Interview: With Stuart Smith Jnr (#390)

F1 recently caught a spare few minutes of time with Stuart Smith Jnr, so without further ado over to Stuart.

Hi my name is Stuart Smith Jnr, I am twenty-seven and I live in a village called Milnrow in Rochdale.

Stuart what would be your earliest memories of Stockcar racing?

I have a few memories of stockcars when I was a kid, most of them were being in the bar with my Dad as he had just retired but I do remember him racing a hotstock at the old Belle Vue. I think he was racing a Paul Lomax car and he won the final and I went round with him. I also remember Peter Falding racing at Bradford. The reason I remember it was Peter was because his engine sounded miles louder than anyone else and I was sat in the stand pretending I was sat in a car racing round.

Photo Les Cotton.

Photo Les Cotton.

And it was a natural progression into racing F1’s?

No, I never wanted to race at all, even when I had a go in a mini at the age of ten. I just felt as though it was expected of me, but after I saw some racing at Bradford and saw the cars flying round there I think I started to feel as though it could be fun. One other moment that made me want to race, was when I mechaniced for my brother at a world final. It was in 1998 I think and he was getting taken out by a few people during the meeting and I remember thinking to myself, if I was him I would have lost my rag by now and I think that made me think to myself about the possibility of racing myself.

Do you have any memories of your experience in the MiniStox Formula?

The first formulae I raced was a mini stock two days after my 10th birthday. I raced at Crewe and in those days, minis were really quick for what they were. I was in an old Mick Sworder car. I started at the back and put my foot down and off I went. I beat all the novices in that first race and finished 7th from the back, which was my best result in my mini stock career. But I absolutely hated it. My brother was racing that night and my dad was working at Scunthorpe so I went with Jayne Bean and she lent me her helmet for that day and that’s all I can remember really. All the other meetings I raced at I was terrible. I honestly think I could have run faster. Too young I think!

Did you race anything else? or was it straight into the F1’s?

I raced v8s which were hotstocks and I loved every minute of them. The formulae and the people involved were great. I think the best time in that formulae was winning the gold roof at Buxton because all my family were there including my mum who does not go often. I was the under dog because Mick Rogers was the man around Buxton at the time and it will not surprise you that I had to use my bumper to win that race, the first bend in fact.

So when did you move into the F1’s?

The first time I raced an F1 was at Northampton in 2001 or 2002, I’m not too sure but it really was a last minute decision, on the day in fact. I started at blue and was fairly mediocre in my heats but in the final Andrew put some good tyres on for me and I nearly won. I ended up 2nd behind Lundy and I was even cheeky enough to try a last bender on him. Suppose I have always been the same….

Photo Paul Tully

Photo Paul Tully

Do you have a current favourite track?

I like Birmingham at the minute, mostly because it is a tricky, greasy track and you really need a well set up car. But most of all you need good throttle control out of the corners because of the slippy nature of the track and because you can hit hard there without destroying someone.

What would say has been your best race to date?

I think the best race I have been in was the British which I won at Coventry. I remember dropping back to 5th and thinking I’m done, but my car got faster and faster underneath me and I really started to concentrate and started to catch back up and eventually won it in the end. But I suppose it was a good race because the lead changed quite a good few times and all the top drivers were involved.

Photo Colin Casserley

Photo Colin Casserley

And what would say has been your hardest race to date?

The hardest race for me was the infamous semi final at Birmingham. I remember catching Will Yarrow for 2nd and did not want ruin his race and tried to pass him clean but he was on a mission and I went backwards after that. I kept telling myself to be calm and don’t lose your temper and I had a quite fast car, enough for a top 3 but everyone just went mad! And with 5 laps to go I think I dropped to 7th and then I lost it and started hitting people and finished 4th in the end. That was a hard race.

The best thing about racing BriSCA F1 Stockcars is?

The best thing about stockcar racing as a whole for me is the people, the friendships you make and the experiences it gives you. I do it for a hobby really but I live for racing so every weekend I race is just good fun to me.

What’s been your favourite car?

My favourite car to date has to be my current shale car it just never puts a wheel wrong and mostly because I have won all my titles in that car. The World, the British and even winning the final at Belle Vue to win the points championship this year really makes that car special to me. Although I’m starting to like my current tar car after winning 6 finals on tarmac this year.

Photo Colin Casserley

Photo Colin Casserley

Do you have a favourite size engine?

