Police target underground world of 'car cruising'

After a 14-year-old boy is seriously injured in a weekend event, the organisers of 'doughnuts' and 'burn-outs' face investigation

Police are becoming increasingly concerned at the popularity of "car cruising", where thousands of testosterone-charged young men gather each weekend on industrial estate car parks to "burn out", "handbrake" and "doughnut" their high-powered vehicles.

Police are becoming increasingly concerned at the popularity of "car cruising", where thousands of testosterone-charged young men gather each weekend on industrial estate car parks to "burn out", "handbrake" and "doughnut" their high-powered vehicles.

The trend, which has some similarities with the rave music scene of the late Eighties, involves keeping locations secret until the last moment to outwit the police, and has expanded rapidly across Britain in recent months through contacts on the internet.

Police in Northampton pledged yesterday to track down the organisers of an illegal road race at the weekend, involving 50 high-performance cars, in which a 14-year-old boy was seriously injured. Superintendent David Osborne said the organisers and participantswould be made to pay for their "stupid, irresponsible behaviour".

John Sootheran, editor of Max Power magazine, the bible of the boy-racer, said the cruising scene had become "huge". He said: "It's the race scene of the millennium. It's underground, it's illegal - and that's half the attraction."

Crowds of up to 3,000, mostly males between 17 and 25, gather in the early evening at car parks. Events are advertised on the internet and through flyers. Highly modified vehicles - typically hot-hatches such as Peugeot 205 Gtis and Ford RS Turbos - are driven to the appointed venue and parked, with music playing at maximum volume. Mr Sootheran said: "It's guys showing off in cars that they have spent a lot of time and money on. Most have spent more on modifying their cars than on buying them."

Problems have arisen when cruisers have staged a road race. Northamptonshire police said they would be reviewing how officers responded to Saturday's event, which took part on a section of dual carriageway in the town centre at about 9.30pm. Crowds had begun to gather six hours earlier but officers left the scene before the race because they could see no sign of illegal activity. Witnesses to the accident said the cars had been racing on the road for more than an hour before police arrived.

One of the spectators, Tim Maguire, 14, of Rushden, Northamptonshire, was hit by a Ford Escort which crossed the central reservation then careered into the path of another car. The boy, who was trapped underneath the Escort, was yesterday in a stable but poorly condition at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

A man, 31 of Rushden, who was also struck by the Escort, and a Northampton man, 20, who was a passenger, were being treated at Northampton General Hospital for serious injuries. A man, 20, was charged yesterday with dangerous driving and two counts of causing grievous bodily harm.

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