by Andy Player
Derby HO Racing Club celebrated their 500th club night in style this summer with a whole weekend of HO racing in the Paddock Suite at Donington Park. Invites had been sent out across the country and an impressive list of HO and 1/32 slot car racers took part in the main event on the Saturday to compete for the Alan Bullock trophy.

Seven racers from my local club on the south coast made the trip up north in a hired minibus. I vaguely remember starting in Brighton at 3am, trundling west to pick up club mates in Worthing and Bognor before heading north through the misty badlands along the border of West Sussex and Hampshire. Only when we reached the M25 did it start to get light.

Derby HO Racing Club - affectionately known as DHORC - was founded back in July 1992. A month before, a 24 hour HO Le Mans race had been held at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Association. That event brought Nick Sismey, Phil Rees and the Leisure Association together and everything seemed to fall into place. From the first race on 7 July 1992 to the 500th on 22 August 2015, DHORC has been the most successful HO racing club in the UK and one of the best attended slot car clubs anywhere in the world.

The three days of racing in the Paddock Suite smashed the club's attendance record, with 164 people taking to the grid on the ten-lane replica of the Donington circuit. Friday saw ten Rolls-Royce engineers have a race after a tour of the Andretti Formula E workshops at the circuit. Eighty-two visitors to the Formula E test day took part in the racing on the Monday, but Saturday was the day of celebration.

Our WHO Racing bus arrived in the Donington Park paddock about 9.30am. Those of us who weren't completely caffeined out of our minds were ready for a good sleep. However, a warm welcome and a VW Fun Cup practice session soon perked me up. The fact that there was a race meeting at the circuit really made the atmosphere special. And we were right at the heart of it - the HO track's Coppice corner was only a couple of dozen yards away from the real pit lane exit.

Although Nick Sismey is the public face - and voice - of DHORC, it's Phil Rees who makes much of the club's activities tick. Nick put it nicely in the event programme "No matter what crazy idea I come up with Phil is the first to say 'yes we (I) can do that!' and with a few tweaks of his own soon comes up with a better idea than my original thought."

And there's no ignoring the amazing commitment of a significant layer of the club's membership in helping set up and run club nights back at Rolls-Royce in Derby, special events like the Rockingham oval weekend and the HO Le Mans 24 hours, plus numerous corporate events through the year, including at Donington and Rockingham circuits.

Being strictly decaf, you can appreciate that my recollections of the day are a little hazy in parts, but at some point in the late morning (I think), we got ready to race. Cars for the Tyco open wheel and Tomy closed wheel classes were handed to Phil to be checked over and then kept hold of until the end of our ten heats.

Having arrived early, we got enough practice to be reasonably competitive - although racing next to eventual winner Tony Baldock in my ten heats, I thought I was way off the pace. It turned out that, like most of the field, I was simply way off Tony's pace. I was extremely happy to qualify second of the visiting non-members and ninth overall.

It was certainly a long afternoon, but the way the DHORC team kept up the tempo was impressive. As the day drew to a close, it was the juniors who had first crack at their finals and the first medals of the day went to Zach Roythorne (under-10s), Steffi Roythorne (junior non-member) and Adam Hall as the overall junior winner. It was a very impressive drive by Adam and all three would go forward to compete against the other category winners for the Alan Bullock trophy in the final race of the day.

Sadly, I wouldn't be in that final race. My little old Tyco just didn't have the pace to finish higher than fifth in the non-members' A final, which was won by Chesterfield HO Racing Club's Dean Garbett.

The member's A final was certainly the fastest and most competitive of the day. I already mentioned who won it, although Tony had his work cut out to beat pole-sitter Simon Goodlip. Despite five hours on race control and hosting the whole show, Nick Sismey somehow managed to come third.

Lining up for the final race of the day were Tony Baldock, Dean Garbett, Doug Passell (over-60s winner), Zach Roythorne and Steffi Roythorne. It was a shame junior winner Adam had to return home early to Derby. I think he would have given the others a run for their money. In the end, no-one could touch Tony, who grabbed the trophy, in memory of greatly-missed club member Alan Bullock, who passed away last summer.

The final business of a most memorable day was cutting the Derby 500 cake, saying our goodbyes and hitting the road.

A version of this article with pictures was published in the November 2015 edition of Slot Car Magazine and is available as a pdf download and a full-colour printed magazine: www.slotcarmagazine.co.uk.