Dad-to-be Darren Banwell to swap motocross bike for buggy
After several strong years of motocross competition, Shepton Mallet rider Darren Banwell is preparing for a quieter season on the circuit, writes Merv Colenutt.
It is unlikely to provide the reigning South West Off-Road Motocross Series expert champion any respite, however, with Banwell’s reduced activity being enforced by the arrival of his first child.
The 31-year-old and partner Sally are expecting a daughter next month, meaning Banwell will see less action at the pinnacle of the sport, although he still intends to compete at club level.
Banwell first rode a motorbike during a family holiday to Butlins as a ten-year-old, although it may not have happened at all had his father Roy not suffered a fall while riding.
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Instructors at the Butlins motorbike circuit refused to allow Darren to ride, deeming him too young and too small to take to the track.
Roy was up for the challenge but when he took a tumble halfway round, Darren quickly got on the bike himself and rode it back to the pit area.
A large crowd had gathered and encouraged the youngster to try and complete a full circuit. The instructors relented and Darren was given several more rides.
From that point on he was hooked on motorbikes, with Roy and mother Suzanne buying Darren a Malaguti 50cc bike for Christmas that year.
During his school years, Darren won championships at Corsham, Moredan, South Somerset, Poole and Bournemouth clubs before adding club crowns at Bridgwater and Stroud & District as an adult.
More success followed when he contested several national finals, with Darren winning individual races and finishing third overall in his first year.
Darren’s most notable victory came last year when he won the South West Off-Road Motocross Series expert crown, although the last race of the 14-round championship was not without incident.
While sitting second in race two at Exeter’s Little Silver Moto Park, a stone damaged the radiator on Darren’s bike.
Losing water, he had to back off and eventually finished fourth, meaning he had to contest the final on a spare bike.
Darren produced a sterling ride when it mattered most, though, finishing third in the final to take the title by 13 points.
Despite being a self-taught rider, Darren has enjoyed considerable success during his 20-year career, although none of it would be possible without the help of sponsors Barry Maunders of Tony Maunders Racing and Peter Doble of MD Racing, as well as the support of his family.