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A trip down memory Lane – 309 Michael Lane Interview

309 Michael Lane has cemented a solid legacy within the banger community with an impressive CV of titles and a driver that is always at the business end of the field. His legacy dates back 50+ years ago when the Lane family name first entered the sport. ‘It’s in the blood! My Dad (David Lane) raced Bangers and my uncle (Peter Lane) raced Bangers and Saloon Stock Cars from the late 70’s/early 80’s so I was going with them from a very young age; probably from 1988 onwards. I started mainly going to Ipswich and then onto Wisbech and further afield.’ 

After around ten years watching his father and uncle around the raceways, Michael finally got the opportunity to get behind the wheel himself. ‘In 1998 I started in the Ministox formula. Dad gave up the Bangers to concentrate on my racing. We bought Michael Coventry’s car – it was like a tank but was ideal for a first car as no doubt we were going to run into a post or two! I will always remember my first meeting, it was the first Wimbledon Stars of the Past meeting racing with the likes of Michael Allard, the Tandy’s, Simon Welton etc who were all at the top of there game at the time. We had a parade before the meeting started and because my Dad was so big he couldn’t fit in the car, so my good friend Willie Skoyles Jnr did the honours and drove me out. It wasn’t long after that Willie joined the formula and we had some great times.’ Michael progressed through the Ministox ranks, at a time when the formula was adapting with promotions inheriting specific number sets seeing Michael change from using his previous number inherited from his father, 309, to the 124 his uncle raced under. ‘We struggled for a few months in the Minis getting knocked about a bit, and then I picked up my first trophy at Rye House and followed that with a maiden win at Yarmouth. I think I reached blue grade in the first year, and then we had a new car built/sponsored by Felsham Garage the following year and this got us up to red grade and throughout my mini career we had lots of wins and places but no major titles. Towards the end we were racing with the likes of Willie jnr, Tommy Barnes. Aaron Morris (current 1600 World Champion), Lee Sampson etc. We did make a few enemies on the way – mainly the Trackstar boys.’

It was evident that Michael enjoyed his time mastering his craft in the Ministox and sinking his teeth into the racing, but his success wasn’t initially replicated once he graduated from the junior formula. ‘After the minis we tried a Sierra rookie banger a few times, but that didn’t go so well. I had a few years off from racing and then got a Lighting Rod in 2006 I think. Dad had one for a bit when all the old banger drivers went into them so we had bits laying about. I had some wins and fallout, but it was a very good formula back then. We dabbled a bit in the Rookie Bangers at the same time and that’s when we got keen for the Bangers and got rid of the Lightning Rod.’

Bangers remained at the centre of Michael’s racing from that point, having the odd dabble before fully kick-starting his campaign in the 2010 season. ‘I did a full season of rookies. I enjoyed them at Ipswich and Yarmouth, so in 2011 we got hold of some Hondas and that’s when the wins were coming thick and fast. We won the Ipswich Championship that year. That was a special championship for me as dad had won it 20 years pervious. He dominated the championship in the early 90’s so it meant a lot to him too. We had a go in Mungo’s (442 Simon Berry) saloon that year and won a race, so I bought a car but it never got raced and was sold on. The 2011 championship win was a fluke apparently, so we proved them all wrong and won it for the second year, but 2013 was by far my best year. Unfortunately, I got banned at the start of the season and that’s when they brought out the World Final for the rookies. I had to work hard to qualify as I was starting from the back every race. I had a lot of wins that year but the main aim was the World Final. There was a lot of luck involved on the night and somehow I came away with the title, and I managed 2nd in the Ipswich Championship too that year – I didn’t quite do to the hatrick!’

It’s clear to see that Michael’s father, David, was a massive part of his racing, which is something that will be touch upon in further detail later on in this interview. The Ipswich Track Championship holding substantially more weight over the Rookie World win, which another topic which is addressed in due course, but we will continue to delve in the timeline of Michael’s racing to date. ‘2014 was a mixed year of racing. I lost a bit of love with the rookies as it was all getting a bit petty with the rules, so after I defended the World, I gave them up and went to the National Banger scene. I’d already done the support race that year on World Final night in a Toyota Supra.’

‘2015 came and we set out to qualify for the Unlimited World and got in on the first attempt. I was using Supra’s at the time and I wasn’t quite on the pace so for the World Final we built a frogeye and it was much better. We were running 3rd in the main race with a few laps to go and a certain Mr Overy whipped me out the rest is history!’ That World Final performance certainly put him on the radar of the wider audience, convincing any doubters that he had what it took to compete among the ‘big boys’ having taken the step up from the ‘Rookie’ class with others following his footsteps in the years that followed. 

