There have been a lot of drivers that have been successful in both the National Bangers and the National Saloon Stock Cars over the years. One driver amongst them is none other than Shane Brown.
Having been born into a racing family following his Fathers footsteps, Brown got his first chance of being able to race at the age of 12 at the Smeatharpe Stadium in Taunton – his home track.
The Westcountry man went on to enjoy a long and successful career within the sport, becoming a four-time Autospeed World Champion, a Trackstar World Champion and also a Saloon Stock Car World Champion as well as a multitude of various other titles in both formulas.
It was clear from his very first meeting in the Ministox that he was a star of the future, but his Banger debut at the same track didn’t entirely go to plan.
“My very first race was in the Ministox at Smeatharpe, Taunton in 1987,” he explained. “I think I was 12 years old and came third. My first race in a Banger was also at Smeatharpe back in 1990 when I was 16. I raced in a MK4 Cortina that my Dad was going to scrap! It was much harder than it looked, especially being rear wheel drive – I seem to remember losing control and putting my old man up a post!”
Brown would eventually get the hang of racing Bangers and became a part of one of the most formidable teams in the late 90’s and early noughties – Team Blitz! – although he admits he was apprehensive about starting the team at first, as he explains.
“Team Blitz! started when Steve Swan, the editor of Blitz Magazine approached me about creating a team in the magazine’s name, in about 1996 I think it was,” he said. “I wasn’t that keen at first as I always liked to race with just one or two of us, and not be mob handed with a big team. I don’t know why but it was always nicer taking on teams or locals sticking together that way.
“I always got done in the end, but it was good to see how many laps I could have first! Anyway, he kept asking, so I agreed to do the Swaffham team meeting in 1997 but it had to be in me and Steve Lowe’s colours as we raced together quite a bit.”
The iconic colours of Team Blitz! were seen throughout the UK in the years that followed with the team securing much success over the years. Their first teams title came in 1998 when they won the National Teams Championship before securing Warton’s 2LTR Teams Championship the following year.
The year 2000 saw them crowned Smallfield 1600cc Teams Champions before they secured the Unlimited Banger Icebreaker Teams title at Swaffham in 2001 – the last one to be held there before it moved to Kings Lynn – and also the Battle of Britain Teams Championship at Sheffield.
Rather impressively, Team Blitz! retained the Unlimited Icebreaker title in 2002, which was the first ever one to take place at Kings Lynn. They also secured the Smallfield Unlimited Banger Teams title later that year too – the last title they would win in the National Bangers until they claimed the 2018 Unlimited East Coast Teams title at Skegness. On that day, the team was made up of two very accomplished drivers in the shape of Gary Madgwick and Steve Anscombe.
Team Blitz! were not like any other team around during that era. The likes of the Suicide Squad, Condoms, and Stinkbridge raced with each other most weeks whereas Team Blitz! only teamed up for certain events with different drivers most of the time, as Brown says.
“Well, as we were more of a part-time team – as in just teaming up for certain team events, we never really had the same team. We would speak to a few different drivers and mix it up now and again, but we always seemed to do ok. We would try and pick drivers who could race fast and who didn’t mind a crash because let’s face it, you aren’t going to get anywhere just looking for one big shot and then getting jacked yourself are you? Any old bum hole could do that,” he chuckled.
That makes the titles they achieved together all the more impressive when you think about all the organisation required to get a full team to these meetings, let alone racing together.
However, it wasn’t just in Teams Championships’ where Brown had his only successes.
After early struggles in his first Banger meeting, Brown was soon starting to get the hang of it. After having to suffice with cars handed down to him from his Dad, he then found himself in the position where he could afford his own cars and transport them to the track himself.
As it turns out, it would prove to be a massive turning point in his career with his first Autospeed World Championship coming his way at the age of just 19 at Taunton.
“1993 was the first year I could afford my own cars to race,” stated Brown. “I could choose what car I wanted to race and get them there myself without relying on anyone. I had learnt how to drive by racing shit that was passed down to me, so in that year I raced some decent cars and I’d become a bit of a rising star.
