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‘Luck of the Irish’ – 388 Stevo McGrath Interview

Stevo McGrath is a name all banger fans should now be firmly familiar with, and he certainly made sure of that with a dominant victory, his biggest to date, capturing the Unlimited Bangers Championship of the World at Ipswich in October.

(Photo – Ed Fahey)

The 32 year old lorry driver and hiab operator from Dublin has had a standout year. Bryson got the treat of catching up with the Team Sour man to discuss his career to date and that World Final win.

(Photo – AC Photos)

As with most drivers in the banger scene, Stevo got into racing through his father. ‘I grew up watching my father race alongside Team Savage. The first meeting I attended was when I was six days old. I remember most of growing up watching the racing, and memories with Dad. From the 3 litre Ambulance raced at Santry Raceway, to the day he caged me in a Nissan Bluebird at Nutts Corner. Racing was certainly different across Ireland as it was just a bunch of lads from all over Ireland smashing each other to bits and then drinking pints in the pub together after. You don’t really get that these days.’

(Photo – Samsons Pics)

It was through his Dad, Ray, how Stevo entered his first race. ‘My first meeting was in the Van Bangers at Nutts Corner. My dad gave me his van for the DD and I was barely able to reach the wheel and pedals,’ Stevo Jokes. ‘I did win the DD though and I haven’t looked back since.’ For those who are unaware of how the name ‘Little Stevo’ came about, it was also through the Team Savage days, where he started his career at, where the name came about. ‘There was two Stevos, and I was the youngest so that’s where the Little came from.’

(Photo – Unknown)

In Stevo’s 17 years of racing, he has done most tracks, stating it would be probably be easier to list what tracks he hasn’t been too. ‘Jheez! He laughs. ‘I’ve done lots mate – mostly Tullyroan, Kings Lynn and Mildenhall these days. There’s too many to name but I’m hoping to do a few that I’m missing off the list.’ Aldershot, Taunton, Mendips, Northampton and Sheffield were tracks Stevo mentioned he would like to get to; perhaps we could see Stevo at Mendips in the summer next year when we return for our weekender. Another track Stevo is very fond of is Emmen; Stevo being one of the first to travel across to the Dutch shaleway. ‘I think it was originally Devastator (24 Mark de Laat) who invited me over at for the first couple of years, then Pavarotti (890 Leszek Malinowski) offered me a car and it just went on from there. It’s a different gravy at Emmen. It is spot on: no ifs or buts; smash each other to bits and shake hands.’

(Photo – Snakerider)

Over the years, Stevo has been at the realm of some stunning machinery. This year alone has seen him pilot a stunning 1959 Ford Edsel Villager at the Maai Testimonial, and the fantastic duo of the Jaguar XJ6 Twenty Six and Austin Cambirdge Hearse at the Kev Waller Memorial. Other top motors we’ve seen include the Toyota Custom Crown Estate at Bradford’s Stan Woods Memorial, and it’s those sort of meetings that Stevo has been renowned for bringing tin too. The 2018 Stan Woods Memorial saw a Daimler DB18 Consort, a pair of Edsel’s over at Emmen, the infamous Chevrolet Suburban, the list is endless. Of all of the cars, the favourite was ‘probably the a60 hearse, because Kev was a big part of my racing, even though he lived in the UK and Tom is probably one of my longest mates. With the Edsels, one came from here in Dublin and the other were from the UK.’

Stevo has been at the forefront of several teams, alongside regular guest appearances for various factions in bangers. Stevo gives us a little more insight into those. ‘Team Savage was just my dad and his mates, so obviously started with them. They kind of went their separate ways, or drivers just finished up, so I went with Assassins who were a few lads that lived close by. Dad used to take them to every banger meeting. Then the same thing again happened, so I just went my own way.

It’s clear to see how well respected Stevo is, you’ve just got to look at how many people surrounded him, the car and lorry on his return from the track after his World Final win. ‘I didn’t realise how much people respected me. The amount of people coming over to say how deserving I were was unreal.’ Stevo certainly enjoys the other side of racing, it’s clear to see – the drinks and food with mates before or after a meeting. ‘The social is everything. If you can’t have a laugh and banter with other drivers and teams before racing or night’s out before then it’s definitely not as enjoyable as everyone thinks. The social makes the racing good I think.’ On that basis, I asked Stevo to compare racing currently, to how he remembers it growing up or when he first started. ‘Everyone moans and that about how racing has changed – they’ve spent this or they’ve welded that. Times moving, and very fast as well. We’ve got to enjoy what we love while we are here and it’s still here. Years ago I didn’t know how to be competitive, I just drove into things. I then wanted to be competitive and changed my style, but it’s a different buzz battling with the best.’ 

