SWARMS of boy racers were forced to leave their favourite haunts at the weekend and cruise home - thanks to a police clampdown.

Not that it was plain sailing for the police involved in the operation at the unofficial drag-strip which is Paycocke Road, Basildon.

Two officers were pelted with stones and coins by the cruisers as they tried to disperse hundreds of car enthusiasts, brought out in force by unseasonably warm weather.

Police targeted the Paycocke Road and a lorry park in Courtauld Road, Pitsea, on Friday and Saturday night.

PCs and special constables from Pitsea were backed by teams from Laindon Road Policing Unit and three automated number plate recognition squad cars.

The cars use high-tech scanners linked to computer databases to spot stolen, uninsured or untaxed vehicles.

They were stationed along the A127 to target cruisers coming into Basildon.

Acting Sgt Gavin Brook said: "If anyone drives past the teams on the A127 we aim to intercept them and deal with them early on.

"Anyone we see driving dangerously, we stop, we photograph them and their vehicles and deal with any obvious traffic offences."

Over the weekend, officers arrested eight people, including a suspected car thief, drink-drivers and banned drivers and impounded three cars.

By 9.30pm on Saturday, it promised to be just as busy. The Courtauld Road lorry park already had around 50 cars parked up.

Within seconds of the unmarked police car pulling in, all but a few stragglers had sped off.

One group - from Gillingham in Kent - said they regularly travelled to Basildon because it was a well-known cruising hotspot.

Around ten minutes later, PC Jim Samouelle and acting Sgt Brooke steered their unmarked car towards Paycocke Road - Cruise Central for the boy racers.

Around 400 drivers - from middle-aged men with wives and children in tow, to teenagers barely old enough to drive - packed the street, parking on grass verges and pavements.

One cruiser, Marc Payne, 18, of Sugden Avenue, Wickford, claims to have spent £30,000 modifying his Vauxhall Corsa.

He has been going to Paycocke Road ever since passing his driving test and said: "I like to come here and show off my car and chat to my friends.

"People like to come here and just park up, I don't see why it's a problem.

"You do get people driving silly and tailgating and donuting, but it's nothing."

Within seconds of arriving at Paycocke Road PC Samouelle and Sgt Brook had pulled over a cruiser who was driving recklessly.

The driver, in his twenties, had performed a U-turn at speed in a souped-up Nissan 200SX, at the junction of Paycocke Road and Gardiners Lane South.

After getting a warning and being photographed by police, the man was told to go home. Moments later, another man, suspected of having no insurance, was pulled over.

By midnight, with Paycocke Road teeming with hundreds of people and cars, officers started to clear it, blocking each end with squad cars and checking each car as it leaves.

It took 30 minutes before the road is clear - except for a trail of rubbish, tyre and oil marks.

Next stop was the Courtauld Road lorry park again.

Most of the cruisers from Paycocke Road had headed there - many gathered in a circle, watching a biker performing wheelies.

Police parked out of sight and walked discreetly into the lorry park, but were still greeted by a deafening chorus of car-horns, warning the law had arrived - prompting a complaints about the noise from neighbours.

Within minutes most of the cars were gone again - part of a frustrating cat-and-mouse game with police.

"We use up a lot of resources, policing Paycocke Road and the lorry park," Sgt Brooke admitted.

"But we try to disperse them and deal with whatever we may find."

FOR years, boy racers have descended on Paycocke Road and surrounding industrial estates.

The road, along with nearby Mayflower Retail Park and and the lorry park in Courtauld Road, are well-known venues in the cruising world for drivers to show off their souped-up cars and perform idiotically dangerous stunts.

Neighbours, councillors and police have long feared their antics will one day lead to a death or a serious crash and have tried to act to pre-empt such a tragedy. In April 2005, officers secured the first ever dispersal order, banning cars from the area.

But the problems did not stop there. An Echo investigation a year ago revealed the boy racers' dangerous antics were continuing to a worrying extent.

Essex County Council confirmed earlier this month work would begin shortly to put up steel bollards and create earth mounds along Paycocke Road's grass verges to discourage cruisers.

The aim of the £30,000 work is prevent spectators parking along the road, so boy racers no longer have an audience for their stunts.

Will it work? The weekend's huge turnout would have put the plan to the ultimate test.

Sadly, work on the bollards and mounds has yet to start.