“By the time the World Final arrived, I felt confident I could beat anyone around that tight little track. I was only 19 at the time, so it felt pretty good I must admit, especially as there was a full grid of cars with a few Stinkbridge and some PRI boys, as well as some fast locals.
“The first time I won it was so early in my career, so it was special to me. It was special because my Dad was still racing at the time as well as a fair few of the older boys that I grew up watching too, so that was nice. Obviously, that was before I started travelling to other tracks up the country.”
Despite starting to travel a lot more, the Smeatharpe Stadium remained close to his heart being from Taunton himself. His knowledge and speed of the venue became apparent when between 1999 and 2001, he won three World Finals in a row – a feat which hasn’t been matched by anyone else in the 37-year history of the World Final.
“I always raced at Smeatharpe as much as I could, but once I had been to the bigger and faster tracks where visitors were buried as soon as possible, I loved it – and preferred racing away,” he told. “But don’t get me wrong, a big meeting at Smeatharpe was always good and to win three World titles in a row was pretty cool too.
“And not to blow smoke up my own arse, but it should of been four in a row too but in 2002 I came second to a bloke who had some mega illegal tyres, who wouldn’t normally be good enough to lace my boots! Fair play to him though, he got away with it. I actually didn’t realise that I’m the only person to win it three times in a row – I haven’t really followed Bangers since 2003 so if that’s the case, then fair play to me and the people who helped,” he said smiling.
The Trackstar World Final moved from its home of the previous six years at the Swaffham Raceway to the shale of Kings Lynn in 2000. It has remained at the popular shale venue ever since with the first World Final at the venue being won by Brown himself in a MK2 Ford Granada – one of the two cars Brown adopted as his own during the late 90’s and early noughties.
His love of travelling around the country was becoming more apparent, even if he did have his fair share of bad luck or he got taken out by the locals who were trying to defend their home track. It was a regular feature of Banger Racing back then which has somewhat diminished in this modern era.
One moment of bad luck was at the 1995 Spedeworth World Final at the iconic Wimbledon Stadium. Brown was leading and was looking comfortable out in front until mechanical gremlins ground his car to a heart-breaking halt, leaving Mark Holdsworth to come through and claim his one and only Spedeworth World title.
Despite this, Brown’s World Final triumph at Kings Lynn in 2000 remained a special moment for him, even if it put a different aspect on it with it being on shale.
“Like I said earlier, I got a real buzz from being a visitor at any track,” he said reminiscing. “I came so close to winning the Wimbledon World Final in 1995 before breaking down with two laps to go, and although I had won the Autospeed World Final, I was a ‘home boy’ and I knew my way around that track with my eyes closed.
“To me, the main World Finals were either the PRI or Spedeworth ones, with Trackstar a close third when it was at Swaffham, but then it went to Kings Lynn and put a different aspect to it with it being on shale. I had only been to Kings Lynn once before so expected a rough ride. But in that race, I drove hard from lap one and the old MK2 was singing and I took the flag in style – I loved it! I beat a good field with all the local shale boys that were there.”
That would be his only run as Trackstar World Champion before James Medley claimed the title the following year.
However, it wasn’t just World Finals the Team Blitz! man won. He secured the Champion of Champions title in 1997 at the Birmingham Wheels Raceway before securing the BBA Supreme Championship in 2002 at Northampton – his last big title win in the National Bangers.
However, the Champion of Champions glory in 1997 was somewhat overshadowed by the special performance from the late Mark ‘Polo’ Boulden – a performance that is still talked about today. Brown pays tribute to the late, former PRI World Champion.
“When I won the Champion of Champions title in 1997, it was the first time I had ever been to Birmingham Wheels, so again it was good,” said the Westcountry man. “There was a lot of good drivers there as well, I remember them giving me a television as a prize for winning it!
“But I think you’ll agree the highlight of that night was ‘Polo’ and his one-man wrecking show for which he got a two-year ban for… a bit harsh if you ask me!”
