Connect with us


Big Cat Worker 🐈- 243 Pete Osborne Interview

Pete Osborne, or the more acknowledged ‘Bodja’ is a very popular driver. His mix of crashing, racing and general malarkey has won the appeal of many fans, and this interview will show why that’s a case, as Bryson caught up with hydraulics engineer to discuss his racing exploits to date. 

A common theme within racing is that driver’s are formed by following their family route, and although that was the case for Bodja, it wasn’t necessarily the direct route his family would have chosen. ‘I’ve been going racing since I wasn’t long out the womb. My Mum and Dad used to take me and my sister to watch at Arlington regularly; they always had stories about me being pinned to the fence from the start of the meeting to the end. I’d even stare at the breakdowns clearing the track and all sorts, but I’m 3rd generation of stock cars, it dates back to the 60’s and the old MG magnettes with my family, although I was always the black sheep venturing into bangers, as the rest of the family were very stock car driven. I did also do a stint in ministox too, from age 13 to 16 before the bangers.’

As Pete admits, he was the odd one out in his family by pursuing the bangers instead of the stock cars, but it wasn’t a straightforward decision with many factors deciding that. ‘When doing Ministox, we had raced on a proper shoestring budget. Mum and Dad weren’t very well off and my dad said that if I wanted to keep racing then it was down to me, and that mixed with working in a scrap yard at the time pointed me towards having a go in a few rookie bangers. This was like 2005/2006 ish and back then it was Astras, cavaliers, escorts – dashes still in like Back to Basics nowadays, but tamer I’d say, as I remember putting the shoulder straps of the harness to the back seat, seatbelt bolt holes! It was cheap and easy and I soon learnt to enjoy the fact that cars bent and I enjoyed trying to fix them quickly – it was fun. My sister also was having a few goes in rookie bangers then too, and it was fixing an Astra of hers one night that gave me the nickname of ‘Bodja’. She did a ball joint and didn’t have a spare so I seatbelted the leg around the chassis rail to hold the shaft in and it actually lasted a whole race and thus the Bodja name was born and it stuck; I just changed it from “Bodger” to “Bodja” to stand out a bit more and be different!’

There we have it, the beginning of the personality we know and love today, but it wasn’t too long before he was told he was a little too heavy footed for the ‘rookie’ class. ‘In about 2008ish, I raced a Renault 19 in the rookies and ran someone in at Arlington on the rolling lap. I got a letter after saying I was too heavy for rookie bangers and that I was banned and I could only race either 1300 Stock Cars or National Bangers, so my first unlimited was a Volvo 240 Estate on the key at an Arlington Gala Night! From then, I did a few different bits – London Opens in the days Mondeos were just starting to come about, a few more Unlimited meetings and micro meetings here and there – Arlington, Dover, Wimbledon, and a few other relatively local ones before I started picking up the pace a bit in 2010 and doing Icebreakers, Civil Wars, team meetings etc. I just loved crashing back then and the cars were a lot easier to build and chuck away!’ 

Bodja was certainly an entertainer, regularly keen for a crash and rarely bothered by who was on the receiving end, so it came as a little bit of a shock when he began to reduce his banger appearances and purchased a 1300 Stock Car, eventually pursuing his family heritage. What made him complete the change of formula though? ‘There were a few different factors again really, by that point I’d flicked between Nationals and by then “rookie” bangers were just bangers. I’d enjoyed a few big meetings in the nationals, had a few years racing 1600 bangers for a while with the Dreamers having a few crashes, and then lost the yard I had. I had a few changes with the home life and I just fancied something different. I enjoyed them, but I don’t think I was consistent enough in them – one bad lap in them and you can loose 4 car lengths over a lap. Then not to mention I got banned for a washer on the rear hub, so I got the hump and sold it all when I started my business,’ Bodja laughs.

Luckily for us banger fans that Bodja did get the hump, as it meant we got to see him return. ‘Covid hit, and whilst all that was going on I fancied racing something so I brought a national Astra kit, and did the Caged meeting at Standlake.’ What a display he put on that day, straight into the lively form we are familiar with.

