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Young cub growing into full bear – 121 Leo Riley Interview

Everyone knows the surname Riley if they’ve grown up around bangers, and if they don’t, they should at least recognise The Bears team. One of the latest coming through the ranks is 121 Leo Riley, who was voted by the Caged Nation as runner-up in last year’s newcomer of the year.

The Bears, the Riley surname, whether you know about these or not, you’ll soon know about Leo (Kimberley Jessica Photography)

The first question had to be what was it like growing up having 521 ‘Ace Ash’ Ashley Riley as a dad and 421 ‘Nutty Nige’ Nigel Riley for a grandad; two icons in the banger world. ‘From the second I first went racing, I was addicted to the sport’, Leo confesses. ‘Watching dad and grandad smash into things as fast as they could was amazing, but not only that, The Bears team as a whole was what made racing so great because it wasn’t just about the racing on the track, it was the whole journey to and from the track with your mates what made it so enjoyable for me.’

Leo out on track with Dad, Ash (Cripple Photos)

The Bears were heavily involved across the UK and Europe, often appearing at the bigger meetings en mass, and although they still appear frequently at meetings these days, the big roads trips are often few and far between. Leo recalls some meetings that stood out to him as a boy. ‘I’ve always remembered travelling to Belgium and Ireland the most because I use to enjoy the trip and the racing and atmosphere in Belgium was something else it was such a massive buzz. I remember watching dad get knocked out while watching from the centre standing on the inner wall. One of the best meetings I watched when I was little was the 2013 Wimbledon BWS because everyone was getting stuck in.’

Leo driving his Dad out on the grand parade before the World Final

Having an upbringing like that and growing up around the racing, it was inevitable that Leo went straight into racing when the opportunity arose. ‘My first meeting in a banger was in a Junior Banger at Eastbourne. Dad built the car and I put some dodgy signs on it too, but it was amazing! I plodded round, knocked into a few things and managed to get 4 wheels off the ground flying across the forbidden Arlington grass!’ Obviously Leo was straight into the infamous red, white and blue of The Bears. ‘All I dreamt of as a kid to be in the same colours as my family. To be in the colours it just made my childhood dream come true after waiting all that time.’

Leo getting stuck into the action in his Junior Banger days (Matt Bull/Racepixels)

Leo wasted no time taking the step up to National Bangers when he turned 16, making his debut in the formula at the Maai Testimonial meeting, where he was heavily involved in the action and was the recipient of an entertainer award. ‘From the moment I got there I was buzzing and couldn’t wait to just get out there. As soon as I was on track, I was just in the zone – no thoughts at all just ready to race, but I couldn’t of asked for a better first race really. I was getting round alright and to end it with a amazing crash and to hear the crowd roaring was just something else. As many of you saw, the video on Facebook; the happiness and joy shared between me and my dad was amazing it was by far one of the best days of my life.’ Leo references the video that was shared online of himself pulling back into the pits and getting out of his car to his dad pouring with emotion and pride as they shared a cuddle in what was a very heartwarming display. 

Leo at the Maai Testimonial meeting (Kimberley Jessica Photography)

Leo reflects on his first few months since taking the step up, and previews what we can expect to see from ‘Big Show’ this year. ‘So far it has gone pretty well. I’ve smashed some cars up and annoyed some people just like I’ve been tought to do. This year I’ll be flat out racing; getting experience and having fun, and hopefully entertain the crowd!’ Can we expect to see Leo in any material any time soon? ‘Just the same old merc stuff. A supra for nutty niges meeting and that’s about it. Hopefully over the coming years there will be a few cool cars.’

The Mercedes seems to be Leo’s favoured tool of choice already (AC Photos)

I thought it would be interesting to get Leo’s perspective of how bangers fair these days compared to when he watched growing up. ‘It all depends as to what you see racing as. Some people say it’s changed a lot, but personally I think yes, there are a different basis of drivers, but a lot of them are out there to crash like they used to. The only thing that was better when I was younger was the older cars and everyone was on a V6!

Taking all from the interview into account, I asked the question I ask most interviewees – who would you pick alongside yourself to form your dream team? Leo’s response, ‘421 Nutty Nige, 158 Shane Davies, 521 Ash Riley, 249 Polo and 428 Grumpy. All great drivers and crashers!

Leo would like to conclude the interview with a few thank you’s. ‘I’d like to just thank everyone down the yard for coming down and helping off there own back. Dad for everything; if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be racing at all. Blake and Ruckesey for the constant banger building last year.

Oh and one last thing from Leo…

As dad says, let’s go wind some people up!’

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  1. Pingback: 23, Under 23, for 2023 - Caged! Bangers

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