Brown admits that whatever title was on the line, if there was money on it, he was happy winning it.
After racing across the country in National Banger for over 10 years solid, Brown made the difficult decision to step away from them and as a result, moved into the Saloon Stock Cars. Another formula in which he enjoyed great success.
He talks about what made him make the switch that so many others have done over the years.
“I had been racing Bangers for 12 years solid, two or three times a week sometimes,” he said. “I won some big races and got some good money – a lot of the big Championships and Opens had up to £1500 for the winner back then, and I had my fair share of them! I’d been involved in some good crashes too, either giving them or receiving them and up until 2002, I only had one injury which was when I broke my Pelvis at Swaffham.
“I had my Daughter Macy in April, so I said to my Mrs that this was probably going be my last year in Bangers. However, I didn’t want to stop racing, but I also didn’t want to be at the workshop every night anymore. I had started watching the Saloons a bit more as my mate, Danny Hunt had switched over to them and I quite fancied a bash myself.
“I liked the speed they went for a full contact formula and the way they made the ground shake when they hit the wall, but still carried on! It was my kind of racing without constantly building the cars, so off I went to buy a car off a friend of mine who was packing up.”
As you’d expect when any driver switches formula, it was difficult at first for Brown, with a car that he admits wasn’t entirely quick enough in an era which saw most cars in the formula move over to full space frames.
However, after a first few tricky years, Brown secured his first of many majors in the formula with glory in the National Championship in 2006 at the Mildenhall Stadium. A win that he admits came as a bit of a relief to him.
“It was certainly a relief winning my first major title in the formula,” admitted Brown. “The first year I raced them was 2003 and the World Final was at Cowdenbeath. I nearly won it but ended up second! But, in all honesty that was pure luck as the ‘Jocks’ all wiped themselves around the wall in the last couple of laps and most of the quick English boys were out too. The car I had was no way near fast enough as the cars had gone over to full space frames and mine was an original Sierra built into a Stock Car.
“Anyway, I raced it for another year and started to get a bit pissed off by not really getting anywhere. I had come into the formula with a bit of a reputation, but I wasn’t really cutting the mustard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hard formula to come into and it takes a while to understand how the cars handle and what to change at what time – but I’ve always believed in my ability and believed that with a better car, I could achieve better results. So, we built our own car and I got to grips with it, then I started winning races and obviously my first Championship, which did feel like it took a monkey off my back!”
That Championship win acted as a catalyst for Brown and propelled him to yet more Championship titles.
In 2007, he secured the European Championship and the Raymond Gunn Tribute – both of which were at Cowdenbeath – a track in which he later confesses his love and admiration for.
He retained the Raymond Gunn Tribute in 2008 and also secured his one and only Saloon Stock Car World Championship too. Brown started on the inside of row five and fought his way through the carnage early on and moved up to second position.
The early stages of the race saw a titanic battle at the front between David Aldous and Luke Grief. With the former taken out of the running, the race blew wide open with Brown pushing Grief out wide going into turn three.
After two further caution periods closed the lead he had built up, he became increasingly under pressure with Grief right on his bumper. Getting a good run out of the final turn, Grief retook the lead.
However, Brown came back and pulled off the same move on Grief he did earlier on in the race.
From there, he managed to pull away and take a well-deserved win to secure his only World Championship in the formula.
He admitted it was the best feeling ever and told of his emotion that him and his brother shared.
“Out of everything I’ve ever won in Oval Racing, that night when I won the Saloon World was the best feeling,” admitted Brown. “I don’t really get excited or emotional about winning, but that time I did.
“It was the second car we had ever built, and it was a fast car on tarmac. I loved Cowdenbeath – it’s a real Stock Car track and I just had a feeling nothing was going stop me winning that night. That might sound big headed but it’s not. I had some good battles in the race, and I managed to come out on top. My brother got emotional too and he’s dry as fuck, so it must have meant something!”
Brown secured more big wins in the formula before calling his time.
