Cornwall’s last raceway gears up for its closing race

Photographer Becky Tyrell went down to the dying circuit and found a close-knit community desperate for one more lap

Liam James
Sunday 31 October 2021 12:20
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<p>Bangers on the United Downs Raceway </p>

Bangers on the United Downs Raceway

The days are numbered for Cornwall’s last banger racing circuit, so one photographer spent her summer out on the tarmac capturing what look to be the final months of a spirited local tradition.

The United Downs Raceway Stock Car and Banger racing track will hold its final race on 31 October after providing Cornish locals with excitement for over 50 years.

Built on a former tin-mining site, this mainstay of the southwest racing community has been in operation since 1969 and has outlasted Cornwall’s other two racetracks.

The 325m oval is unlikely to host another racing season: the lease expires on the day of the final race and it may be demolished soon after. A petition to save the track has gathered 10,000 signatures and a request to extend the lease has yet to be declined but locals expect the worst.

Becky Tyrrell, an award-winning local photographer, captured moments on and off the track during what could be the raceway’s last summer. She shoots on a traditional film camera and last year won the prestigious Portrait of Britain award from the British Journal of Photography.

A boy catches a good view of the race atop a bin

Eight-year-old Amy and her dad Lee live nearby and race together

Tyrrell found that some locals had racing in their blood. Third-generation driver Tommy Farrell, who has raced here since he was a child, said: “It was because we had tracks locally to us that I had the chance to get into racing. My Dad took me. There were even more tracks back then, they are slowly disappearing.”

Bust-up cars sprint round the circuit

Tommy Farrell, 19, has raced at the track since he was a child

Tyrrell said of her experience: “Being welcomed by the community who use the track has been an eye-opening experience. Many of the people I spoke to described it as feeling like they’re part of one big family.

Austin is one of eight siblings who all race

The track’s steel barriers have been battered by many a banger over the years

“Despite being an outsider to the world of banger racing, I sympathised with the cause because it’s a space run by the people, for the people. There are few places left in Cornwall which aren’t designed solely to generate revenue via tourism.

“It deserves to stay for the next generation of locals, and the many racers nationwide who travel down here to compete. As a spectator, witnessing this level of skill and dedication in action feels really special – and very exciting!”

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