Interview: With Andy Smith (#391)

World Champion Andy Smith recently gave F1 Stockcars a few minutes of his time (Interview took place November 2008).

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Hi, I’m Andy Smith the current BriSCA Formula 1 world Champion and driver of the 391 car. I’m 35 years of age, married with 2 children. Son of the Maestro Stuart Smith and older brother to Stuart Smith Jnr. Currently living in Rochdale, my full time occupation is commercial Vehicle Dealer for the family business Rochdale Van Centre.

Andy coming from such a great racing background, do you have any stand out memories from growing up around Stockcar’s?

My dad was my hero, I’d watch him, no one else. If my dad was not racing I’d be doing something else, playing in the pits, climbing over the car. But as soon as my Dad came out on track, that was it. My eyes were glued too him. So apart from my Dad’s racing and exploits, the first real ‘other’ racing memory would be watching Mike Close win the World Final in 1977 at Coventry.

And your own racing started when?

MiniStox formula, started them when I was eleven raced them up to sixteen. Then from seventeen to twenty I raced in the V8 Hot-Stox Formula before progressing to the F1.

Do you recall your first outing in a F1?

Yes, me and Ian Higgins swapped cars for a Bradford meeting in 1989. I had the F1 and Ian had my Hot-Stox. I was still in my first year of Hot-Stox and holding Red grade, but I was still very much learning and I remember sitting in the seat with this unbelievable power in front of me. The power was unbelievable; I don’t think I was really ready for it. I’d just got used to the Rover pedal which was what just under 200BHP and then I’m sitting with Ian’s pedal that had God knows how much BHP that just burst into life. The power was just unbelievable. I raced round Bradford and I remember going too fast, too fast for my ability at the time and that was just trying to keep up. Bradford was quite bumpy then and I remember going into the turns bouncing over the bumps and as you’re coming out the turn and car gets grip and the power would launch you down the straights. It was unbelievable. That’s what sticks in my mind just how much power there is in a F1 Stockcar.

And have you raced anything else? Other than F1 Stockcars.

Yes I did a year in the ASCAR series which was enjoyable but nothing can beat F1 Stockcar racing. I’ve always been a big NASCAR fan so when the chance to race in the European series came up I it a go. I only really get to go out to watch the Daytona 500 in February as our seasons clash. But Cecil my Crew Chef get’s out maybe three or four times a year. I’ll probably get to see a few Sprint Car meeting while I’m out there as well.

Do you follow any NASCAR Drivers?

God, it’s hard to just pick one. I love the racing as a whole. But out the current crop I’m really warming to Carl Edwards not just for what he does on track, but his off track manner as well. He’s a true professional. Kyle Busch has been exciting to watch this year (2008) though the chase didn’t go his way. Maybe we should try and introduce the Chase like in NASCAR; build up the whole season. But then when you think what happened to Kyle it might not be such a good idea (laughs).

Never fancied a ride in a sprint car?

I’ve been offered a ride in a South African Sprint car. If you’d of asked me that or offered me that a few years ago I’d of jumped at the chance. But, I’m older now; I’ve got a young family and other commitments outside of racing. By the time our season finishes in November it’s a real rush to get everything done before the season starts again. This winter we’ve got building work going on at home, Christmas, Cars to prepare for 2009, family holiday to squeeze in. But IF I can find a window of free time I’d love to take up the offer and have a go.

Cars to prepare for 2009; is that a hint?

Well my 2008 Tar car has been sold, which you need to do, to feed the monster that is Stockcars. You have to sell cars on and keep moving forward. We’re building a new Tar car for ’09. Cecil will do well over 50% of the work and I plan to give it a really good go in ’09, You don’t really know how many more season’s you’ve got left. Five or six, who knows? So while I’m feeling on top of my game I’ve got to go for it from the off.

The 2009 Tar-Car Debuted at Buxton following this interview. Photo Colin Casserley

The 2009 Tar-Car Debuted at Buxton following this interview. Photo Colin Casserley

So how much do you put in the workshop (on average)?

These days I really try to limit it to a Tuesday evening and Thursday evening. When I was younger it was every night. I really worked hard at learning about stockcars and set-ups.

What advice would you give to a new driver coming into F1 Stockcar racing?

Workshop. Learn your car, work out what does what, repair everything yourself, spend as much time in the workshop learning about your car. You can throw as much money as you like into Stockcar racing but you’re never going to get anywhere unless you roll your sleeves up, get stuck in and learn everything there is to learn about your car. To get anywhere in this sport; it’s not a hobby but a life choice, to start with you’re going to have to spend as much time, not just money but time, working on your car. For what looks to be a very basic type of car, in reality to get the best out of the cars is very complicated.

Your Dad as you have said was your hero, when your Dad hung up the helmet did you just focus on your own racing?

No, Peter Falding came along! I wanted to be Peter when I was younger. He was a young and upcoming driver, he was ballsy, didn’t care who was who or what name they had for themselves on track. He was my second hero and I was lucky enough to be one of his mechanics, I learnt a lot from working with Peter. The Peter people have seen for the last ten years aint the Peter of old, back then he really did excite me. He was exciting to watch. I owe a lot of how I drive today from Peter.

Is there a track you’d bring back into the circuit if you could?

Bradford. Big, fast, bumpy shale. More so for me as it’s where I won my first World Final at the age of twentyone, and nothing compares to standing on your aerofoil as a kid that has lived and dreamed stockcars. To stand there as world champion in front of a packed Grandstand was just unbelievable. People look back and say I was lucky to win that night but I’ve had a lot more unlucky nights, you’ve got to take your luck when it’s there. So many fond memories of racing at Bradford.

Out of your successful racing career is there a moment that sticks out?

This years (2008) World Final win; it was not the best race of the night or be remembered as a great World Final race but for me it meant so much more. When the World Final venue is announced you dial your car in for that one race over the season. We did that. Ipswich was more than just a World Final Race, my in-laws are from that way. You would not believe how supportive they are to me. We’re not talking financial but proper support. Their background is Spedeworth, they’re not BriSCA people but that’s never been an issue with them. My wife Lisa raced Ipswich in a Spedeworth MiniStox and when it was announced that Ipswich was holding the World Final I went out to win it for them in their own backyard. To do that as a thank you to them for all the support they’ve given me, was and is the highlight of my racing career.

Do you have any time for other interests outside of racing?

No.1 is my family, like I say I’ve got a wife and two young kids and you can’t put a price on spending time with them. I still enjoy football, always been a Man Utd fan. Might get to a few home games a season. Enjoy going to the Florida Speedweeks in February as well.

Anytime for TV?

I love watching reality shows, not the dancing or singing ones but people put together and seeing how they react. I’m a celebrity and Celebrity B.B. – I get hooked on them. I’d love to have a go, Andy Smith in I’m a celebrity get me out of here would be brilliant.

Thank you so much for you time Andy, everyone here at F1 Stockcar’s wishes you a successful 2009.

Not a problem, Hopefully you’ll be able to catch up with me again later next year and I can update you on how the new car goes.

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