I love the big block in my shale car because it is just so powerful that if I get in to a bit of bother, it will just drive through most things. Which is a good thing with the way I drive I suppose but mainly because it is very drivable.

How do you go about building your cars Stuart?

I start to build a car by doing a flat chassis first, then start the sump guard, then the axles under, then roll cage, then start on the intricate bits. It really is a massive job to build a car for us because we just work nights and weekends on the cars. That’s why they take about 3 to 4 month to build from new.

Is there anything you’ll like to see change with the car rulings?

I don think there is much wrong with the sport or car specs. There is no-one breaking away with technology or even with different designs of chassis and that speaks volumes to me and the fact that the top 10 drivers / cars are very, very close on speed, which in turn provides good racing which is what we have at the moment. In my belief, I think we will look back at this time in a few years and realise how good the racing is now with the really young drivers and the old(er) ones being knocked around by them. So why change something that is not broken?

How many people do you have in your race-team?

There is a few in my own personal team. There is flying flan, young John Harrington who gets the train from school to come help, so he is a keen lad, Ste who does both mine and Andrew’s tyres and a lad called Anthony who helps at a meeting.

Do you and your brother Andrew swap racing information, set-ups, car design tips?

Definitely not. As we both always say there’s a good competitive rivalry in our garage and we sometimes even argue over who gets to use the tools first! But honestly we do help each other when we need to, but on track we are very much different teams.

Did you have a favourite driver (other than your dad) when growing up?

In the past I remember Jayne Bean, Peter Falding, John Lund, Bobby Burns, Kev Smith, Frankie Wainman jnr and of course my brother Andy Smith. It’s too hard to choose a favourite but I liked Jayne Bean, Kev Smith and Bobby Burns for their use of the bumper. I liked Peter Falding and John Lund for their speed and success and I like Andrew and Frankie Jnr because I remember the rivalry through recent years which has been brilliant for our sport. But if I had to choose a driver who would go down as the greatest that I have seen, it would be John Lund. I remember watching him win everything and to win our biggest championship 8 time is just unbelievable. I have only won it once and that was hard enough.

Anything different for 2010?

2010 will be same for me, trying to win every thing I can and using my same cars. Am thinking of repainting the shale car but not made my mind up yet.

Holland. A lot has been made over that word! Do you have any plans to race Holland following the successful first year running of the Golden Helmet at Coventry / Emmen, or maybe a race in the fields Stuart?

I really would love to race in Holland every year as I love the racing over there and treat it as a Holiday. I really want to race in the fields or at Emmen because I think the shale scene is now big and getting bigger in Holland so it would be good. I think the dutch would love to see me get put in the dyke at a field track (laugh), I think it would be good fun and the beer is nice over there too! There was a bit of a misunderstanding from the dutch that I said I don’t like the field racers on the mic at the world final. The truth is, I had not finished a race that night as I had tripped over a dutch racer in every race and in the last race I had it in mind I was not going to take any chances and I hit everything I came across, and I did and I won. After the race I said on the mic that I had not finished a race all night because I tangled with a few dutch drivers and I was not going to let it happen again. Which was meant tongue in cheek and in good humour, and I am sure that was how it was taken on the night. It was not until a week after, that I was told some things were said on fan forums and that I was saying bad things about the dutch. As you can imagine, they read this and when they came over for the Golden Helmet I was being asked why do I hate the dutch. So it was really a storm in a tea cup whipped up by the forums. So that’s probably why I am not a big Internet forum fan to say the least….

Photo Paul Tully

Photo Paul Tully

The ‘hot topic’ towards the end of this season was the move from Hoosiers to Goodyear Tyres in 2010. Do you have any thoughts on this move?

As regards the Goodyear coming in next year, I have made no secrets that I am not a fan because to go for a tyre that apparently lasts 150 laps and will still be as fast at lap 149 as lap 10 is just crazy. I don’t think that a tyre exists like that. Plus I think that when the top lads get on these naturally faster tires, and set their cars up on them we WILL be going faster especially on tarmac and I just hope that we don’t lose the contact element to our sport because that is what makes our sport unique.

The other ‘hot-topic’ was the National Series Shootout. It certainly appears to be a success from the fans point of view, what did you make of it?

