Firecracker XIII

If anyone thought that the number thirteen was a bad omen, they obviously never counted on Firecracker 13. Possibly the best running of the event in the thirteen years that PRI have run it at Arena Essex, there was plenty to talk about by the end, from the point of view of the material, the turnout and the action. For example, Dave Nichols has provided talking points in the past, and produced one again this time with a 1928 Dodge, complete with wooden spoked wheels and a paint job that was hardly authentic but certainly showed up the car. Richie Ahern also upped the stakes a little, turning out an American SUV which went on to grab one award that day - more of that later - though there was some debate on how a car that size could be entered in such an event. Six heats, two consolations, a final and a destruction derby followed the steady stream of cars making their way onto the circuit for pre-meeting checks, and the early spectators were not disappointed at what they saw. Well - I won't dwell on Pieter "Peewee" Leitra's display. It seemed to go down well with his European fans, and followed on from Firecracker XII's unscheduled streaker display! I should make mention of the terrific attendance on the day by the folk from CAMSO, probably the biggest turnout from Holland and Germany to make it to the Cracker, and they certainly turned in some brilliant performances, as we shall see.


Race one was taken easily by Shane Collins ahead of former PRI World Champion, John Harris, whilst a series of big wrecks won another former champion, Allan Trickett, the special award for the best wrecking performance including the dismemberment of the camouflage ”Wacky Races hearse which had already been badly bent inside the first lap. Trickett, in his ”Gold Bully-in Ford Thunderbird, which was the former Dave Coventry road car, was trapped late on as Ian Smith started his now customary wrong way onslaught on the pit bend, in his distressed Jag, but still managed to drive off. The second race saw an early finish but was easily won by Bedfordshires' Mark Johns, whilst Brett Fry, aka ”Wingnut took everyone on the wrong way, including a banana job for the stretch limo of Gareth Woolven on turn four, site of many big shunts and follow ins.

Paul Coker managed to finish the third heat early with a big jacking for Colin Lambert into Jimmy Randall on the home straight fence that caused the Lambert car to ignite big time, though the driver emerged unhurt, if a bit shaken. Ahern had taken the lead shortly before the stoppage in his big Chevvy Suburban Jeep, whilst "Giggler" Coker was rewarded with the special award for a memorable hit. The fourth race ended abruptly again, but the race went to Stephen Thompson ahead of Stephen Thacker, whilst Nigel ”Nutty Nige Riley put on a display in his Fleetwood including a head on or three for Chris Trickett, and Dave Nicholls finally raced and wrecked his 1928 Dodge Straight 6 on turn 4. Jonan Klein also put himself about in the rare Russian built Zim limo.

Rob Burbridge got an easy win in the wrecking that was heat 5, very few cars surviving to make the result and with plenty of good wrecking performances, it was difficult to say who would get the special award, especially the battle between Steve Moore and Marc Warner that finally ended up on turn two, though a big hitting start to the race by Lee Morrow as he took on two DS420‘s in his Jag won it for him. The final heat of the day was taken late into the race by Lloyd Isherwood with Sean Guppy getting the special award for a major hit. This would not be the last we would hear of Isherwood.

The biggest hit of the day had to come soon, and it came in the form of Paul Korpiela who managed to fly his Lincoln Continental up the back of Jimmy Carmoy, into the air and over the fence on turn three. Korpiela's limo had long since stopped running well, having suffered a t-bone in its heat, and it looked like he was just keeping going in the hope that there would be enough cars wrecked to get him into the result. With a major pileup just past the pit gate, and Korpiela on the back straight, along came James Perry, propelled forward by Dirk Audenaerde, the pair of Jags giving Korpiela the added force to pick up Carmoy and literally take off, shocking more than one person standing on that bend including photographer Karl Annets who was standing almost underneath the crash! The race was stopped abruptly at that point, the race going to Brian Orriss, but there was only one driver that could possibly get the special award. The second consolation was somewhat more sedate but still meant plenty of wrecking, especially on turn 2 which soon became blocked as the forty starters wrecked each other out to leave only Andrew Davies running at the end. Michael Maskell took the last special award to give a total of 57 qualifiers for this years‘ final.

Of course, some of those qualifiers had managed to get their way into the final at the expense of their cars, but the number that finally made it to the circuit didn‘t disappoint as a record 50 cars took to the circuit. With that many starting, it was inevitable that something had to give, and it certainly did as the crashes on turn one destroyed the upper posts on the first fence, whilst Twan Baltissen's car burst into flames on the home straight. A complete restart slowly turned into a destruction derby as turn four, the circuit slowly turned into a scrap yard, with Moore slowly blitzing himself into oblivion in the middle of turn four before making a last lunge down the home straight at Ian Bennett. Bennett survived to take on Darren Nash before Isherwood managed to disentangle himself from the turn three wreckage to join in. The final stages were called to a close, Isherwood winning the title on completed laps from Nash and Bennett, the only other finishers.

One car amongst many that made it out for the destruction derby, one that many never thought would return, was the Korpiela limo, or what was left of it! The event managed to clock up thirty-six survivors, which wasn't bad considering what had gone before, and it was obvious that everyone was seriously after the best wrecked award if nothing else, with some big hits going in and another big bonfire to accompany the upcoming fireworks, John Randall taking the last winners' trophy of the year whilst Matt Small was given the last car running award, something he seemed to want to emphasise as he continued to play with the wreckage after the race had finished!

A capacity crowd watched the display at the end having been thoroughly entertained by a memorable days' racing and a fitting end to the 2004 season at Arena Essex.

1. Heat 1 309 Shane Collins 418 100 203 217 146 680 NOCR
2. Heat 2 600 Mark Johns 943 642 688 214 NOCR
3. Heat 3 99 Richard Ahern 66 721 624 169 601 677 270
4. Heat 4 175 Stephen Thompson 775 794 739 67 810 734 575
5. Heat 5 18 Rob Burbridge 939 705 755 604 NOCR
6. Heat 6 783 Lloyd Isherwood 865 748 737 711 NOCR
7. Consolation 1 5 Brian Orriss 753 356 817 641 660 336 890
8. Consolation 2 47 Andrew Davies NOCR
9. Firecracker XIII 783 Lloyd Isherwood 203 705 NOCR
10. Destruction Derby 207 John Randall

Last car running: 732 Matt Small
Best Wrecker: 828 Neil Osbourne
Best Wrecked: 739 Julian Camelleri

Other qualifiers