Stuart ‘Dino!’ Cumming: ‘I have said that I’ve retired twice before, but that didn’t work out.’

Stuart ‘Dino!’ Cumming has endured a great career in the National Bangers. He has raced consistently for the last 36 years, guesting for some of the greatest teams in the history of the sport and racing his way to some success as well.

From his first meeting in the Juniors, Cumming went on to race for the Cream Team, Suicide Squad and Stinkbridge before re-joining the Cream Team for half a season a few years later. He has also guested for a few other teams including the Condoms.

Nowadays though, we are used to seeing him race with his son Jordan – who has since become a star on his own after winning the 2LTR National Banger World of Shale Championship at Kings Lynn last year.

Cumming has been in and around the sport his whole life, but it was some stripped out cars he saw at the bottom of his flat that really got him interested.

“My Mum and I moved from Herne Bay in Kent to St Mary’s Cray, in Orpington where we lived in a block of flats,” he told. “At the base of the flats were some stripped out cars with scaffold poles and motorcycle fuel tanks in, they were painted in Black and White and had the words ‘Alley Cats’ on the side. I would look at them loads and remember people revving the engines and fixing them – I assume for Crayford on Friday nights.

“Then, we moved back home a couple of years later, getting a place in Canterbury. I’d be just eight years old, wandering around the estate and it was then I found the same sort of Banger area. I told my Mum and she told me that was her friend, Stef’s, brothers’ cars. They started taking me to Manston loop and I’d help build them every night after school. I’ve been hooked ever since.”

After helping his Mum’s friends brother build his cars, ‘Dino!’ finally got the opportunity to get behind the wheel and get out on track. It was there where he realised his true love and admiration for the sport.

“My first race was at Swale in 1984,” said Cumming. It was in the Juniors; I had a fully welded 2.0 MK3 Ford Cortina GT. It had locked diff and I remember I kept going lock to lock when turning the wheel, but still finished in third.”

Cumming then moved up to the adult Bangers, mostly doing meetings at Arena Essex and at Dover. He then started venturing out a little bit further afield and started attending meetings at Smallfield. It was there where he first joined the Cream Team – where ‘Dino!’ endured great success but was also taught a very important lesson – that not everyone would like you in the world of Bangers.

“I’d raced for a couple of years at Arena Essex, I also did meetings at Dover amongst other tracks as well,” explained Cumming. “Then I went to Smallfield and the Suicide Squad and Cream Team went too. At the beginning of 1990, the Creams had a gap and I slotted into it. All of a sudden, I went from being a Yellow top to being scrutineered for 15 minutes. The buzz was awesome, and I felt my skills were suited to that destructive style of driving, I fitted in well and had a great year, helping everyone in the pits, just how you’d expect.”

Dino Cream Team Arena
Cumming in action for the Cream Team at Arena Essex (Photo credit: Unknown)

Despite having a great year with the Cream Team, it didn’t go all his way. A ban early on into his spell with the notorious hard-hitting Essex team meant he didn’t race as many meetings as he probably should have in the Cream Team, as he confesses.

“I didn’t have as many meets as I should have as a Cream,” confirmed ‘Dino!’ “I had three months watching on the sidelines due to a silly, slightly inside out shot that luckily didn’t injure the other driver. So, one of the best memories I had was at the first team meeting, we seemed to hit every moving car. Either I’d stop someone and one of the others would run through them or vice versa. I couldn’t wait for the following week, but even being in the top five in the points, I’d have to line up as an extra at the gate, then at 12.30 they might let us in to race. Then I realised the marmite relationship we had with the crowd. We were one of the bigger teams at Arena Essex back then, so people either loved us or hated us for what we did on track.”

Dino Cream Team win
‘Dino!’ would often pick up race wins and found himself chasing the points Championship at Arena Essex. (Photo credit: unknown) 

Despite the ban, his willingness to get stuck in and his teamwork caught the eye of the Suicide Squad. Probably, one of the most well-known teams in the history of Banger Racing and one of the most dominant during their time.

Cumming admitted that the Squad would always catch his eye when he was younger and used to go and watch over at Arena Essex. When the opportunity came, he also admitted he felt he needed to take it.

“As a kid, we’d try to go to Arena Essex whenever we could, and it was there where I saw the mighty Bexley Suicide Squad. They came to Coombe Valley once and there was an aura around the cars, so when the opportunity arose to actually race alongside those guys, I felt I needed to take it.

“As a kid I’d always watched the guys that took out the car in front, one or two at a time, almost as if they were dancing – that’s exactly what the Suicide Squad did. I had the best time with them though, everywhere you went, there were people around the cars – scrutineering was always harder for cars in yellow, but I always gave one hundred per cent to the squad. I just wished it had carried on for longer.”

The Suicide Squad were a team who were always looking to improve to stay at the top. They brought in some new drivers who were very keen, and Cumming felt he needed to either jump or he would be pushed out.

“Leaving the Squad was sad, but I knew I had to jump, or I would have been pushed away anyway,” he said. “The new boys were pretty keen, and I wasn’t into Arena after the 1992 World Final, so I decided to step away for a bit.”

