Stonerig Raceway, Unit 2 Milking Green Hartshead Street, Lees, Oldham, OL4 5EE – Visit Now
You might not know it yet, but racing on Stonerig Raceway in Oldham is just brilliant. And it’s definitely not your typical day out…
It seems like all the best things begin in unlikely places. This story starts in the car park of a small industrial unit in the village of Lees, near Oldham. It’s the home of Stonerig Raceway: I’m going to try “the ultimate racing experience”. No need for a crash helmet, though – just a flexible finger.
The owner, Gareth Stone, checks us in and shows us around his remote-controlled microcosm. The decor has a strong grand-prix-circuit-pit-garage theme going on. While I’m not personally a fan of Car Stuff, I have to say this is pretty good – the chairs are car seats and there’s loads of memorabilia and bits of kit about.
There are seven tracks in total at Stonerig, all hand built. Each track has a different theme: a cityscape with tower blocks, the Alpine Valley wintery mountain scene with deep twists and tunnels – one even has a miniature railway. The detail is so impressive that the craftsmanship alone is worth going to see.
I stand on the platform, gripping the throttle and waiting for the race to begin
We choose our first track, The Rocks, and Gareth gets us lined up on the racers platform. We are keen to get the throttle in hand but first we have to be shown how the computer system works. Hang on – computer system? For Scalextric tracks?
Slot car racing has moved on. The computer gives you proper starts, records your lap times, average speeds and even gives you time penalties. All the results are recorded – there’s even a leaderboard. And the cars are definitely bigger.
We decide to do some practice laps first and, well, it’s actually quite difficult. We are all going as fast as we can, which means we are coming off the track at every corner. Which is annoying. One of the staff comes over to help us. She gives us some advice and friendly encouragement and becomes our Loose Car Replacement Operative. This is important, because what you really need during ahigh-stakes race is a good “put-er on-er”, who will retrieve your car and place it back on the track as quickly as possible.
So I try a bit harder, slowing down just before the bends, speeding on the straights. As I concentrate on the tiny car, external distractions shrink away. I get (mini) tunnel vision and without realising, I’ve really started to play.
Confidence at its peak, we move around and try the other tracks. Before I know it, we’ve spent over an hour here, which passed by as fast as my little car skimmed along the plastic highway. It’s mostly families on a Sunday afternoon, and the atmosphere is one of camaraderie, the staff and racers all willing you to love this as much as they do. Knowing nods are exchanged as they watch us swap tracks.
We go upstairs, because we finally feel ready for “the big one”. The big one is a 120 foot six lane pro track, built for speed, which takes up most of the upper level. It is seriously impressive. Gareth tells me about the Scalextric clubs who hold competitive events at Stonerig, on this huge track. These meets can get pretty heated and are as serious as they come. It’s fun, but it’s not a game. And as I stand on the platform, gripping the throttle and waiting for the race to begin, I can well believe that.