HUNDREDS of spectators lined the streets to enjoy the traditional thrills and spills of the New Forest’s annual pedal car grand prix.
It was New Milton’s turn to host the popular event, which it shares biennially with Ringwood, and 28 teams battled it out in colourful soapbox cars as they completed laps around a specially created circuit on Station Road and a section of Old Milton Road.
Organisers from the New Milton Jubilee Fund, including chairman Robin Ede, were out setting up the race from about 6.30am on Sunday. The town’s army cadets and the 1st Milton Scouts were on hand, along with parents, to help put up barriers and paint markings on the track.
Following about an hour of practice laps, town mayor Cllr Alvin Reid waved off the drivers with the chequered flag at 2pm, assisted by his nine-year-old grandson Finley Reid.
Those pedalling for their place on the winners’ podium included representatives from local pubs, women’s teams and under-18 competitors.
Authentic racing commentary courtesy of Michael Lingham-Willgoss kept the spectators informed of developments during the dramatic two-hour contest. Drivers switched places in the pits at the northern end of Station Road.
Victory in the seniors category was claimed by the team The Odd Balls, with race director Liam Geary attributing much of this to some “interesting tailgate moves”. True to their name, Royce in Second took the silver position, and Turbo Tec came third.
Many other teams battled for second and third place, including Squeels on Wheels and Crazy Frog.
Inferno triumphed for the juniors, with all trophies presented by Cllr Reid, again joined by Finley.
A number of new teams competed in the race, including The Gym Tin and Christians Against Poverty which both finished in the top 10.
A new method of counting laps upset some entrants who complaining there had been failures to properly measure their lap times.
One angry racer told the A&T: “We make a huge effort to make up our teams. It’s very important to get these things accurately done or why should we bother to turn up next year?
“It’s very hard work pedalling those carts. Yes it’s for fun, but the day was ruined by a lack of respect or recognition for the teams who took part.”
Responding to the criticism, Mr Geary admitted there were some teething troubles with the new helmet-mounted electronic lap-tracking tags.
He attributed some “miss-reads” to several tags not being placed correctly on entrants’ helmets.
But the race director stressed there were fail-safes to compensate for this.
“If a tag is not read it will still pick up the lap, just on the next lap processed by the system. This means barely any laps were lost,” he explained.
“We understand it can be frustrating when some teams race for their lap times and we respect that. We are working to improve the tags already and have a solution ready to implement.”
He stressed the new technology was introduced because the old transponder system previously used for the races in both New Milton and Ringwood is now obsolete.
The grand prix, sponsored by Hoburne Holidays, was the centrepiece of a weekend of car-related events.
On Saturday there was a large display of about 100 classic vehicles on the recreation ground laid on by the Three Counties Classic and Vintage Car Club. This was accompanied by a fleet of some of the newest models on the market provided by eight distributors.
Mr Ede hailed the weekend a success, largely attributing this to the good weather – apart from a brief shower at the very start of Sunday’s race.
“We were very pleased to see a reasonable crowd, especially when the cricket and Wimbledon was on, let alone Formula 1,” he told the A&T.
“To have the whole weekend – Saturday and Sunday – with so many people mingling about was a wonderful sight.”
(Updated at 9.15am on Wednesday 17th July)