Well as regards to the Shootout I was against it at the start, because I felt it diluted the whole season long championship. I liked it the way it was the year before and I felt it could be a true representation of a season long points championship. However, there was no doubt in my mind and every other driver’s mind what we were racing for. We were racing for the historic championship that goes back decades. There has been mass confusion over all this and I realised how deep this confusion went after the Sunday at Belle Vue when I won the points championship. I was over the moon, thinking to myself I have just won something both my dad and my brother have achieved, only to be contacted the night after by quite a few people who run and write about the sport asking me whether I thought it was right to have the silver roof on the shoot out system and whether or not it was even the points championship at all!!! As you can imagine I was not very happy as I was beginning to go through what my brother had gone through when he won the silver roof the second time round. I honestly can see how people are confused on the matter but the truth is when the National Series was introduced every driver was sent a letter explaining that the new format for the points championship was the National Series and the grading list was just that and nothing else. To use the words exactly “for grading purposes only”. Unfortunately this was not published to the fans as it should have been, and at the time my brother won the National Series, BriSCA still did not publish any documentation as they should have to the drivers and the fans to put the record straight once and for all. Hopefully during this winter BriSCA and the BSCDA will put this to bed and release an official roll of honour from the year dot to present day. I do not wish a driver to win next year and like me, have people saying that they have just won a series and not the coverted points championship, as I believe, I have won this year.

Photo Colin Casserley

Photo Colin Casserley

After thoughts on being followed by the BBC during the 2009 season?

The BBC is a massive opportunity for everyone involved to push the sport and try get it into the mainstream in a similar way to speedway, but that really goes for the fans as well. We need to give feedback when the program is aired, to the BBC, to show the interest and try to ultimately get a second series. As for myself taking part in the filming was at times a pain when your rushing around but on the whole was great fun and the friends we made and people we met were really the best bit for me.

Do you have any time for other interests outside of Stockcar Racing?

I do have a few past times which don’t involve stock cars which is why I really don’t get enough time to do them properly. But I love to go fishing during the summer and also like playing the guitar and I try to learn a few songs as and when I can.

Do you watch / enjoy any other racing?

The States is the best place for oval racing in the world. You have NASCAR and Sprint Cars which are my favourite things to watch. As for drivers, I like Tony Stewart in NASCAR because he will put someone in the wall to win, I like that. I was also a big fan of Dale Earnhardt snr. In sprint cars I liked Sammy Swindel but am swinging towards the king Steve Kinser now.

How about non-oval racing?

I have watched drag racing in Las Vegas and that blew me away, the noise was amazing. Other than that I went to watch Formula 1 GP at Donnington when Senna won in the wet and he overtook about four cars on the first three corners, I think that was what happened.

I know it was a long time ago, but what about Team GB and your memories of the Team Champs in New Zealand.

The Team Champs was nothing but brilliant and what we achieved was really unexpected to everyone really but we did gel as a team. The year before I was the first English driver to race in that event and I found my self being the centre of attention and everyone was saying I was going to get splatted and they were right! I think they thought that of the whole team GB this year but they were surprised and that sticks out in my mind.

Any hopes regarding the 2010 Team Champs?

My hope for 2010 Team Champs is that more British fans go over and support us because it really is an occasion to be seen. Also we have some great stuff for auction on our website and these are real one off things so please dig deep and get bidding for your piece of F1 stock car history. There that’s the promo over with! Seriously though, I think we can go all the way this year but I do know that we will be marked men this year.

Any advice you’d give to new drivers coming into F1’s?

Don’t think I know enough yet. Only when I see drivers take mirrors out, it baffles me, I would not dare. The only advice I have had that sticks in my mind is from my Dad, Jayne Bean and Bobby Burns “hit em!”

Anything that could be done to improve our sport?

Well the only thing I would like to think could really make a difference is TV, and we are getting on TV next year so really the only thing left is for real proper promotion from all sides of the sport. Other than that, I think we should be more lenient on bumper work in the sport. I think that it is the best bit about our sport.

The Favourites question – Food, Holiday, Music, Film.

Favourite food would have to be a good, old fashioned Sunday lunch. Favourite Holiday destination would be New Zealand and favourite music would be rock and some dance. I am really into my music and like all sorts but at the moment my favourites are Metallica, AC/DC, Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon. My favourite film would have to be the Shawshank Redemption and best comedy would be Dumb and Dumber.

Thank you very much for your time Stuart, any closing words?.

I really cant say enough to all my personal sponsors and my team. Also there are people who are not necessarily on the car but help in different ways too. Without all these I would not have had the success I have had, so thank you to you all.

Photo Colin Casserley

Photo Colin Casserley

Stephen Cording

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