Lightning Rods

Whistlin' Jack Smith >> Formulas >> Lightning Rods

When Super Rod grids slumped in 1988 Incarace made the decision to invent a cheaper big hot rod formula. This was the Lightning Rod formula, RWD 2 litre big saloon cars. The original formula allowed for Sierra's, Capri's, BMW's and Volvo's but is now an all Sierra formula. Small tweaks are allowed on suspension and engine.

PRI next took up running of the formula in 1991, with Spedeworth holding guest meetings in 1992, they started licensing their own drivers and promoting from 1995. This soon spread to Northern and Southern Ireland. Lightning Rods began in Northern Ireland in 1994 but took until 1999 to run to the same rules as the ORCi regulated formula. Ringwood were also going to run the formula in 2006 (the Special Rods rules being brought inline) but once Spedeworth took over drivers became Spedeworth registered. Now Spedeworth have the largest registered drivers.

The formula is seen as stepping stone from Banger or Stock Cars into a non-contact formula. The racing is rough, due to the size of the cars, small tracks and competitive drivers. The basic Ford Sierra can have slight modifications to engine and suspension and race on control tyre. The Sierra can be the 3 door, 5 door, XR4 or Sapphire version, but not the estate.

Over the years top drivers like the Farrer brothers, Richard Boulton and Darren Ahern have won big races but also been banned. Steve Emerson of Northern Ireland took the country's first World title (Northern Ireland have dominated other hot rod classes). Top banger drivers like Carl 'Jack' Overy, Sonny 'Mush' Sherwood, Shayn Windsor and Jason 'Boxer Jack' Jackson have raced in the class but only briefly. Some of banger drivers who perhaps weren't as quick as those just previously mentioned in bangers have had great success in this class, notably Terry Shelvey and Lee Morrow. World champion drivers have also come into the class, Gary Madgwick was a former banger World champion renowned for his lack of contact, while Diggy Smith and Steve Santry were Saloon Stock Car World champions.

When the class was first brought in many Super Rods drivers dropped down to Lightning Rods. This has now reversed as many of the current Super Rod drivers have Lightning Rod experience. Although drivers are moving onwards from Lightning Rods or the 2 litre hot rods it is an entry level class that attracts new drivers annually to replenish those gone.

New for 2009 is GMP (Cowdenbeath) running the class, the cars are gradually being built. For 2010 the quality of drivers from Scotland may poise a real threat for the long-standing drivers.

Grimley run a similar class that utilises the Sierra running gear but can be any RWD car (but doesn't give much more variation), while Rolling Thunder has the pick up class which are just chopped down Sierra in the pick-up shape. CAMSO have Lightning Rods but have yet to race with the English drivers mainly due to racing in the anti-clockwise direction. For many years Mendips Hills have been running Special Rods which is an all Sierra formula using the 1600 engine with skirts and arhces allowed. Ringwood used to run this formula but since returning becoming an independent formula after Spedeworth departed the Special Rods have stuggled for numbers and been replaced for 2009 with the Mondeo Rods. The Mondeo Rods were run in 2008 by Swaffham who also ran a class called Thunder Cars which has now been re-named as Lightning Rods.

The class runs at all the tracks at Spedeworth, PRI and Incarace in England. For 2007 Incarace took the class to the shale track of Coventry but they have yet return. Tracks Used: Aldershot, Arena Essex, Birmingham, Cowdenbeath, Eastbourne, Great Yarmouth, Hednesford, Ipswich, Northampton, Nutts Corner, Rockingham, Tipperary, Wimbledon. For further information check out the Track Guide

Championship Winners
The World Championship has traditionally alternated from the Incarace, Spedeworth and PRI tracks. The 2010 World Championship will be held at the Spedeweekend for the first time ever. Being created by Incarace the National title was the first big title the formula ran to as part of the National Championship weekend, but due to poor numbers at domestic meetings over the past few years it has been dropped, the title is still run later in the year but just over one days racing. Championship Winners

The Future
Production of the Sierra ended in 1993, the cars are now becoming harder to find. Although though not scarce they are quickly disappearing. The use of Sierra's within other oval formulas hasn't helped either. The Ford running gear is put into many formulas. The most likely option will be the replacement Sierra model the Mondeo, this car though wasn't rear wheel drive. The converted car may be the future but the Sierra still has a good few years left. Swaffham and Ringwood have already moved towards the Mondeo, as new promoters they have nothing to lose but could be laying the foundations for the class.

Production team Text: Paul Ballard 2010
Layout: Paul Ballard

Related articles
Lightning Rod 2014 British Championship Report
Lightning Rod World Championship roll of honour

Photos: Lightning Rods at Wimbledon

Spedeweekend 2014

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