Trackstar Racing | News | Interviews | 2015 interviews | Bangers | 390 David Gibson

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390 David Gibson

This interview with 390 David Gibson was conducted by Mark Paulson and appeared in the Unlimited Banger Icebreaker programme on 15 January.



He might have been one of the leading performers on the local stage here at the Norfolk Arena for a number of years, but 2014 still represented something of a breakthrough season for 390 David Gibson and his Mad Hatters team. He began the year as a committed entertainer on track, popular with the fans and well acknowledged for racing in the right spirit, but without a huge amount to show for his efforts beyond the 2013 Entertainers League. He ended it as World and UK Champion, 2014 Entertainers League Champion, runner-up in the National Points Championship and with the team having claimed success in the local Two-Litre and Micro events. That is a pretty successful haul by anyone’s standards.

“Yeah, it was really,” agreed the Bourne-based driver, before admitting that he was hungry for even more success: “Shame we couldn’t round off the points as well. I had both engines blow up at the Nutcracker so that made it a bit difficult, but I was heading towards both leagues.”

Gibson fended off a season-long challenge from 601 Chris Medler for the Entertainers League crown, while he fell just short of preventing 338 Terry Garrod successfully defending the National Points title, after a fantastic final month of the season from the latter saw him overhaul Gibson in the race for the silver roof. Only once have both titles gone to the same driver – 85 James Ellis in 2009 – and ‘Gibbo’ was keen to repeat that. Being well-placed in both is not only a reflection of the shear commitment required to race a full season of meetings in a wide variety of cars at the track, but arguably the ultimate endorsement of being a true all-rounder: someone who can perform crowd-pleasing displays of crashing as well as race with the best.

Said Gibson: “Well yeah, considering one league’s for crashing, one’s for ‘rodding’ – being able to rod and crash, usually it’s one or the other. You get noticed like that as well so it’s good. I can’t grumble really – first in one, second in the other; a couple of [other] titles in the year as well, so it’s pretty good.

“It must have been about 30 [meetings] just at King’s Lynn and then doing other tracks in between. We’ve got a good lot of boys but it takes some building [of cars] to do it. With as wide a range of cars, you’ve got to have a lot of gear as well so it’s not everyone that can do every class. But we’ve got some good hands and got quite a bit of gear building up now – it’s took us long enough, about eight years! – so that makes it easier.”

Gibbo’s car will be resplendent in its gold roof this afternoon, in recognition of his triumph in the Two-Litre Banger Shale World Final here last July. He won that in style, starting from row 11 of the grid and working his way through the pack before pulling off a last bend move on erstwhile leader 188 John Reeves.

“It was a bit good wasn’t it!” he chuckled. “There’s nothing like leaving it till the last minute! It was a bit of a shock, I started quite a way down the grid. It was certainly unexpected but you never know, do you – keep going.”

Throughout Stock Car and Banger racing, world champions often experience a year of mixed fortunes with the gold roof. Whilst savouring the recognition off track, it can be hard work once the racing starts. Not only do they have to start every race from the very back, but expectations are also raised and they can often find themselves as something of a target. Thankfully for Gibson the experience has been almost entirely positive so far.

“Even pulling in it at tracks with the gold roof, everyone notices you,” the former mechanic commented. “You might as well show it off – every car, try and have it painted up, because gold and red, it does look real nice. You’ve got to make the most of it when you have it, don’t you – it’s nice to show the gold roof off when you’re travelling.

“I wouldn’t say it’s made me a target [any more than] I was before – I’ve got the same enemies. You just do what you do, don’t you.”

So besides continuing to be near-ever-presents here at King’s Lynn and regular trips down to Suffolk, where else will the Mad Hatters be travelling in 2015 to show off Gibbo’s gold?

