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Trackstar Racing | News | Interviews | 2015 interviews | Bangers | 247 Jon Bailey

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247 Jon Bailey

This interview with Banger driver 247 Jon Bailey was conducted by Mark Paulson and appeared in the 1 February (2015 1500cc Banger Icebreaker) meeting programme

247 mh

 

Last weekend’s awards night saw several happy drivers walk off with the gongs, not least Newcomer of the Year, 247 Jon Bailey. The 17-year-old Stamford racer appeared genuinely surprised to have beaten off strong competition to claim the honour, but relished the moment.

“Loved it,” he confirmed. “It was brilliant. I got quite lucky really – wasn’t expecting it. I thought Jorji Stark or Callum Gill would win it, to be honest. I’ve only done seven meetings last year including the little Icebreaker and I haven’t done Unlimiteds so I felt quite privileged to win it.”

The apprentice plumber has obviously been making the right impression in those outings – he has certainly been willing to get stuck in and has also proved himself capable of winning races on more than one occasion. It is those facets as an all-rounder that make him ideally suited to represent the team he lines up for this afternoon, the Mad Hatters ‘B’ string. He has in fact always raced in the red and yellow of the Lincolnshire squad, in the history of which his father Paul, race number 147, played a unique role.

Said Bailey: “I’ve never not been in the Mad Hatters, I’ve always raced with them. My dad used to race with them when he was really young, with me out of the question. Carl [Gibson] kind of took him on and provided him a yard to build his cars and actually gave him cars to race. And then with his sons coming through from Junior Rods into the Bangers, they just kind of formed a team. Dad was the original Mad Hatter, from what I know, he made [the name] up and then we followed suit.

“I started off at Swaffham in Junior Bangers. I’ve never liked Swaffham but I copped a six-month ban for following someone in, in my first year, and then started off at Lynn the next year in Juniors. That was the beginning of 2013. First meeting didn’t go very well – blew up a Micra,” he laughed.

By the end of that same season, he had made his debut in National Bangers, at the Micro UK Championship meeting, shortly after his 16th birthday.

“That was quite fun,” Bailey recalled. “It was only two days after my birthday as well. And the boys just chucked me out in a Micra that I’d used in Juniors and won in, and I got put in, first corner. So I was like ‘Oh dear!’ I managed to get out for the DD and make myself look like a right wally.”

A rough start didn’t put him off though – and nor did perhaps the most infamous incident of his fledgling career, an almighty wreck at last summer’s Aaron King Memorial at Great Yarmouth.

“No, I’m just keen,” he laughed. “I haven’t even been scared from Yarmouth. Aaron was my best mate – he used to take me and my ex-girlfriend everywhere. When [the memorial meeting] came round, I was the first one to jump in with Gouldy [516 Carl Gould, for whom King was a mechanic] and just say ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ That’s the only reason I took [the car] out for the DD.”

Not only did he escape unscathed from his well-wrecked Nissan Micra, Bailey rates it as the highlight of his racing to date.

“It probably was Yarmouth,” he confirmed, “representing Aaron and coming out with the biggest wreck I possibly could have done. It was tight! As soon as it happened, I was already waving my hands wanting to get out, but Dad came to the window; ‘Are you alright?’ I was like ‘Dad, I’ve been caged!’ He said ‘Oh, it’s fine.’ I’ve already asked the boys if I can have a square one for this year but they weren’t happy about that!

“It’s fun – I love it to bits. It’s just the building the cars [that is less enjoyable]. I haven’t done a National Banger meeting where I’ve saved the car yet. It’s typical me. I go down the yard, see the boys – ‘How many times have you used that?’ They’ll go ‘Oh it’s its third meeting now’ and I’m going, ‘Cor, I wish I could do that! Dad, go down the yard, build me another car, please – thank you!’”

Bailey continued: “I’d like to thank my mum and dad for support – they’re always down the yard, helping me out, doing as much as possible; the boys; Carl for all the cars; and then the missus for being able to let me race every week, whenever I want.

 “Carl, the boss, he’s brilliant. I mean, the boys are brilliant to race with and you know they’ve got your back if anything goes wrong. We keep getting mentions everywhere which is what we like to see. We got third in the Ovalchat awards which was quite nice. Obviously Starkys have been great last year as well so it was between us two for the [Trackstar] team award.”

Looking ahead, Bailey is hoping to compete more regularly and eventually race some bigger cars if possible. He also hopes to spread his wings a little this year, beginning with the Mildenhall 1400cc team meeting that traditionally starts the Easter weekend – providing he gets the nod from his team-mates; it seems the pool of up-and-coming talent within the Mad Hatters’ ranks knows no bounds and is leading to something of a ‘selection’ headache!

 “The plan is in the future to move up,” he outlined. “I don’t really fancy Mondeos. They’re hard [and] they look fun, but it’s just having the stuff to do it and I don’t really have the money. I mean Carl, you might as well call him my sponsor really, he’s the boss of the yard and he gives me free cars. So I can walk in the yard and if he says ‘There you go, Jon, there’s your Civic,’ it’s like ‘Well cheers, thank you.’ You can’t complain. I’m lucky to have him – I mean, some of the lads would dream of having that.

“I think the plan this year is just do more meetings. I mean I only did the odd few last year because I had exams and then obviously losing Aaron and then lost a few family members during the year. But we’re going to try and do a few non-Mondeo meetings this year as well. And a little bit more travelling – I want to have a go at Mildenhall. If I get picked for the Good Friday team then that’ll be great. Definitely doing Yarmouth this year because I’m trying to step up and do a little bit more this year for them. And then might try another track out if the boys fancy it and if I can jump on the lorry with them.”

The more immediate intention is just to continue enjoying his racing, starting this afternoon. Speaking last weekend, Bailey outlined his hopes for the day and gave his thoughts on which of the other 40-odd teams would be ones to watch.

“Just hit anything that’s in the way! That’s the plan,” he laughed. “It’s obviously the second Icebreaker I’ve done. I’ve got a five-door Civic. The car’s all ready for it – just got to get it running, that’s the problem. That’s what the week’s for.

“I don’t know what the boys’ plans are, to be fair. It’ll all turn out [according to] what’s said on the day. The boys will come to each other and go ‘I can’t be bothered, let’s go and blitz everything,’ if that’s the attitude on the day. I just do what I’m told!

“Grey and Black’s obviously a good, well-known team. Then the Starkys – they’ll be on it, especially [after] awards night. Other than that, the Goblins are entertaining. I think whatever team [Darren] Fendley’s in, I reckon they can do alright – obviously winning two weeks ago, they can win this week as well. I think it’s Mr Men C he jumped in with, I think they stand a chance.”

It’s a fair bet that each of those teams will be in the thick of it this afternoon, along with Bailey and the rest of the three Mad Hatters outfits – and another 150-odd cars... it’s going to be a crashfest, just how he likes it.

 

 

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