Legislation that passed through the House of Commons introduced long-overdue regulations for the car scrapping industry. The Scrap Metal Dealer’s Bill will require dealers to have a license and proof of ownership for cars being scrapped (to provide verifiable records of transactions) and they will face unlimited fines for carrying out cash or unrecorded transactions.
This is to be welcomed as it should massively restrict the possibility of any stolen car, classics included, being driven almost directly to a scrapyard and being weighed in, no questions asked. However, it does nothing to prevent stolen cars entering the banger racing scene. It should be said that the number of cars deliberately stolen for use in banger racing must represent a very small proportion of the total but the lack of regulations and restrictions from those that organise banger racing events means that there is almost no way of stopping a stolen car being purchased for racing in good faith. With the central body for banger racing and its related sports, the Oval Racing Council International (ORCi) registering 27 racing venues in the UK holding over 700 race events (although not all are strictly ‘banger’ racing) each year between them, banger racing is a large-scale undertaking with a wide following.
Just as with the scrap business until recently, there seem to be no checks on ownership for cars entered to banger races. A simple requirement to present the V5C for cars in the race would immediately put a block on cars that have, unknowingly or not, been stolen. Banger racing is already closely regulated in some ways. The various classes and types of race each bring with them their own specific rules regarding the technical and structural aspects of the car, the fitting of safety equipment and so on.
The rulebook for events held by the North Cornwall Motor Racing Club details the exact thickness of metal and the dimensions of the box section required for making the car’s safety frame, the specifications for the fuel tank, the type of evaporative ‘sweat tank’ that must replace the radiator and the requirements for mud flaps, but there is no stated rule for making sure the driver of a racer actually owns the car that will very likely be destroyed in the event. Rusper Raceway, a motorsports venue in West Sussex that has held many banger events, requires drivers to hold a competition license, even if it is just a ‘day license’ purchased on race-day, but has no requirement for ownership or vehicle history checks.
Interestingly several banger racing venues offer an ‘on site scrapping’ service. If a car is rendered unusable at the end of the race meeting it can be left at the site and the venue’s owners will dispose of it for the owner. In light of the new regulations for scrapping, if this option is to remain available some sort of paperwork trail will have to be in place to satisfy the authorities.
At first glance it would seem that the overlap between the classic car and banger racing hobbies should be decreasing as traditional staples of the classic car scene are long past being available as ‘bangers’ – the days when rusty BMC Farina saloons or Ford Z-Cars were sold £100 a pop in a local free-ads paper, and which then could either be restored or raced, are over. However, the banger racing scene has its own internal classic ‘scene’, with certain car types still having an appeal to the racers precisely because they were the basis of the sport’s early days. This is why events featuring grids of Rover P4s and P5s (such as that organised by Spedeworth Motorsports last year) and Startrax’s ‘All Granada’ meeting at Stoke this June still take place, despite the cars gaining definite classic status. These events are often listed as ‘Heritage’ and ‘Late Heritage’ races because their appeal is in reflecting the sport’s origins through the use of old cars, rather than using classics because they are cheaply available.
Many banger racers still shun more modern cars, which with their plastic bumpers, crumple zones, electronic system and air bags aren’t seen as suitably durable. Simpler, tougher, easier-to-modify cars from the ‘Eighties and even the ‘Seventies are still in favour for these reasons – modern bangers are, ironically, not very suitable for banger racing. This is why rule books still list cars such as Ford Cortinas and Triumph 2000s as illustrative examples of their racing class, instead of a Mondeo and a BMW 3 Series.
It is unlikely that banger racers and classic car enthusiasts as a whole will ever see ‘eye to eye’ on their respective hobbies since in many ways they are diametrically opposed – one emphasises destruction, the other restoration. The argument as to whether or not the cars used in banger racing could be saved or serve as a source of spares will run and run, but it would seem logical to ensure that the cars that are used in the sport are at least owned by the people racing them.