It was only a couple of days into the new year when the banger racing community learned the sad news that we had lost popular Milton Keynes based banger racer Tim Day, aged just 35.
Tim grew up in Hertfordshire and started racing bangers at the now closed Bovingdon track in his late teens. Tim’s first forays onto the track were in the black and red colours of a team known as “The Divs from Mars”. It is no surprise Tim was attracted to bangers above other types of racing; his Mum Christine had already given him the nickname “Toe Joe”, which came from the name of a mythical god of disaster and destruction! With this nickname and the number 310, Tim took to the track in 1994. At this time, Tim lived with his Mum in Hemel Hempstead near the Gibbs family, who also raced at Bovingdon, and Tim got some advice from the Gibbs when he started racing. The famous red, white and orange colours of the Motley Krew team originally belonged to the Gibbs, and it was through them that Tim ended up making his debut for the Motley Krew at Bovingdon’s Hertfordshire Team Championship in 1997. Tim’s next outing in Krew colours was on a trip to the Standlake track in Oxfordshire for the 1997 Jeff Woolford Memorial meeting. The Motley Krew were there to make an impact, and were well involved in a heavy day that Mr Woolford would no doubt have approved of. Tim obviously proved himself to the team as he joined up full time from then on, making his first trip up the M1 to the Krew’s adopted home track of Northampton shortly afterwards, which is how I met him, as I was taking photos of the bangers there at the time. Not long after joining the Krew, Tim earned himself the nickname “Dim Tim”, which replaced “Toe Joe” as the one he painted on his cars. Former Motley 384 John Golden claims to have coined the nickname, although if this is true, I reckon it may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black!
Tim quickly moved his racing up a gear and started to get noticed by a wider audience – he made his Swaffham debut in a mk2 Granada at the infamous 1998 Icebreaker V unlimited team meeting and returned in another mk2 for the 1999 Earthshaker. His Mildenhall debut came at the 1400cc Suffolk Open Team Championship in a mighty Triumph Dolomite, and he made a long trip to a very cold and wet Warton in Lancashire for the North West Team Championship with a Motley Krew speciality, the Lada Riva. The Lada unfortunately blew the engine on the first lap, and was later finished off with a new engine at Standlake’s Heavy Metal Classic, with a couple of his mates having a go in it as well. Tim always enjoyed the August Bank Holiday weekends away, when the Motley Krew and other drivers & friends based at the Northampton track would make the long trip (and I mean long, it took 9 hours one year) to Newquay in Cornwall to drink industrial quantities of beer, followed by a trip to the Westworld Blockbuster meeting. The Westworld track featured a large crater on the infield near the end of the straight, which became known as a Motley Krew parking space. No doubt feeling the ill effects of a weekend of partying, Motleys 375 Dave “Jock” Carson and 316 Andy Cushion both managed to get stuck in it, but Tim topped them both by parking his Mk2 Granada in the crater upside-down!
As a racer, Tim will partly be remembered by his mates for that, and other incidents and mishaps which he was always able to laugh at himself afterwards. He once offered to lend team mate 311 Lee “Helm” Bradbury a 2 litre pinto which he had used in a mk2 Granada. Tim warned Lee it was “a bit sluggish” – the reason Tim had struggled to get the mk2 going very fast was soon revealed when the engine turned out to be a 1.6! On another occasion, the track points title at Northampton was going down to the wire between 37 Phil “Fizz” Woskett and 218 Lee Clelland – Tim wanted Fizz to win, so he decided to take Lee out if he got the chance. When the chance didn’t present itself, he decided to turn it round and have a go in the opposite direction, but unfortunately this didn’t go as planned – Clelland was leading with Fizz right behind him, Tim lunged at Clelland, missed, and stopped his mate Fizz instead, which didn’t go down well – although Tim was forgiven as Fizz recovered to claim the title.
Around this time (the late 90’s) there was a flag marshal at Northampton called Gemma Thomas, the daughter of long serving banger driver 100 Dave Thomas. One day in May 1999, Gemma got the job of checking the driver’s belts on the grid, where she caught Tim’s attention. The first words he spoke as she checked his straps were not very poetic, “fancy a pint?” is what Gemma remembers, but something he said obviously worked as they were soon a couple & Tim moved (defected, according to some of his mates) to Gemma’s home town, Milton Keynes. Tim and Gemma were married in 2009, almost 10 years to the day after they met.
