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Trackstar Racing | News | Interviews | 2014 interviews | 2L Stock Cars | 391 Jake Banwell

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391 Jake Banwell

The following interview was conducted by Mark Paulson and appeared in the King's Lynn programme on Sat 15 March

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391 Jake Banwell following his victory in the 2L Stock Car Clive Grief Memorial Final

 

A fortnight ago, for the second consecutive year, the prestigious season-opening Clive Grief Memorial Trophy for 2-Litre Saloon Stock Cars was won by an up-and-coming local teenage talent less than two years into his senior career. For 306 Daniel Parker in 2013 read 391 Jake Banwell in 2014. If Banwell can build on that performance and reach even half the level of Parker's achievements over the rest of the season, he can be justifiably proud of a job well done in his first full season.

Banwell had already scored four race wins in his fledgling career last season, including in the white & yellow grade race here on 20 July. But this was his first success in a final, and came after an unpromising start to the day.

“We nearly didn't even make the meeting,” he explained. “We had a few starter issues before we came. Putting it on the trailer, the car wouldn't start. We were just hoping for the best really. I didn't have the best of luck in the first two heats. I got caught up in the whites and yellows [race]. I had a bit of a bad run in heat two and then went out in the final and did what I had to do!

“I had a good race with Andrew Parrin; I thought that was for second and thought Casey Englestone had got away. But then the starter kept [showing] me first. All of a sudden the lap boards came out and next thing I know there's the chequered flag. I saw on the video afterwards that [Englestone] got taken out, which was a bit of a relief.”

The result leaves Banwell fourth in the early-season track championship standings. Clearly there is a long way to go in 2014, especially here at the Norfolk Arena where arguably the competition is more intense and the season as arduous as anywhere in the country. But it is an excellent start that the 17-year-old hopes to make the most of.

“I'd love to stay up there,” he admitted. “Considering last year, I only did half the year because the car wasn't ready for the beginning of the year. It's been a good start – start as we mean to go on! It would mean the world to me to get into the World Final, so we'll just try our best,” he added.

That last statement might, on the face of it, seem a little ambitious given Banwell's current world ranking of 92. Only the top 24 at the July cut-off will automatically qualify for the World Final which this year is staged right here at the Norfolk Arena on 30 August. But Banwell backed up his success here a fortnight ago with another race win at Mildenhall last weekend. If he continues that form he might secure enough ranking points to give him a shot at qualification from the night's last chance qualifier – just as Parker did last year. With it being on his home track, he would surely have as good a chance as anyone at securing one of the last few places on the grid.

Much may depend on whether Banwell is able to spread his wings and travel further afield. Attendance points from the major championships and world ranking events, as well points gained from the standings of other track championships, can prove vital. Budget is, as ever, the limiting factor which has restricted the 391-machine to outings at its two local shaleways thus far.

“The funding doesn't take us as far as to be able to go to tarmac [tracks], to be honest,” Banwell reflected. “We'd like to do a couple of Skegs this year, just to see how we get on. The car's good enough for shale but [I'm not sure if] it's there for tarmac. We'd like to give it a go, so we'll see what 2014 brings for us.”

The apprentice fabricator enjoyed a number of successes in a stop/start career based at Mildenhall in ORC Ministox prior to graduating to 2-Litre Saloons.

Banwell recalled: “I never managed to do a full season in the Ministox. I got banned once and other times the car wasn't ready. But I was always there or thereabouts. I was the first person to win the Suffolk Open off higher than a yellow grade and I was also the first ever person to win the Suffolk Open twice. It was quite an achievement in my eyes. I miss Ministox but because Dad used to race Saloons I've always wanted to race a Saloon. I found the 'minerals' and raced one!”

With Jake's father John (ex-557) an established racer, he and cousin 128 Craig Banwell have spent their whole lives immersed in the sport. Following in Banwell Senior's wheel tracks was always on the cards.

“Me and Craig, because we're sort of the same age, we've always been racing together. And we'd always be in our little John Deere overalls, saying 'That's going to be us one day, we're going to be out there'. To actually be out there [now] is a good feeling.”

John actually came out of retirement to race his son's car at our Christmas meeting. Jake is very appreciative of his support and mechanical know-how, although there is still room for some friendly banter between them.

“He now claims that he's the reason that I won the [Clive Grief Memorial] final,” Jake laughed. “Because he thinks that he set it up for me. But he blew my engine up for me instead! I think he'd like to do some more meetings. I'd love to race alongside Dad because if it weren't for him, I wouldn't be out there, so I'd definitely love to.

“I'd like to say the biggest thank you ever to my dad. He sets the cars up and he does everything for me. He's unreal. Also thank you to my grandad for some of the funding and to the Doubleday Group for their sponsorship over the last two years.”

There is someone else that Jake also cites as a role model. As with Parker (the comparisons keep coming), three-time World Champion 499 David Aldous has proved an inspiration.

“I've obviously been watching Saloons all my life, but there's always been one person that I've looked up to because I think he is the master of Saloon Stock Cars – it's got to be David Aldous. On shale, tarmac, wherever, he's awesome. I can remember my first ever meeting, passing David Aldous, and the feeling was unreal.”

That came at Mildenhall, which is also where Banwell scored his first win in the formula.

“Mildenhall whites and yellows,” he remembered. “It was my first meeting of last year at Mildenhall; I'd done a sort of test meeting there the year before. I managed to lead it from start to finish, and just coming over the line for the first time in the Saloons, knowing that you're the one that's taking the chequered flag was unreal. I suppose I must know the track better than Lynn, but I love both the tracks. It's such a feeling when you win, especially in a Saloon – only a 17-year-old boy out there with all [the experienced drivers].”

Now that boy is proving himself an equal among men and he must reappraise his objectives.

“Targets for this year are just to go up the grades gradually and reach red grade for the end of the season; hopefully get a few more race wins and hopefully to get into the World Final. The one race that I'd like to win this year is the Steve Newman Memorial. I think that would mean just as much as it would to ever win the World Final because Steve was a good friend of ours. I'd love to do it in his honour.”

It won't be long before the major championship meetings start coming thick and fast but before that there are plenty of chances for Banwell to race at his two favourite tracks and keep building the momentum he is developing. It's an opportunity he is relishing.

“I can't wait. You just count the days down from working until the weekend.”

Legendary American actor and racing nut Steve McQueen once said: “Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” Fellow racing nut Jake Banwell has his own version: “It's what living's about, isn't it – racing at the weekend.”

Mark Paulson

 

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