It’s very apparent in both Stevo’s attitude off track, and racing ethics on track that he wants to be known for being at the top end. Over the past 24 months he has gone from upsetting the sport’s elite, to knocking on the door, to now being held in regards with the top drivers, and rightly so. Stevo admits that the success isn’t all down to him. ‘This has probably been the best year I’ve ever had. Winning both irish titles, as well as the World Cup and of course the World Final. It doesn’t get much better I don’t think. It certainly has been amazing. I never did think I was able to win it (the World Final). Meeting the right lads behind the scenes, and the team  as well made it all possible. No driver is good without a good team.’ 

Reflecting on that World Final win, it was an impressive drive with everything going right that could go right. I asked Stevo to relive the race and emotions from that night. ‘Unbelievable!’ Stevo starts with, which I would imagine most would say about winning the biggest title in the sport. ‘I still can’t believe it’s happened. It was emotional for me, I’m not going to lie because I’ve never experienced winning something so big! There’s 60 drivers that are trying to win that race on the night.’ Stevo has a knack for appearing at the ‘bigger’ meetings, and as previously mentioned, normally in something cool, so I asked whether there were any other meetings that stood out over the years. ‘Maai’s meeting was the tits! Everyone had the right attitude that day. One or two of the BWS rounds were proper good. I love the pre stuff, whether it’s 70s or 90s. The Mildenhall All Granadas was cool.

(Photo – AC Photos)

So what’s next for Stevo? Well, firstly it’s his ‘homecoming’ of sorts at Tullyroan this Saturday (29th October) for the Unlimited Irish Championship where Stevo is on pole. It’s the first meeting that he gets to properly display the gold, and it’s great that the opportunity gets to be on home soil. ‘It should be good. I’m looking forward to meeting the people that couldn’t get to Ipswich.’ Following that, it’s back to standard Little Stevo, for what we know and love him for. ‘I’m just going to try and do as much as I can and enjoy myself.’ Enjoy himself he will as well, with the added bonus of automatically booking himself into the World Final race for next year, I suppose he can relax a little.

(Photo – DH Race Pics)

There’s no secret that the Irish and Northern Irish banger scene lacks the driver support compared to what we see here in mainland UK. With the World Final win of Stevo, coupled with 59 ‘Leadfoot’ Steven Bolton’s success previously, I wondered what Stevo’s views were on whether that would have any impact. ‘No it wont change unfortunately mate. There’s not enough driver base here to have high numbers; a lot of people have retired and there’s no new blood. I don’t think anything can be done to bring in new drivers either.’

(Photo – Northern Bangers)

As always, I ask my million pound question. Name 5 drivers to form your perfect 6 a side team along side yourself. It provides a slightly different side of the interviewee, putting them on the spot and  gives an insight into how they value a driver. ‘What a question,’ Stevo laughs. ‘(617 Jack) Overy; absolutely outstanding in every car. (47) Andy Davies; his natural ability isn’t real! (331) Boxer (Jack, Jason Jackson); love him or hate him, the man can drive a car! (114) Lakey (Liam Lake); who can fault him. (252) Boogie (Steven Bugler); he’s keen for anything that comes.

(Photo – Trackstar Racing)

Stevo would like to conclude the interview with a series of thank you’s. ‘I’d like to thank my family and friends. Dad always for transport. Darren and Davy at DMC Promotions for the support and bookings etc. Greg for all the ferries. Gary Jackson, Dom Davies and Dan Klyn for all the signs through the years. Finally literally everyone that enjoys my cars and racing, it’s much appreciated.

(Photo – Trackstar Racing)

Once again I’d like to say a massive thank you to Stevo for taking the time out to chat, and another congratulations from us all at Caged on the World Final win and a top season. We look forward to seeing the gold displayed around the ovals for the next 12 months.

One of my favourite photos from Stevo’s World Final win. Embracing father Ray who you can see is bursting with emotion and pride.

388 Stevo McGrath Roll of Honour

2022 Unlimited Banger World Final

2022 Unlimited Banger World Cup

2022 DMC Points Championship

2021 Unlimited Irish Championship

2020 Unlimited Nutcracker

2019 Unlimited Pre 75 Stan Woods Memorial

2016 2L King of Aghadowey 

2016 2L King of Krash

2015 DMC Points Championship

2015 2L King of Aghadowey 

2015 2L King of Krash

2015 2L RWD Challenge Cup

2015 Aghadowey Siamese

2015 Tullyroan Chained Pairs

2014 2L King of Aghadowey 

2014 2L World Cup

2012 Tullyroan Spring Open

2011 Tullyroan Spring Open

Interview Header – Jimbo’s Race Photos. The Austin A60 Hearse which Stevo doted as his favourite car to race.

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