- "We're gonna make Robot Wars great again!"
- — James Davies
Donald Thump was a heavyweight robot built by Team Ballistix, which entered Series 10 of Robot Wars. Although it managed to cause damage to Sabretooth which would prove to be terminal, Donald Thump would ultimately lose both of its battles to Behemoth and The Swarm respectively.
Its visual design and name is an obvious homage to 45th U.S. President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated between Series 9 and 10 of Robot Wars. The robot had a previous identity as Terror-Bull.
- "It’s gonna be tremendous"
- — James Davies
Donald Thump sported a wide, plough-shaped design, with five flat sides, driven by two 200mm elastic rubber wheels. It featured a small front wedge, designed to lead robots into the 16kg vertical spinning bar, driven by a 1kg belt pulley and powered by a 44V lithium polymer battery, allowing the weapon to reach speeds of 145mph (5000rpm) courtesy of its LEM 200 motor. The weapon can reach its top speed within a very short period of 2 seconds. The robot was armed in comparatively thin 3mm HARDOX, weighing 110kg in total, although its self-righting had not been tested. Donald Thump boasted 4.2 horsepower on its two-wheel drive system.
The robot and its weapon were painted gold, in homage to the U.S. President, Donald Trump. It was decorated with Trump’s eyes, eyebrows, and a comedy mouth. Donald Thump could also be equipped with 'blonde hair' made from straw, seen in its official imagery, but this was not used on television as the team feared it would cause their own spinning bar to become entangled.
- "It’s a solid gold bar. I use gold, because gold is the hardest metal in the world, guaranteed, okay, guaranteed! Some people think it’s small, but if they say the bar is small, then something else must be small, okay, I guarantee you folks, it’s not an issue!"
- — James Davies, in character, on Donald Thump’s weapon
Originally a purple minibot, known as Nigel Barrage, was planned to fight alongside it, but the weight of Donald Thump made this idea infeasible. The insides of Donald Thump were amusingly protected by denim jeans, and polystyrene that the team found in a skip.
- "You've never seen a robot like this before, it's one of the greatest. It's so powerful. It's got wheels. It's got spinners. It's got... weapons, and metal... it's, it's got all of the bits, okay!"
- — James Davies, in character
The Hereford-based Team Ballistix is captained by James Davies, who was aged 23 at the time of Series 10. James Davies applied for the series as a medical student, and advanced to become a junior doctor shortly prior to the filming of his televised debut. James Davies filled all of the robot's key roles - designer, builder, driver, and head of repairs - while receiving assistance from 59-year old father Allan Davies, an accountant.
James Davies would shift in and out of character at filming, often imitating the 45th U.S. President Donald Trump in his manner of speaking, and would wear a formal suit and 'Make Robot Wars Great Again' red cap to build this character, reinforcing the theme with Donald Trump-style hand gestures. Otherwise, he would speak from the more grounded perspective of his junior doctor self. Whilst James Davies filled the role of Donald Trump, Allan Davies dressed as a bodyguard, wearing sunglasses and a black suit with hat. Notably, the Robot Wars website even refers to Allan Davies' team role as 'body guard'.
Before it was rebranded as Donald Thump, the robot was originally known as Terror-Bull. Team Ballistix had applied for Series 8 using a rebranded version of Leveller 2 Mk 4.5 known as Terror-Bull, but their Series 9 entry was the bar spinner that would later become Donald Thump, instead using a brown bull-themed design, featuring a nose ring. Regardless, Terror-Bull was not selected for Series 9.
Donald Thump initially applied for Series 10 using the same Terror-Bull design, fearing that political designs would not be accepted by the BBC, but Terror-Bull was still not selected to compete. Closer to filming, Team Ballistix revealed Donald Thump in a comedic video, where James Davies dressed up as Donald Trump, and utilised popular Trump tropes while introducing the robot. This would eventually lead to Donald Thump's inclusion in the series, hardly a week before filming began. An official trailer for Series 10 included a small clip of this video.
- "We're gonna start winning, bigly!"
- — James Davies in the Series 10 trailer
- "[James Davies], recently qualified, is here with his bodyguard, a.k.a. accountant Dad, to bring some covfefe to proceedings!"
- — Angela Scanlon
Donald Thump competed in Episode 1, where in the first round, it would face two highly experienced robots, Behemoth and Sabretooth. Donald Thump bore its straw hair in the team's interview with Dara Ó Briain, where James Davies talked about his medical career, but this was removed shortly before the fight to avoid entangling the robot's weapon. James Davies was standing on a 'Dara Step' to make him appear taller than Ó Briain, and also 'rubbed his bald head for good luck'.