I think it is fair to say that on and off the track, Tim was the sort of person that there are not enough of in the full contact version of banger racing any more. He was never a “big budget” racer – he raced what he could get his hands on nearby at a sensible price, often at his local tracks. He wasn’t afraid of a battle with anybody, but they were fair battles on Tim’s side, his cars were built to the rules and I don’t ever recall a driver being injured from a hit Tim delivered. He was the type of bloke that didn’t bear grudges when he got trashed himself, a handshake and a pint in the bar were more his style. He never raced anything too flashy, like many drivers, Tim mainly stuck to racing RWD Fords when he could get them and his absolute favourite car was a mk3 Cortina, he raced several and never had a bad meeting in one. Later on, he moved with the times to race various front wheel drive Nissans and Vauxhalls. The engines he had were the standard ones that came in the cars he picked up, and the tyres were normal road ones, not special sticky remoulds. He never had a big lorry or a sign-writer on speed dial; I think he just raced to enjoy himself, which I am sure many will agree made him a proper driver in the true spirit of banger racing. Although the “Dim Tim” name stuck, Tim was a tidy driver when he wanted to be, and had some trophies to polish, although I seem to remember that pride of place on his mantelpiece went to a Matt Bull photo of him in a Cortina destroying the similar machine of 528 Dave Norris at Northampton’s 1998 Heart of England meeting.
At the peak of his banger career, Tim raced for Northampton in a 30 on 30 against PRI at Northampton, took part in the epic head to head between the Motley Krew and Team Stinkbridge at Hednesford’s televised Krash Kings meeting, and represented Incarace in a 30 on 30 against Spedeworth at Northampton, where he put in a typical crashing display in one of his favourite mk3 Cortinas and won the DD. Tim had only recently become an Incarace licensed driver at this point, following Incarace taking over promoting duties at Northampton, which lead to the change in his racing number from 310 to 301. The 301 number lasted until 2007 when he switched his license to RDC and went back to 310. By the time I started racing in 2004, the number of meetings Tim did had dropped off a bit as other priorities in life became more important and his favourite RWD Fords became more expensive and difficult to find. I remember at one point he told me he was working two jobs to save up some money, a normal full time one in the day and then a job in a café at night, so it’s amazing he got time to race at all. The only time we “met” on track was at Mildenhall in 2008 at the 1400cc Suffolk Open Team Championship – within about 30 seconds he had used his Nissan Cherry to give my Cortina a big hit that put the roof up and tore one of the springs out. In typical Tim style, he walked over afterwards laughing his head off and carrying the spring he had knocked out of my car, then hugged me and told me he was retiring from racing and I’d never be able to even the score. His retirement only lasted until the 2008 Dover team meeting where he raced a mk3 Cavalier, although this did in fact turn out to be his final banger outing.
Shortly after the Dover meeting, Tim started to feel unwell. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, by the time this was discovered, things were very touch and go and he was seriously ill. After many battles on the track, Tim was now fighting a far bigger battle off it, a battle which he took on with good humour and incredible bravery. He had a tattoo on his arm that said “never give up”, and that summed him up; although the cancer attacked his body, it never dampened his spirit. There were times when it seemed he might have beaten the cancer, only for it to return, but he continued to make the most of life regardless and was still often seen at banger meetings, especially when the Motleys were racing. A trip to a posh private suite at the Newmarket races in 2010 saw Tim suited and booted (knowing Tim, probably for the first time since his wedding day in 2009!). Gemma tells me that Tim assured everybody that he knew all about horses and was going to make some money, and promptly lost it all instead – but no doubt he enjoyed doing it and laughed every time his horses failed. Tragically, Tim lost his two year battle with cancer on the evening of January 2nd 2011. Tim thoroughly deserves the 1 minute of applause he will receive today, he will be sadly missed but happily remembered by all who knew him.
The above words were superbly penned by Rob Wilkinson, who would like to add his thanks to Gemma, Ginge and Lee for checking the accuracy.
Tim Day, long time member of the Motley Krew Banger Racing Team (301) sadly passed away last night after a battle with cancer. Tim, just 35 in November had a rare form of cancer and looked to be fighting it well, until things took a turn for the worse before Christmas. He passed away peacefully at home just two days into 2011.
Tim’s home track was Northampton and raced many, many times there over the years and raced for the Motley Krew around the country. His wife Gemma helped out in the NIR Track Shop when Dot couldn’t make it and of course Gemma’s Dad, Dave Thomas has been an NIR racer for longer than most of us can remember.
Our thoughts are directly with his wife Gemma and close family and I am sure that all drivers, mechanics, Staff and Officials from Incarace will be thinking of Tim at this sad, sad time.
Details of funeral arrangements are as follows:
The funeral service for Tim will take place on Friday 14th January 2011 at 4pm at the West Herts Crematorium, High Elms Lane, Garston, Watford, WD25 0JS
Everyone is welcome to attend the service and also afterwards at Apsley Village Club, 39 London Road, Hemel Hempstead, HP3 9SP
Gemma has requested that just family and close friends for flowers please, but donations can be sent direct to the Funeral Directors where a fund has been set up to be donated to McMillan Cancer Trust and also the local people that looked after Tim.
The Funeral Directors details are as follows : H W Masons, Bridge House, 97 Victoria Road, Bletchley, MK2 2PD
There will be a minutes applause at the start of the Civil War meeting in memory of Tim.