He ended his time in the popular hard-hitting Stock Car formula as a multiple Champion. He secured another win in the National Championship in 2010 at Kings Lynn and also secured the first of two ORCi Championships at Mildenhall later in the year.
He also won the Charlene Kingston Memorial three times in a row between 2010 and 2012 and won both the UK Championship and UK Superbowl in the 2011 season at Skegness and Cowdenbeath respectively.
Success in the English Championship followed in 2012 at St. Day before becoming a two-time European Champion and a two-time ORCi Champion at Kings Lynn and Arena Essex respectively.
He confesses that by the time he was 40, the ruthlessness and aggression he once had had gone a little bit and he wasn’t getting the buzz he used to either. Despite the success, he knew he had to stop.
“I always said to myself that by the time I was around 40, I thought I would have had enough of all this racing lark – bearing in mind I started when I was 12,” he admitted. “And I was pretty much spot on too because by that age, the fearlessness and ruthlessness had started to go a little bit. The preparation in between meetings wasn’t the same and I wasn’t getting the buzz about upcoming events that I used to.
“My business was flat out and rather than doing the car, I would work late to earn some more dough instead. And when I got some damage, rather than working like hell to get it going again and deliver whoever done it the big one, the car would sit there till I could be bothered to fix it again! That isn’t the way to race a Saloon Stock Car!
“I had gone all my career with having only suffered a broken Pelvis, some cracked Ribs and a few stiff necks, so I knew it was the time to stop. My boy had also started to show an interest in wanting to do a bit of Karting, so I thought I’d give him a few goes and if he’s any good, then I’ll put all my effort into him. Nice and relaxed I thought, well fuck me… for the next four years, I wasn’t at home any weekend and I was flat out on the spanner’s and travelling more than I did for Stock Cars!”
Looking back on his illustrious career that spanned an incredible 28 years, Brown admitted that he never thought he would do as well as he did in two formulas that are notoriously hard to be as successful as he was, in.
From racing cars handed down to him from his Dad to being able to race his own, Brown cemented his own legacy in the industry through hard work and skill.
“I honestly never expected to do as well as I have,” claimed Brown. “When I started, it was all for fun. The Ministox my Dad gave me were shit (sorry Dad!), the hand me down Cortina’s were also shit (sorry dad – again!), but I did ok with them and appreciated what was given to me. As I said before, with decent gear I thought I would be half decent and the more you race the more you learn. But to end up winning multiple Championships in two different formulas makes me very proud of what we achieved.
“Another thing with the oval scene is the different types of people you meet. Some are friends for life and one or two aren’t worth the time of day! If I had any regrets, I suppose it would be not winning the British Championship in a Saloon to complete the full set, but I’m only 46 and still remember how to build a good car so you never know…..!”
The multiple National Banger World Champion and former Saloon Stock Car World Champion also gave his thanks to all those that and helped him in his career.
“Where do I start?! I’ve had loads of help over the years,” said a thankful Brown. “I’ve seen relationships break up due to us racing flat out. I’ve begged, stealed and borrowed; cars, lorries and trailers to get to meetings.
“I’ve had loads of good sponsors that I’m really grateful to as well – the biggest one being Andy and Linda from Chapel Garage for years of support. I’ve also got to say thanks to my Mrs, Dee, who has never tried to stop me from racing – even when she was two weeks over due with Archie in 2005, I still thought it would be a good idea to race at Skegness – only five hours away, so plenty of time to get back, bless her!
“But the main man has been my bro ‘Bengy.’ That fucker has put more effort, hours, graft and commitment into it than I have myself sometimes, and I think he would do it all again! None of what I achieved would have happened if it weren’t for him!”
One of the finest drivers and hitters in the world of National Bangers who also went on to achieve so much in the Saloon Stock Cars, Brown will be remembered as one of the finest Oval racers we’ve seen grace our tracks. His dedication and natural ability wowed crowds wherever he raced and saw him gain some true respect.
Header image courtesy of Scotstox on Facebook.
By Jordan Hollands