- Dara Ó Briain: "As a baby doctor, why aren't you studying and why are you instead building a robot?"
- James Davies: "I've just finished, I've finally, after five years!"
- Dara Ó Briain: "And you knocked up a robot in the couple of weeks?"
- James Davies: "You've got to keep your mind off, you've got to do things to vary your palette, haven't you? So this is the thing I do to distract myself from the medicine, it's very different!"
- — A rare interview with an out-of-character James Davies
Donald Thump backed away to power up its spinning bar, and after reaching full speed, drove into Sabretooth's drum for a head-on collision, causing damage at the expense of one of Donald Thump's eyes. 'Blinded', Donald Thump drove straight into the arena wall, although it grazed Behemoth with its spinner while retreating. Sabretooth tried to attack Donald Thump, but Team Ballistix capitalised by striking the side of Sabretooth, ripping it up and out of place. However, Behemoth also responded by taking advantage of the time Donald Thump needed to use to spin up its weapon, and slammed it backwards. Donald Thump briefly slotted its body under a recoiling Behemoth, but was attacked by Sabretooth.
- "Donald Thump, designed by Dr Doom, and as the fight went on, became less effective"
- — Jonathan Pearce
Moments later, Donald Thump lost mobility, and was the first to be immobilised in the Group Battle. Although Donald Thump had lost the battle, its earlier damage on Sabretooth proved to be crucial, as Sabretooth's wheels lacked sufficient purchase with arena floor when the robot was overturned, at the end of a battle that it otherwise would have won over Behemoth, which had been immobilised at the same time as Sabretooth.
- Dara Ó Briain: "Why did you not put the hair on?"
- James Davies: "I was a bit worried about it getting tangled, it was a last minute decision, but I was worried about getting tangled up in it. I didn't wanna lose to my own hair!"
- Dara Ó Briain: "OK fine, that is a weird way to go..."
- James Davies (in character): "Not a problem you'd have!"
- Dara Ó Briain: "No, no not at all... Wow, that hurt..."
- — A conversation followed by a Donald Trump-style hand gesture
As Donald Thump finished third in its Group Battle, it was drawn against the four-part clusterbot The Swarm, runner-up of the second Group Battle in the heat. However, the battle took an extensive period of time to start, with both robots requiring maintenance, and during this time, it became clear that Donald Thump's weapon was only working intermittently. It was declared that Donald Thump needed to enter the battle with its weapon disabled, and fight what James Davies called a 'headbutting match'. Angela Scanlon advised that Donald Thump should open the pit.
- "You win this, you're through to the next round, or you lose, you return to your daily life as a medical student and spend the next fourteen years studying to become a proper doctor!"
- — Dara Ó Briain
The sheer weight of Donald Thump was able to send Skye recoiling on a drive, but it received two direct blows from Blenda's spinning bar, and a front panel of Donald Thump's face was ripped open from the body of the machine.
- "Donald Thump's face is falling off!"
- — Angela Scanlon
James Davies took Angela Scanlon's advice and pressed the Arena Tyre, but against the team's plan, this activated Rogue House Robot, and while Sir Killalot roamed the arena, Blenda completely removed the other half of Donald Thump's face. Donald Thump slammed into Skye and Duck, but was flicked up by the latter, and a huge hit from Blenda fully removed the remains of Donald Thump's face panels. Donald Thump was able to push Blenda into the CPZ where Dead Metal attacked it, and then Donald Thump slammed into Pinza, regaining points.
- "Donald Thump, very loud, very proud, heading through?"
- — Jonathan Pearce
This would prove to be Donald Thump's last attack, as one final blow from Blenda to the front of the machine caused Donald Thump to become immobile. It was gripped by the claws of Pinza, and bumped into repeatedly by Skye, as the countdown clock called an end to the presidential robot's campaign. Dara Ó Briain commended James Davies on 'serving the nation very well in his time as president'.
- James Davies: "Those so-called "judges"..."
- Dara Ó Briain: "So-called, yeah, so-called, my so-called eyes told me I'd lost, but no!"
