Interview: With Mal Brown (#34)

F1 Stockcars.Com caught up with the driver of the #34 car long time racer Mal Brown.

Hi, Mal Brown here, driver of the #34 car. I’m from Liversedge, West Yorkshire and my occupation is that I’m a Tractor Dealer.

Mel Brown winning with his 'new' FWJ Car at Belle Vue. Photo Colin Casserley

Mel Brown winning with his 'new' FWJ Car at Belle Vue. Photo Colin Casserley

How did you become involved with F1 Stockcars?

From my Father Ken, he raced before me in the #35 car. He raced from 1969 up to 1985, though he started out as #219 but changed to #35 in 1974. I made my début in 1981, three days after my sixteenth birthday at Brafield (Northampton). My first car was actually my father’s old car.

So had you raced anything before your début?

No, nothing. Not even in a mechanic’s race. Up to the time of my sixteenth birthday I used to mechanic for my Dad. I’d been doing that since I was ten years old but I’d never raced, so it was straight in at the deep-end!
The car I had was my dad’s old car, It needed re-rollcaging as my Dad had rolled it six times the season before, so it was pretty bent! And it ran a Ford engine. So in the months leading up to my sixteenth birthday I spent every free minute working on the car.

Do you remember your début?

I remember the week before we went out for a practice session at Brafield, and you know you’re going round and round on your own thinking this is fantastic and your really looking forward to racing the coming weekend. So how would I say my début went? Terrible. (laughs)
Going round at what you think are racing speeds on your own compared to actually being in a race with Red Tops could not be further apart. I was getting lapped three times, trying my hardest. And I came off thinking I’d never be able to go that fast. But I stuck at it and it doesn’t take you that long to get up to speed.

So growing up with BriSCA F1 stockcars, do you have any favourite memories as a fan?

Hard to say, all of them! In late 60’s and early 70’s we’d probably go to fifty – sixty meetings a year as a family; watching or my dad racing. I was a big Stuart Smith fan, while my parents were big Willie Harrison fans. I have many fond memories of growing up with Stockcars.

Do you have a preference to racing Shale or Tar?

No, my three closest tracks are Shale so that’s what I race. If it were the other way I’d race Tar. Running my own business kind of dictates that, working an average of 80 – 100 hours per week doesn’t really give you that much free time, so I don’t want to waste what little time I do have sitting on a motorway.

Out of the current tracks you race do you have a favourite?

I seem to go well at Belle Vue, but personally I prefer Sheffield. Yes it’s a damage track if it goes wrong but what a feeling when it’s going right. You feel to be going really quick there, it’s great. It’s nice, fast racing and when your cars going well, it’s a good feeling.

And what about past tracks?

Old Belle Vue, Bradford and Rochdale. That would be the three I’d bring back if I could.

Have you ever built any of your own cars?

Yes I’ve built three or four in the past and each one was pretty awful really (laughs) big heavy things. And I’ve not had the time to develop car building. So it was easier to buy second hand cars, that’s the only way I have been able to keep in the sport. I’ve always gone out to buy a car with a good chassis, that’s not always been the way. (laugh)

You own a first hand FWJ Chassis at present, how does that compare to your previous car?

It’s a whole new world. They drive completely differently. I’m learning how to drive all over again. Up to now every car I have raced has been pretty straight forward with straight-brakes and a steering wheel. Now I’m learning how you use, adjust the brake bias and lock taps on different wheels and the smallest changes to the car set up can have a major effect.
I was very much used to just taking my (old) car with its only real set-up out onto track and racing it. Accelerate, Brake and Steer. Now it’s technical. You have brakes that you have to adjust during the race to get the best out of the car. If the (shale) track is overly wet at the start, it’s really difficult to get the right brake set-up to begin with, knowing that in around five laps time as the tracks drying you’ll need to adjust that set-up. Like I say I’m still very much learning how to drive a modern Stockcar.

You say your old car only really had one racing set-up?

Pretty much so, one for big tracks one for smaller tracks.(laugh) That old car was pretty bent and awful, everything was bad on it! Bad brakes, bad steering but somehow it went pretty well. I’ve raced a shale meeting in it, taken it straight to Skegness and only thing I’ve done is hose off the shale and it still went pretty well. (laugh)

How much time are you able to put into your Stockcar racing?

Two – three hours a week, if I’m lucky. If I’m to race I might be able to get a few extra hours in on the Saturday morning, possibly fit one evening in. With running my own business it’s quite an achievement for me to be able to even continue in the sport. So I enjoy it as much as I can when I’m able to.

With having so little time, are your racing team able to help out?

(laugh) Racing team? No, I have one mechanic on racedays, I think that answers that question!
That’s why I went out and brought the FWJ Chassis, hopefully it won’t need as much work between races spent on it, and I’ll be able to do a few more meetings in a season, that’s the plan at least.

You’ve been racing since 1981, what for you would be your stand out memory?

Racing achievement, that would be the 1992 World Final. I won my heat and the thousand pound dash-for-cash that night. I really enjoyed winning the dash-for-cash race, not just for the money, racing in front of a big crowd with the money on the table meant everyone was really going for it, always someone hassling me for the lead. And in the last three-laps someone trying to bury me in the fence so being able to hold on and cross the line first felt pretty good.
I had some pretty good nights racing in front of big crowds, I won my first final at the old Belle Vue, and I remember racing at Bradford on the ‘grand prix’ nights, one night Frankie Wainman Jnr pushed me over the line to take the win after trying to bury me on the last turn.

Your Current plans?

Race when I can; racing is very much a hobby for me now, learn my new car and get that up to speed and keep enjoying it.

Any interests outside of Stockcar racing?

Stockcars are my interest outside of Tractors. We’ve only just started getting into holidays abroad, we’ve been to Turkey three times and that’s been very nice. Before that it’s been stockcars and tractor trade shows. I’ve been all over, from Paris to Russia. Last time I was interviewed, I was in Russia. I was at the Mintz tractor plant and going round, a guy shouts “you speak English!”. Next thing, this big camera appears and I’m being asked what I’m doing there and the like, later that evening in the hotel I switch on the TV and there I am on the News in Russia! The next day at the factory I was treated like a star ‘man on the news’.

What about sponsorship?

No, fully self sponsored: Belarus Tractors is my own business.

Thanks for your time Mal, and good luck with the new car.

It’s been a pleasure; I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m up to speed in it.

Stephen Cording 2009

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