A young people’s motorsport project set up more than 20 years ago in Bridport, originally to turn around the lives of youngsters convicted of car crime, has been so successful that its members are fixing cars professionally, and in one case, owning a garage and employing former club members in West Dorset.
Bridport Bandits, the popular name for the Bridport Autograss Racing Club, have thrown off their original image to take boys and girls aged 11-18 with an interest in cars and teach them basic skills and more at their workshops, as well as the chance to drive in autograss races (from age 12 upwards).
The club’s instructors, with links to the motor trade in and around West Dorset, prepare race vehicles for members and support young people getting their minis to race under NASA (National Autograss Sports Association) rules and regulations.
If you go into any garage in the Bridport area you’ll find someone who is a former Bridport Bandit
Club secretary Martin Singer reckons the group is probably unique. “Unlike other similar teams who get financial support from their local authority, we don’t get any, and we rely entirely on donations,” he said. “It’s an expensive sport with a cost of around £2,000 per year, per car to maintain, and not all parents can make that sort of financial contribution on behalf of their kids.”
But such is the club’s reputation for social responsibility, keeping youngsters off the streets and giving them a constructive hobby which has sparked careers, organisations like Bridport Round Table have helped the Bandits out.
“Members picked up litter after the beer festival and we were at the Boxing Day swim. In return they gave us donations for which we are grateful but we do have to actively fundraise to keep afloat,” he said. Martin spoke with pride about the success of one of the former members, Ryan Bennett. “Ryan learned the basics with us, then went on to be an apprentice, became a fully qualified mechanic, started his own business on the Pineapple Business Park in Salway Ash, and now takes on apprentices who came through the club just like him. If you go into any garage in the Bridport area you’ll find someone who is a former Bridport Bandit.”
The club races in the Junior Autograss Class with 1000cc classic minis and competes in the Southern League some Sundays, often at their home track, the Wessex Motor Racing Club at Bearley, near Tintinhull, Yeovil.
The Bandits currently have 15-20 members and meet at their garage in Gundry Lane, next to the Bridport Youth Centre on Monday and Thursday evenings 7-9pm. Anyone interested in joining, or who has car mechanic skills to share, or would consider becoming a sponsor, should contact club secretary Martin Singer on 07888 680789.