The following years saw Michael add some titles to his CV whilst solidifying back to back World Final appearances. Michael also gained respect among his peers, guesting for some big teams such as Midnight Runners, Team Black and Damage Inc over the years. ‘2016 was another year getting into the World and I won The Raid along the way. My old friend Tick Steward helped with the World Final car, and god did he do a good job! I finished 5th from 32nd on the grid. The following year was a mixed year with copping a ban and we decided to switch to Incarace for 2018. I qualified for the World but had no success on the night. 2019 I registered with Mildenhall and won their Points Championship which got me back on the World Final grid and I came within a lap of winning the 2L Shale World at Kings Lynn.’ A constant within Michael looking back over the years is that he is always there among the places and on that main grid.

‘We all know how shit 2020 was! I got second in the Supreme Championship and only did one other meeting. Dad became very unwell and we always did the racing together. I did one meeting after losing Dad, but I just wasn’t interested in the racing whatsoever. I registered with Mildenhall once again in 2022 and remain with them now. I did a few meetings, but a must for me was the Waller Memorial – I grew up loving the old cars, especially a Triumph, so I got one and had a blinding day in it!’

Michael talks about his father a lot throughout the interview, and his passing obviously had a huge impact on Michael’s life both personally and on the racing front too. One thing that stands true about the racing community is the club together when called upon, and that was certainly the case when it came to David. Michael delves more into this. ‘Dad owned a farm which we still have today. When he became unwell I had to take over role and help out on the farm whilst being a full time carpenter, which I still do today so I don’t get much time on my hands to build the cars and race. Dad helped me a lot and he loved going racing. That’s why I’ve been using ‘used’ cars that I had lying about.’ 

The Waller Reunion weekend last year saw the perfect opportunity for a memorial race in David’s honours. Michael previously mentioned his love for the older cars which stems from his Dad’s racing. ‘We as a family were amazed by the love and support from everybody. Dad was a big character but we didn’t realise how popular he was. He was very old school and loved his A60’s and Triumphs, and the Waller meeting was the perfect setting for it.’ Naturally, the all Triumph race on the Sunday was decided upon as the ideal fit for the race in David’s memory. ‘A lot of old boys wanted to do it but sourcing a car and their age was a factor. Derek Caton (520 Undertaker) was one of dad’s best friends, a secret team mate of some sorts, so for him to do it was very special; especially having the two cars on the back of the grid together. One of dad’s other good friends Willie Skoyles drove me out for the parade which set the day off right for me. I appreciated all the efforts from everyone!’

We rewind a little to discuss when Michael won the Rookie World Championship, which is now referred to as the 1600 World Championship after the formula has undergone changes over the past ten years or so. Michael was the first to take the honours and display the gold roof and did so whilst being the Ipswich Track Champion too. Michael wanted to clarify something first, however, ‘everyone thinks I’m at Ipswich boy, and I’m not. Let’s put that straight!’ he jokes before going on to take about the race itself. ‘I remember it like it was yesterday. I got spun out and had people coming off the shale at me all race and somehow came through with all the wheels on. It will always go down in the history books so that’s an honour and being an East Anglian winning at the home track was unbelievable. I knew I was in with a chance as I had been going well all year at Ipswich, but there was some fast boys at the front of the grid – luckily a few went out and it was only Pope (426 Mark Pope), who I had to get past.’

Michael mentioned falling out with the Rookies a bit which opted him to take the jump to Nationals, but I got him to address the rule changes and the change to ‘1600 Bangers’ as they are now referred as. ‘I wasn’t racing them when the name change happened, that was about 2020 I guess? We were running the radiators behind the engine so when water tanks were introduced it didn’t make much odds apart from you could hit a bit harder. They were still calling them rookies when I won the world, but it did feel like the formula had gone up a notch. The popularity of the formula definitely grew when the world final was introduced. I did win a Wildcard at Ipswich in 2016 as I was racing Rookies there whilst doing the National Bangers.’

We’ve delved a lot into Michael’s career and racing history, but what lies ahead for the Sudbury based driver? ‘Unfortunately not as much as I’d hoped due to work commitments. But I’ll be registered at mildenhall again and I’ll do their Unlimited meetings/BWS rounds and mondeo meetings. The Waller and Vincent meetings are a definite as I like the old car stuff. I’ll probably do the Ipswich BWS, and anything else is a bonus. The 1300 Stock Car has been sold, but there is another in the yard for a rainy day.’

With learning everything we have about Michael, you get a good impression of what has shaped him to be the driver that he is today, but who would he have alongside him in his dream 6 a side team? ‘Willie Skoyles Snr, Colin Farley, Nemesis, Roona and Jack Overy.’ That’s an impressive line-up and one that would mean serious business for sure!

Michael would like to end the interview with some notes of appreciation. ‘My Dad especially, none of it would of been possible without him! Jayden, Ash, Chris, Clive and Johnny C too – they have helped me no end over the years!’

We’d like to thank Michael for his service time in what was a very personal insight in to his racing career to date and wish him all the best for the 2024 season.

Credit to all individual photographers – Clive Marchant (GridArt), photo114, Alex Carley (AC Photos), Oliver Morris (Moza’s Race Photos) and any others used throughout.

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