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Trackstar Racing | News | Interviews | 2014 interviews | 2L Stock Cars | 26 Tommy Barnes

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26 Tommy Barnes

The interview below was conducted by Mark Paulson and published in the King's Lynn programme on 2 March 2014 (Clive Grief Memorial Meeting)

26 kw

26 Tommy Barnes

 

2014 is a big year for 2-Litre Saloon Stock Cars at King’s Lynn: World Championship year. All our regular drivers are looking to make the most of the opportunity that brings. Considering how strong the local scene is, there’s going to be a lot of competition. Just making the grid will be some achievement. Among the hopefuls for success is Dereham’s 26 Tommy Barnes.

“If I get the World, then happy days,” was his pre-season assessment. There is no doubt the gold roof itself is his target: “Hopefully win the World. Everybody’s after that, aren’t they. We’ll just see how we get on.”

Currently outside the all-important top 24 in the World Rankings, Barnes knows the importance of racking up the results between now and the end of July. But even if it’s only enough to make it to the last-chance qualifier (and then hopefully a place on the back of the World Final grid) he won’t give up on the hunt for gold.

“Doesn’t matter where you start, it matters where you finish,” he stated. “I’ll do the meetings and then get into the qualifying [positions]. I’m not that far behind now, I don’t think.”

Starting in the Saloons as a 16-year-old back in 2002, Barnes, now 28, has been a regular race winner throughout his career. But the major honours have generally eluded him. A couple of White & Yellow grade titles, both here and down the road at Mildenhall, preceded success in last year’s Bumper Trophy. But bad luck and circumstances meant a top-three position in one of the ‘roof grade’ championships has never come his way. One of his better opportunities came on a tragic night in the British Championship at Mildenhall two years ago. After a second and a seventh in his heats, Barnes was well in the hunt in the big race itself before events took a catastrophic turn.

“Steve Newman passed away,” Barnes recalled, sadly. “I was leading that right up to a few laps from the end.” The race was obviously abandoned and the title dedicated to the memory of Newman. “Hopefully he’s looking down on me this year and I’ll get [the World].”

Tommy, a mechanic by trade, is the son of 126 Willie Barnes, the first man to win the silver roof when a single national points chart was introduced. He is also the grandson of 6 Horry Barnes, who carried on racing beyond the time he was eligible for a bus pass. With that kind of heritage, there was never any doubt he would be following in the family wheel tracks, starting in the Ministox as soon as he was old enough.

Said Barnes: “Minis were the thing then, weren’t they. Everybody used to go Mini racing. And then obviously I just carried [on with] Father and Grandad, in the 2-Litres. That was all good. Then obviously Grandad was getting on, Father’s getting on now, and they looked at us and I suppose let us carry on [instead]. We keeping asking Father to go out in the 2-Litres, you know. He keeps saying ‘Yeah, yeah’, but time and stuff, work and all that [has prevented him].”

So you heard it here – don’t rule out a comeback for the legendary Willie Barnes. After all, his contemporary (and in-law) 116 Diggy Smith made a very successful return to the formula last year, claiming the National Championship.

“I think there’s a few drivers who’d want to take [Willie] round!” Tommy laughed. “Diggy’s come back. He reckons it’s better than anywhere else. You know, it’s better than Spedeworth and all that. He’s always liked the 2-Litre Stock Cars. [Now] I can have a little ‘chew’ on his back [bumper], can’t I! [Billy Smith] has got another car now, so he’ll be out [too]. There’s a lot of people going into 2-Litre Stock Cars.”

The formula certainly has attracted a lot of new drivers – and returning stars, like Diggy – in recent times, particularly on the shale tracks. Barnes thinks that has made it even more attractive and also suggests that similar could be achieved on the sealed surface tracks.

“The more cars there is, the [better] racing you get. Obviously you get a lot more damage but I think that’s better than racing against 20 cars,” he reflected, continuing: “It’s a formula that everyone can do. If they sort the tyre rule out so it was just one tyre, I reckon there’d be a lot more people who’d do the tarmac. If everybody keeps to that rule, that’d be a good formula and there’d be more people coming out as well.”

The “us” referred to earlier was Tommy and his younger brother 131 Timmy, his ‘partner in crime’ in trying to tempt their father back to the raceways. Incredibly, even without Willie, we may soon be seeing four Barnes machines on track – piloted by four brothers. 16-year-old Charlie made his debut at our Christmas meeting and his twin brother Harry also has plans to take to the shale amongst the Heavy Metal Brigade that is 2-Litre Saloon Stock Car racing. The family have been working hard on a fleet of new cars over the winter although it’s the two elder brothers’ that have taken priority.

“Flat out, all the time,” Tommy admitted. “There’s four of us now, or will be. [Charlie and Harry] are going to come [racing] now so we’ve been doing their cars as well. We’ve been doing our own cars first, so we’re ready for this season, and then go from there.

“We’ll do the travelling this year as well, I hope, and do every King’s Lynn meeting and all the shale meetings this year as well. I’ll be using my new car, and then I’m going to build one for the tarmac as well because I’ve sold my old car.”

It’s probably fair to say that Barnes is regarded as mainly a shale track man, even though he has proved himself more than capable on tarmac. The region’s loose-surfaced tracks are certainly among his favourites, although it is also clear that really he just enjoys his racing – it doesn’t matter where or on what surface, so long as there plenty of cars to tussle with.

“Sheffield’s probably one of my favourite tracks,” he stated. “We went there the year before last; that’s a good track. I used to race round there with the Minis. King’s Lynn’s a good track. With enough cars, I like Lynn. Mildenhall’s a good track as well. They’re all good tracks. I’ve never had a bad track.”

Tonight sees the sixth staging of the Clive Grief Memorial. Barnes hopes it will provide a good start to the season and also spoke of his memories of Clive.

“Yeah, I hope so. I’ll be up there, I hope. So long as I don’t get taken out! I used to race with him actually, when I first started. He used to do all the shale meetings. Good old lad. He might have had his ups and downs but that’s racing – everybody has their ups and downs. He was a good laugh, he’d always talk to you.  When you’re seat-belted up, no one’s your mate, but when you’re off the track it’s a completely different ball game.”

Beyond tonight and this year’s World Final, what does the future hold for Tommy Barnes?

“I’ll keep going as long as long as my grandad, I hope!” he laughed. So there’s plenty of time to scoop the major honours even if the big one does elude him again this year.

 

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