cut from chalky Hampshire farmland also creates its own unique challenges on raceday.
Simon explains: ‘We dug the track out about 16 years ago. It’s all chalk with clay underneath. It’s good to race on but when it’s wet it’s like an ice rink.
‘If you race on concrete and tarmac it’s the same each race, but here the track changes between races so that each race is different.’
The SAA was formed in 1971 to promote accessible off-road motor racing and continues to promote an open attitude to new racers.
‘There’s a big interest in banger racing, I get about two or three calls a week from people wanting to get involved,’ says Simon.
‘This is meant to be low-cost racing. You can turn up with a car and you can race as long as it complies.’
Vehicles at the SAA raceway have to have safety modifications made before they can hit the track.
‘Every car is scrutineered before they go out. You can’t turn up with a shell of a car and think you are going to race. If you don’t pass scrutineering you don’t race.’
‘All cars have to have a roll cage or an H-frame fitted. The lights, wiring and trim are ripped out. The reserve fuel tank is removed and you can only have a two-litre tank which is enclosed in a metal box so that any fuel leaks are contained.
‘All the glass is removed and you must have a cut-off key which means the engine can be stopped from outside the car.’
The raceway is a non-profit organisation which relies heavily on volunteers.
Even the drivers rarely compete for money and most prizes are donated by local businesses and individuals who are passionate about motorsport.
Simon says: ‘Everyone here is a volunteer and any money we have left over at the end after overheads we give to charity – we’ve done that for 42 years. Last meeting we had Action for Children and the Brain Tumour Trust here collecting for charity. Racing is something that people enjoy and it’s also something that gives back.’
Over the years the SAA has given away thousands of pounds to charities including QA Hospital, DIAL, St Mary’s Hospital Special Baby Care Unit and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Alongside the SAA’s charity-centred approach, Simon also believes the raceway is paving the way for future motorsport stars.
‘The atmosphere here is my favourite thing. It’s a family day out and by the time kids are 10 it’s a safe environment for them to learn to drive.
‘We offer a foundational level of racing. The skills you learn here can eventually lead to professional driving and if you nurture drivers from a young age they can become future Lewis Hamiltons. ‘
Steve Kite,41, from Horndean has come to the track with his wife Mandy,51, and his grandchildren Mia,6, and Tyler,3. The adventurous grandfather is racing in the prod-b category, which is a non-contact 1300cc class.
Steve says: ‘I’ve been racing since I was 10-years-old.
My dad used to race and he got me started – you grow up around racing and in the end it becomes like a big family.
‘My wife loves coming to the races but it’s the first time with the grandkids.’
Steve’s granddaughter, Mia, loves the racing and wants to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps.
‘Racing is cool and very loud and it’s really dusty too,’ says Mia. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing grandad race, I think he might win. I would like to come back and see racing again. I want to be the fastest girl racer.’
Stephanie Carpenter, 35, is a racer from Waterlooville who had a very successful 2013.
She says: ‘This will be my fourth season racing. My partner is a race engine builder and he’s been racing here for years. I came to watch him drive and decided I wanted to do it.
‘I drive in the mod-c class which is non-contact racing in 1400cc cars.
‘To be a good driver you have to be confident and you need a good mentor – being able to read the track and knowing where to put the car is important.
‘Last year I was Ladies’ Champion and I want to keep winning. I would definitely encourage other women to get involved in racing.’
WHERE: SAA Raceway, Hazelton Farm, Havant Road, Horndean, Waterlooville, PO8 0DR
WHEN: Meetings throughout the year, see calendar on website. Next meeting tomorrow with racing starting at 11am.
ADMISSION: £25 for a family ticket, £5 concessions, £10 for adults