Cumming initially crossed the line first and thought he had won his first World Championship; however, he was later disqualified for team racing. He would still race for the Squad until 1994.

Cumming looks back on his time with the Squad rather fondly.  One meeting that the Squad are probably most remembered for is the A60 invasion at Mildenhall back in 1994. Cumming explains how it all came about as the Bexley team put in one of their most destructive displays ever.

“As a team, promoters felt they could use the big teams and names to promote their meetings,” he explained. “Although everyone in the Squad and Cream Team liked the idea of the Pre-70 meetings, we all knew it would be a challenge to build the cars in the middle of the season, so we agreed to do it in the Winter Series. I actually got mine from Martin Charles, who was the original person I followed as a kid, so it was quite fitting.”

Dino Squad Arena
Cumming was one of the Squad’s top drivers at the time. (Photo credit: unknown) 

The Suicide Squad returned to the track once more for the Olly Moran and Maya Ford Memorial meeting in 2013 at Arena Essex – the Squad’s home track where they had many dominant years. Multiple National Banger PRI World Champion Steve Taylor came back out, as did Alan Trickett, Kev Wilsher and Dennis Whiteman amongst many of the other great drivers who represented the Squad over the years.

‘Dino!’ explains why he never raced in the Suicide Squad colours for one final time at the meeting.

“I had no axe to grind with them and no affiliation to the war with the Condoms either,” said Cumming. “I’ve actually raced with the Condoms a couple of times too. Doing that meeting with Jordan meant as much to him as it did to me, to him MK2 Granada’s is what bangers were all about. The boys did trick me though by painting the roof in red and yellow and then sending me a picture. The nice bit was being asked just to paint up once more, but the day was about so much more than just Yellow vs Pink.”

After his time in the Suicide Squad, ‘Dino!’ joined Team Stinkbridge – another team who are renowned for being great entertainers and fierce competitors. Cumming explains how he originally joined the popular Northern based team amongst a bit of banter in the pits at Hednesford.

“I’d become friendly with ‘Autobutcher’, ‘Bushwhacker’ and ‘Dogga’ over a few years, which all started from a sarcastic comment at a Hednesford team meeting,” laughed ‘Dino!’ “They introduced themselves as the top team in the North – it’s not a hard thing to be! – and I asked them where their cars were. It was at the top team meeting in the country at that time. I later guested for them at a couple of other team meetings, when felt I could reduce my racing slightly, but I still enjoyed it when I linked up full time with them.

“They were a completely different brew compared to the Cream Team and the Suicide Squad, we didn’t do quite as many meetings due to them not really having a home track, but rightly so, there was an expectation that you’d do all meetings the team had planned to do – that appears similar to the Gladiators now.

“The weekends were always fun, however internal tensions and changes in the leadership, plus my marriage breakup finished that earlier than I’d expected. But on track you always knew it was one in all in with the Stinkbridge.”

Cumming again looks back on his time with the Stinkbridge with many happy memories. He pin-points a Non-Ford meeting at Arena and a team meeting in Belgium for being particularly memorable.

“During the Stinkbridge days, most of the team were more interested in going South as that’s where they were seen to be the best of the best,” he explained. “So, we planned on doing a Non-Ford meeting at Arena as a sort of surprise thing. It was live on TV and they put the camera in my car. It was a great day and although bizarre for me, it was still very fun.

“We also planned to go to Belgium to do a team meeting, the boys went off Go Karting, but as my young Harriet and Jordan were with us, we stayed at the track, then the police escorted everyone back,” chuckled Cumming.

Dino Belgium Stinkbridge
‘Dino!’ has always been a lively character, no matter who he’s raced for. (Photo credit: unknown)

His son, Jordan, has since become one of the biggest names in the sport with a Spedeworth World Qualifying title and a 2LTR World of Shale title to his name amongst many other wins. ‘Dino!’ admitted that Jordan must have faced some pressure during the early part of his career, but also said he knew he had what it takes to succeed in the sport.

“Being born into a racing family must have both benefits and pressures,” he explained. “I wouldn’t care if Jordan never wanted to race, or whatever else he wanted to do in life, but as he’s so keen I’m happy to help him.

“Jord never got the car to shine in the Ministox, but hopefully it gave him the track and race awareness that you need to be on it in adult Bangers. I watched his first meeting aged nearly 16 at Mildenhall with ‘Shakey’ and we both said then, ‘he’s got it.’ Some people find it easy to use the bumper and he really did, and as I obviously watch him more than anyone, I can see his level and what he has to overcome just to do well or just get on track. Even as he won the 2LTR World of Shale last year, I was still thinking, ‘what’s going to go wrong now?’”

Cumming also recalls the first time they raced together and admitted how differently it made him drive. He also states how when Jordan started racing, he found the motivation to carry on as well.