‘From there over the winter I ended up buying and building a whole jag set up and hey presto we were at the first BWS at Northampton after Covid!’ Bodja still favours the Jaguar set-up, often only one of a few out on track piloting a Jaguar whilst others opt for the more common Ford Scorpio or Mercedes W210. Bodja explains why this is the case. ‘Well, I could tell you some super scientific answer to this one but I don’t have one! When I made the decision to get an unlimited kit again during Covid it was either Merc or Jag. I couldn’t afford the frog route. I think the price of them now is madness, and the amount of people using Mercs, I thought it wouldn’t be long until they are similar money, so I opted for the jags. They are different though, the x308 and the x300 although they look the same, the chassis rails, bulkhead, inner wings and front suspension are all different so I went for the v8 shell route, as there was less people using them again. Since Covid, I’ve now got a v8 shell set up, a straight 6 shell set up, as the cradles and water tanks are different, a series jag set up now after world final and a rolls Royce set up. I’m a firm believer of sticking with something and trying to make it better, hence why I use them on tarmac too. There’s less diff ratio options than the merc and frog boys have so I have to play with wheel and tyre size a bit, but we keep changing things and trying to make them better. They are just a heavy old boat to peddle round on a fast day against a frog that’s almost 200kg lighter. I did buy a merc set up in 2022 and tried it a few times but it wasn’t for me so I sold that and brought the straight 6 jag stuff.’

The use of Jaguar’s on a frequent has earned Bodja the tag of ‘Big Cat Worker’, and he certainly showed he could pilot them when he guided his X308 to a third place in the 2022 World Final, surprising many on route. Bodja jokes that he was among those surprised. ‘I’ll just add that I was a part of those that didn’t expect it! I’m still not sure how that happened! To go from pole, then spun down to 10th on lap 2, to fight my way back up and then spin again on lap 18, I’ve no idea, but the videos and the transponder laps don’t lie! It was amazing though, honestly, for me that was like winning the world final. People like me, on my budget, with my luck don’t get on that podium, so I think by me downing that bottle of champagne showed how much that meant to me!’ It was great to see Bodja up on that podium, and to be on there alongside a good friend in Stevo in his glory was clearly a special moment for the pair. Pete admits that ‘it gave me the kick up the arse to try again for 2023 though, so to get on the grid 2 years in a row of trying and to finish both was good.’

Bodja slightly undervalues that achievement, having qualified third in the Spedeworth points; only 3 points behind second placed Micky Maskell Jnr (327). He then guided his stunning Series 2 XJ to a finish this year; the car winning our Smartest Car of 2023 Award – the car having special meaning behind it which Bodja opens up on. ‘That was some car that one. I brought it off of Reece Tingle and I picked it up at Mildenhall BWS. By that point, the plan was to take a Series Jag just for something different, I wanted to beat the blue jag from the year before, the one I got the 3rd with. Then my mum fell ill suddenly and unfortunately we lost her in September. The focus then turned to trying for the best car of world final rather than the result in the main race to pay tribute to her. She was so so so bloody proud the year before honestly, I still listen to the voice clips of her shouting her “well done’s” down a WhatsApp voice clip from then. So we went for it. 8 weeks start to finish and that was full on 8 weeks! The shell wasn’t the best, we had to make everything as I’d never made one – cradle, engine mounts, prop shaft, peddles, water tank, find a power lock axle the right ratio. The car had sat since 1990, so every ball joint and steering arm was worn out; wheel bearings, seized callipers, shocks were knackered, springs had sagged, literally axles out and start again, then we coach bolted everything which took even longer. Try spannering side plate bolts on inside the door skin it’s not the one! Loads of chrome was missing so I spent loads on that, the boot plinth was £50 off eBay. The grille and wheels I brought off Callum 100. Tye (Williams) supplied the other bonnet. I got a fair bit of help along the way. I painted it myself at my workshop which is a dusty farm unit and Dan Klyn worked the magic and that was us really. I aimed for car of the meeting, so to get the vote of car of the year really does mean a lot. Especially knowing that I fillered it and painted it myself when others sent them off to paint shops for the real deal etc, it’s really cool and a good achievement. I’m not sure how or what we can do to beat it for 2024 though!’

Naturally the third place in the World, as well as the emotion around the Series II Jaguar and having his sister drive him out on the World Final are standout moments of his career. Bodja reflects on some of his other moments of his career, in particular his time racing with the Dreamers. ‘I’d been mates with Steve (Cecil), Vaughan, and everyone that had raced with them in that era for a long time. I done a few team meetings and stuff with them and then just stuck to the colours; just a group of mates going racing together and helping each other, then the war kicked off with Team Trim. I’m still not sure what that was about but I got stuck in with it as I loved a crash! I wasn’t part of the Banger Boys documentary, although I did pop in on it for about 10 seconds! We did do 2 trips to Barbados racing out there on a circuit though! It was for a Festival of Speed they had there with F1 stars and stuff – it was an experience for sure! That came through Steve and his UK Action Cars business. I also got to go to South Africa for a TB program for Sky1 called Carnage. I did it with Gordon Coull and another lad, Joe as a team of 3. It was 30 cars going head to head as a Mad Max/Robot Wars type thing. I was in the car with flails and weapons on it, in arenas knocking out other cars. We built it at Gordon’s yard from a Hilux Surf with ironwork through it like a stock car. We made it to the final 6 out of 30, before I blew the transfer box up in the Hilux!’ 