- — Controversy from the politician
|DONALD THUMP - RESULTS|
|Series 10 - UK Championship|
Robot Redemption Knockouts
|Heat 1, Group Battle||vs. Behemoth, Sabretooth||Lost|
|Heat 1, Robot Redemption||vs. The Swarm||Lost|
- Wins: 0
- Losses: 2
|Series||Donald Thump Series Record|
|Series 1-7||Did not enter|
|Series 8||Not selected with Terror-Bull|
|Series 9||Not selected as Terror-Bull|
|Series 10||Heat, Round 1|
Outside Robot Wars
Donald Thump made its combat debut at the Extreme Robots event in Manchester, in April 2017. The team intended to run their spinning bar at 125mph, but after the roof of the arena was deemed to be unsafe, Donald Thump could only compete without the use of its weapon. In its first fight, electrical issues caused it to fall to Iron-Awe 5 and the eventual winner of the battle Suspension. Donald Thump then lost its second fight to Big Nipper due to a faulty connector, before battling HIGH-5 and Thor in its final battle. After the same connector led to Donald Thump’s immobilisation, James Davies invited Jason Marston to land repeated axe blows onto his robot, which Donald Thump withstood reasonably well.
At the Extreme Robots event in Gloucester in October 2017, a completely rebuilt Donald Thump appeared on the first day and replaced S.M.I.D.S.Y. whose battery had begun to smoke after entering the arena. It was permitted to use its spinner, but the robot had intermittent control in a battle with ACE and Rattler, and could not properly land a blow. It fought Gabriel in a head-to-head, but was quickly immobilised. The new version of Donald Thump featured a much larger front end and was now made to be invertible.
The invertible Donald Thump returned for the Extreme Robots Manchester event in April 2018, sporting its signature gold colours. There, it finished fourth overall, after defeating Frankenstein, Infernal Contraption and ThunderChild before being defeated by Beast in the semi-finals and TR3 in the playoff. At the Portsmouth event in May, Donald Thump caused significant damage to Harpy and Thor, but was knocked out of the tournament by Apex. Donald Thump also competed at Extreme Robots in Cheltenham, in November 2018. It defeated S.M.I.D.S.Y. on a Judges' decision, but lost its second-round fight to 2point0 on another Judges' decision.
Having originally planned to enter a minibot named Nigel Barrage alongside Donald Thump in Series 10, James Davies created a featherweight named Nigel Barrage in August 2018. Nigel Barrage entered the featherweight championship held by King of Bots at the Insomnia gaming festival. The robot was armed with a vertical spinning disc, and James Davies dressed as the British politician Nigel Farrage at the event, complete with impression during interviews. Nigel Barrage finished third in its opening melee against Little Devil and Telekinesis. It improved on this, after winning a melee where Elevate did not move, and despite losing a wheel entirely, Nigel Barrage backed The Mighty Unicorn into the pit. However, Nigel Barrage withdrew before its final battle, and was eliminated from the whole competition as a result. Nigel Barrage also competed in the UK Featherweight Championship 2019 under temporary captaincy of Gregory Atkin, but lost all of its fights.
James Davies created a new politically-themed heavyweight robot in May 2019, basing his wedge-shaped Theresa Mayhem on the presiding prime minister of the United Kingdom at the time, Theresa May. It made its combat debut at RoboRiots in Dublin later that month.
While Series 10 was airing, the original version of Donald Thump starred in a mock Robot Wars episode created by James Davies, where the new version of the robot battled "Dara O'Breadbin" in a three-minute sketch intended to fill the week where Series 10 of Robot Wars was unaired due to clashes with tennis broadcasting.
For the 2020 season of BattleBots, Team Ballistix advanced the design of Donald Thump to build a new heavyweight for the US competition known as Winston Churchkill, giving the robot a cigar-themed spinner while James Davies adopted the persona of Winston Churchill in his application video. Winston Churckill was accepted to compete in the 2020 season, and the build was largely completed, but the team were forced to withdraw due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 2021 season, Winston Churchkill was rebranded as Slambulance in reference to the NHS, sporting an "MHS" logo on the back. However, this time Slambulance was not selected to compete in the new season.
Robot Wars Live Events
Team Ballistix competed at Robot Wars live events between 2013 and 2016 using Leveller 2 Mk 4.5. Aside from Leveller 2, Team Ballistix also competed with a brand-new flipper known as Schu-Bot, resembling Scraptosaur, which remains active today. Schu-Bot is named after Shubert’s Unfinished Symphony, due to the robot’s unfinished state. At the Colchester event in 2016, Schu-Bot fell to robots such as Eruption and TR2, but collected a victory over Iron Heart 88.
- In his opening interview with Dara Ó Briain, James Davies stood on a 'Dara Step' to enhance his height next to the 197cm presenter.
- James Davies was fearful of getting his tie caught in rotating parts of robots in the pits, and so he added a clip to keep the tie in place.
- Donald Thump- Fighting Robot Facebook page
- Team Ballistix Facebook page
- Team Ballistix Twitter
- Team Ballistix YouTube channel
- Donald Thump on the Robot Wars website
- Local press interview with Team Ballistix