“I think our first meeting together was at Mildenhall in the Mondeos,” he said. “Being on track with him makes me drive differently, well it did in the early days, as I felt I had to look after him. But we were racing around together for lap after lap and I was trying to be smooth and controlled and this little kid who could hardly see over the door went flat-out past me, one wheel off the ground! I would never have carried on racing if he hadn’t got into it, but there’s been some great times and we’ve held our own, up against some very good teams over the last eight years – that’s ‘Dino Speed for you!’”

Dino and Jordan Mildo
The father and son duo in action at Mildenhall. (Photo credit: unknown) 

Jordan has made six appearances in the Spedeworth World Final to date with 2016 the first year the father and son duo lined up together. However, the road to the World Final saw both of them hit a few bumps along the way with transport issues and on-track battles hampering their progress.

“We both qualified for the British Championship early on and I thought that would be it, but in 2016 I’d done a few meetings,” admitted Cumming. “The Gladiators also took a liking to our cars for a few months which didn’t help, but we gave as good as we got. I tried to race as much as Jord, but we had some transport issues, so we always made sure we got his there first, meaning I had to drop off a bit.

“Even still, I knew I could make the World Final if I did all of the last few meetings, he qualified easily but mine was to the wire. To the point where we were still painting mine the morning of the World Final – it was a real rough job. The car had no sign writing which took the edge off it a bit, but I decided the next year was going to be my swan song and we’d be ready for it.

“Regardless of the rush though, helping him build his first Ipswich World Final car and driving him out was amazing. This racing thing puts us through a roller coaster of emotions.”

Being around the sport as long as he has, Cumming has seen the sport evolve to what we know it be as now. He admits that the Unlimited National Banger scene is stronger now than it was five years ago but would still like to see a few improvements made.

“I’ve been around racing since 1977, so not that long, but as a kid you have rose tinted specs anyway,” he joked. “Before this dreadful virus that people are suffering from, I believe that National Banger Racing is in a better place than it was five years ago. All Unlimited meetings are well subscribed, the Back-to-Basic scene is buzzing at specific tracks, and the cars are plentiful. There’s a few feuds and battles as well that help the meetings along.

“However, I would like to trial a couple of things to improve it for new drivers, or drivers thinking of switching from front wheel drive to Unlimiteds: The first would be grading – allowing the less confident drivers to get half a race before the superstars get through to the front. Watching the Red tops trying to fight through would be more interesting too, and anyone without a grade would start between the Yellow and Blue grades, right in the middle of the pack.

“The second would be to bring back the experienced half lap down starts in the Back-to-Basics and the 1600cc Bangers. Let the new guys get going and not allow the top boys to romp away from pole for a £20 win – it’s just boring to watch from a spectator point of view.”

Having raced in the golden era of Bangers, Cumming admits he has some awesome memories but the time he’s been racing with Jordan is his favourite.

“I have some awesome memories but the time now with Jord is the best for me. There are good quality racers now as well as when I first started,” he said.

Dino and Jordan
‘Dino!’ and his son Jordan line up together just before last year’s World Final at Ipswich. (Photo credit: unknown) 

Cumming also admitted he hadn’t planned on racing at all in 2019, but with bans to other drivers and some choosing to switch promotions, he soon found himself within touching distance of yet another World Final appearance.

“Last year, I hadn’t intended on racing hardly at all,” admitted Cumming. “I just wanted something to put on the truck with Jord, but due to bans and people changing promotions, I was in easy reach of that last World Final, so I carried on. But then typically; mechanical gremlins, a couple of gearboxes, two engines and a couple of badly timed punctures meant it was tighter than originally planned.”

With a career spanning an amazing 36 years, Cumming admits he doesn’t know how many more times the belts will come on but also said he won’t say he’s retiring ever again.

“Who knows how many more times the belts will come on,” told ‘Dino!’ “I have said that I’ve retired twice before and that didn’t work out, so I’m never doing it again. I’d quite like to do a meeting at Emmen, possibly go to Cowdenbeath again and possibly do a meeting at Sheffield again, but who knows.”

Racing brings people closer together and Cumming admits that he has met some great people over the years.

“Banger Racing isn’t a career, it’s an obsession!” he grinned. “Yes, obviously I’d like to thank Jord as we can be fairly challenging to each other, but the cars and his results are worth it. My Mum who still loves to come and support us, even after a stroke – her first worry was missing the World Final. Over the years, loads of people have helped me: Polly, Sean, Ken, Rob and ‘Gatesey.’ More recently Ricky, Con, Jord F, Cal, ‘BamBam,’ ‘Flipper,’ and Mr Kent.

“There’s been some great people I’ve met and got to know over the years – kids with birthday cakes in your colours, jumpers knitted with your number on, cheering, booing, heat of the moment raised voices and then handshakes to acknowledge it was all in battle. I love it!”

Racing for three of the biggest teams in the history of the sport, coming ever so close to winning a World Final and carrying on his racing career with his son – ‘Dino!’ will leave behind a great legacy. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the greats.

By Jordan Hollands

2 Replies to “Stuart ‘Dino!’ Cumming: ‘I have said that I’ve retired twice before, but that didn’t work out.’”

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