New season countdown : 28

28

Before he took father Charlie’s famous 55, Bert Finnikin was number 28. This photo is from Long Eaton and was one of the earliest, and possibly the very first, meeting that Bert competed in.

Bert went on to become one of the most successful F1 drivers of all time, and is one of the very few drivers to have won over 100 Finals as well as having won the World, National Points, and British championships.

Under the guidance of father Charlie and older brother Alan, Bert started his career in 1972, aged 16, with a Chrysler powered lightweight car. Results were modest for the first year or two, with Bert starting to pick up places as he learned his craft. By the end of his second season, he had just enough points to be graded blue for the first time. But just as it seemed he was ready to move up the echelons of the sport, Charlie died of a heart attack. It would take time before the brothers felt able to return to racing.

Bert’s new car for 1976 featured the name of his then employer, Tarmac, something that would remain a feature of Finnikin cars for over a decade. Red top was achieved in 1977 and over the next few years a variety of cars were bought and modified with varying degrees of success.

But for the 1982 season, a car was unveiled that would catapult Bert from being good to being one of the very best. The chassis was built by relative newcomer Clive Lintern, with the suspension a joint effort between Clive and Alan Finnikin. The power unit was a tricked-up big block Chevy prepared by Mike Huddart, the man behind many of the top engines of the 1980s.

The car went well – very well – and with Bert finishing the season high up in the points despite doing rather less meetings than the rest, the team decided to make a big effort in 1983 and do as many meetings as possible with the aim of winning the National Points Championship.

The 55 car was at the top of the table after the first regrading, and although defending champion Mike Close was never far behind, Bert stayed top right to the end, dedicating the points title to the memory of his father.

The 1985 British Championship was held at Northampton, with Bert getting the better of Stu Smith to take the win.

The later part of the 1980s saw Bert ease off racing as he was putting most of his efforts into his business, but for 1990 he bought a Peter Falding car and got serious again. A whole bunch of Finals were won, and come the Bradford staged World Final, if there was one man in exactly the right frame of mind for the big race, it was Bert Finnikin.

From a row four start, Bert worked his way up the order with trademark cool and closed right up to leader John Lund. The late 1980s and early 1990s were when Lund was at the very peak of his career and it seemed almost unthinkable that somebody could catch him in a World Final and take him on. But that’s just what Bert did.

The following year, Bert defended his title from the front row at Hednesford and led the race all the way to the last bend, having been chased all the way by Falding. Down the back straight for the last time, it looked like Bert had a big enough lead to be safe, but Peter had other ideas, and an absolutely massive lunge, even by Falding standards, led to the most famous last bend of all time.

After another couple of years, Bert decided that perhaps his time with F1 was done and he moved into F2, firstly with nephew Stuart, and later with son Craig.

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