As we mentioned early doors, Bodja enjoys the light-hearted element of racing. The social side being just as important as the racing on occasions. ‘I’ve always been an idiot and try to find a funny side in most things. I’ll always be the joker in a room of strangers and I don’t really know why. I think it stems back to when I was at school I got bullied a little bit, so I soon learned that if I took the piss out of my self, the bullies had nothing to laugh at! This year has been no different, me and a few of the lads thought up the silly mullet videos in the build up to the Mildo weekender; just to try and put a smile on some faces. I know it’s not to everyone’s liking. Some people are far too serious or have too big an ego to see the funny side of it, but it’s just us dicking around and being idiots. The same goes for the Carnival Night at Lynn just gone; we said we would dress up for a laugh and I ended up with beetlejuice. Dan Klyn was the day of the dead bloke, Charlie Randell was a very camp 80s policeman – we had a taco, a bear cub, uncle fester, all sorts going on! Just for a laugh! Life’s too short to be serious all the time and racing should be no different! We go racing because it’s fun, why not laugh along the way! I live by a famous Robin Williams quote: “You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t loose it” – it’s refreshing to see that in the competitiveness and seriousness of things like the Banger World Series, and fighting for World Qualification, there is people out there like Bodja, Chaz and the likes that remember it’s still a hobby at the end of the day and it’s to be enjoyed, and that’s why Bodja is well-liked within the scene.

It’s safe to say Bodja has experienced some top moments, but what’s to come for 2024? ‘I said I was going to do it again, then I wasn’t. I lost the mojo a bit whilst building the Yarmouth car. I said to Nikki (the Mrs) I’d do one more year. I probably will, just 2023 drained me so much. I do most of the cars build wise on my own and I did every points scoring meeting Spedeworth wise world final to world final for the points, including the front wheel drive stuff, and then on top of that I did Icebreaker with the Silver Boys, the Waller meeting was 2 cars, spedeweekend, Halloween meeting we did for the fancy dress, there’s been a lot on and it’s taken its toll with home life, running a business and then the extra weight of losing my mum too. I think we will end up doing it again. I’m already starting to sort the Icebreaker car, Mildenhall reunion cars and the first BWS car is sorted and if I qualify for world final again, I already know what I want to take to it too, and yes, of course it’s a big cat.’ Well, we hope to see plenty of Bodja again in 2024. It’s always a pleasure seeing him out on track and he puts the effort in to ensure the young fans are always acknowledged also; regularly taking the opportunity to stop and at least say hello.

With all that being said and taken into account, what does Bodja make of the current situation of bangers? ‘I don’t think you can knock them personally. Don’t get me wrong, unlimited wise, they are more work then they have ever been to build and there’s some serious kit in them but look at the fields of cars you’ve been getting. They are the best they have been for a long time, and the same with the 1600 bangers – full fields all the time and the Back to Basics bangers too. They are great for people that just want some fun and they get a good turn out most meetings too. Don’t get me wrong I miss the days of Granada’s, and easy builds the same as anyone else over 25, but I think you have to move with the times. It does grind on me though when you get the same old “well that was a roddy meeting” comments – honestly guys if you can build a car in less than 2 weeks on your own you’ve done well! These boys that are warring and do a fresh car every meeting and turn up time and time again, I take my hat off to them it’s not easy.’

That leads us nicely into our favourite question we ask all interviewees, and that is who would Bodja have alongside himself to form his perfect 6 a side team? ‘249 Mark Boulden, 617 Jack Overy, 77 Aaron Charles, 239 Steve Carter & 510 Gordon Coull.’

Bodja would like to conclude the interview with several thankyou’s. ‘Tyler, Rob, Wayne and Squirrel who have helped here and there in the workshop. Dan Klyn for the signs and helping at the track with Kev, Ollie, Knotty, Tom and anyone else that’s chipped in and helped along the way. Special thanks to the Mrs, who has put up with some serious calendar sorting or kid juggling to make all the meetings work!’

Thank you to Bodja for taking the time to talk to us. We wish him all the best for the 2024 season and look forward to seeing what big cat he has in store for World Final.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Interviews