Banger racing at Buxton Raceway

I've re-discovered something that I used to love as a kid - banger racing. It's basically a form of motor racing on small oval tracks which uses second-hand cars, and where deliberate contact with other cars is allowed. Think dodgems, but with real cars, and you get something of the picture.

I used to go and watch banger races with my dad and brother at the Coombe Valley Raceway in Dover (where we used to live), from the ages of about 5 to 7. After we moved to London, we occasionally visited raceways in Essex and Cornwall, but it was never quite the same.

I recently discovered Buxton Raceway, and it has completely rekindled my excitement. It is set in a beautiful location, nestled in the hills in the heart of the Peak District. From the track, you get a great view of the valley down into Buxton, and can even see a rocky outcrop in the background beyond the pits.

Stockcars racing around the corner of a track, with a rocky hill as the backdrop

The races are every bit as exciting as I remembered. Each race follows a different 'formula'. Some of them are the 'bangers', where any type of car can be used, so long as it's unmodified except for a few safety features (eg taking the glass out and welding the doors shut) - the engine, tires, gearbox and even the drivers seat are all original. These races are the most chaotic, often with so many cars on the track that ten cars crash out before even the first lap is up.

Other formulas have a few more rules, and a bit uniformity in the car types, either using a certain type of commercially-available car (such as Fords) that are then allowed to be strengthened a bit, or identical custom-built kit cars with simple V8 engines, a steel framework, and a fibreglass body. These formulas sometimes limit the amount of deliberate contact allowed, and have closer, more technical races.

The whole thing feels pretty raw and unadulterated though. The pits are open, and you're free to wander around them, talking to the drivers (who are usually trying to fix-up their cars last-minute, often with a big hammer). There's no stadium seating, just some concrete terraces, and so people often bring their own chairs, and a picnic. You can get pretty close to the action too (though it's loud), with just a steel cable and a safety net to separate you from the cars.

It's a visceral experience, underpinned, I think, by a real sense of danger (given that crashes are inevitable). Truly, awesome fun. I recommend it.

Plus, when I visited last Sunday, they even had racing Minis. You can't beat that. Proper Italian Job stuff.

Two Minis, armoured with a steel frame, prepare to race