“We haven’t really looked ahead or talked of meetings we haven’t done,” the 24-year-old admitted. “We usually get to a month before and plan ahead then. We might go over to Ireland again and do Shamwreck – that was just a real good weekend, just travelling and taking a car up there, so we might look into doing that again this year. I’m sure we’ll have a few trips out, somewhere different. We’ll be doing the Mildo’s. The more the travel, the more expense it is, so we don’t want to go too far away for a couple of laps!”

Reflecting on his and the team’s other successes in 2014, the lorry driver said: “We pretty much dominated Micros, 15s and Two-Litres, if you like. It’s good because before this year we hadn’t really got a title or a team title between us. Now all in one year we’ve got individual and team titles.”

After the Mad Hatters claimed the Two-Litre team championship on August Bank Holiday Monday, one major title that didn’t go back to Bourne was the Unlimited World of Shale, staged 10 days later. It started well when Gibson drew a place on the front row of the grid but the race itself did not go to plan.

“I had a few teething problems,” he explained. “It jumped out of gear on the first lap and then someone spun in front of me and it jumped out of gear again, and then in the end it blew up. I was still running about sixth or seventh but then the engine let go. That’s one more thing that we need to look at really, getting the Unlimiteds right. That’s the only thing lacking at the minute but we’ll get there. Lot of work Unlimiteds, aren’t they – you can’t just slap them together and expect to have a good meeting, they’re bloody hard work. We’ll get there.”

Any disappointment there was made up for by double success in Micro Bangers – first Gibson claimed the UK Championship in October and then he teamed up with youngest brother 309 Liam and 399 Jonny Atkin to scoop the Micro team title in our Christmas meeting. For former Junior Banger Gold Roof Champion Liam, it was only his third ever meeting in National Bangers.

Said David: “It’s real good to see that he’s adjusted to it. I mean, he’s had a couple of meetings in the Nationals, and watching him, you’d think he’d been doing it for two years. I thought I’d have to watch out for him a bit from the start but no, the way he’s been the last two meetings, he’s recognised he can look after himself. He’s better than half the field out there and he’s only been doing it two meetings! He’s looking forward to a few more meetings – fair play to him.”

Middle brother 391 Ben has only made sporadic appearances on track in the last couple of years due to university commitments but he will be in action for the team this afternoon, along with Atkin and 611 Joe Geeves.

“Yeah, Ben’s there,” David confirmed. “I don’t know how much he’ll be doing this year – he’s got a good job lined up abroad in America for a bit and Canada, and uni work, so I don’t know how much he’ll be doing. He still enjoys it when he is racing.

“Hopefully we should all be there – we’ve got a lot to do this week. We’ve got four cars lined up so hopefully it should be alright. I’ve got a used Jag for it – the used Jag from Nutcracker – so as long as the track’s alright, it should be good – finish it off.

“We aren’t the strongest in Unlimiteds yet but we should just get stuck in like anyone else and just have a bit of fun really. I can’t see us being in winning contention but we’ll do what we do.”

So who should be looking in their mirrors, wary of the red-and-yellow peril behind?

“Probably Grey and Blacks mainly,” Gibson laughed, “but apart from that anyone that’s not red and yellow really – team event, you’re all for all, aren’t you so just have fun and smash it up.

“I took the Volvo estate [last year]. The track was a bit wet, wasn’t it, but got some good crashing in with the Gypsy Crew.”

The Wisbech-based Gypsy Crew sadly are not entered for this year’s event – so they’re off the hook! – but as Gibbo says, anyone that’s not in Mad Hatters colours can expect to be on the receiving end of some hits from the Lincolnshire lads. You can be sure that they’ll be out there to entertain. But don’t write off their chances of winning as well – as 2014 proved, these boys don’t just know how to crash, they know how to race too: true all-rounders.

And like all the teams racing today, there are those behind the scenes that deserve credit for helping to keep the show on road. One man in particular has a huge role to play for the Mad Hatters, David’s father Carl, a former top racer himself. “I’d just like to thank my dad,” Gibbo confirmed. “He’s a big help because obviously he gets all the cars and supplies transport for me and the boys.”


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