212 Frankie "Smiler" Wainman
"How do I get there?" says I over the phone. "Up the hill and just keep turning left until you find it " says Frankie. In retrospect, these words seemed to sum up Frankie's career so far, the point being that he hasn''t found it yet. IT, in case your're still in doubt , is the fulfilment of his dream, that' of being the National Points Champion and wearing the covereted silver stripes.
It is the tireless pursuit of this goal, and of course the sheer love of stock car racing, that takes Frankie and his entourage all over the country, year after year, with the result that there isn't a circuit he hasn't visited at some stage of his career, a career that has seen him amass trophies by the dozen, indeed the total must be well into the hundreds now. In spite of all his travels though, he singles out Nelson as his favourite track. This isn't really surprising because it was through going to the Carr Road raceway as a spectator that made Frankie decide to have a bash! He knew a couple of local racers at the time, having sold the odd axle here and there even in those days, and, although no one knew it at the time, a Superstar was born as a result. He was, and still is, ideally equipped for the venture in that the family farm at Silsden had changed its emphasis from the ups and downs of dairying to the nuts and bolts of farm machinery repair. Thus the young Smiler already knew his way
around "sturdy vehicles" and had the essential facilities on hand. The first car was nothin' fancy, just a good old Jag. engine, and he lined up for his first race on 6th September, 1970, at Rochdale, which was then under the Belle Vue banner. As a novice, he learned the hard way, and kept finding himself aiming fence-wards, with assistance from Willie on several occasions. He would strongly recommend today's novices to try and learn the business on the wider tracks to minimise the risk of damage until they gain a bit of experience. As he points out, if they're in front of you and you can't pass them, there's only one thing to do! It took the 212 team just over two years to be able to get the red paint splashed on and the first final win followed in 1973, at Nelson. There's little doubt that Frankie's style owes quite a lot to the rigours of negotiating this track, and he and Mike Close are the prime examples of the new breed of drivers that came into the sport via the Seed Hill Stadium's influence. His career has been on the up and up ever since, and he was one of the top six when the Superstar grade was introduced in 1976. Apart from Stu Smith, Frankie is the only ever present member of that elite, a glowing testimony to his consistency. Naturally there have been "interesting" interludes through the years. Belle Vue has seen him do an incredible roll-over-over-over, yes, it was quite a spectacle, and it was there that he suffered a rather nasty looking fire a couple of years ago. Once at Sheffield they had to use the car to get the bus out of the pits, but it was at the short-lived Reading that the other side of the coin turned up when, at the second, and last, meeting, Frankie scored a heat, final and grand national hat-trick of victories: a rare feat. Side by side with his racing exploits, and a testament to his popularity, is the ever-growing Frankie Wainman Fan Club. There are now in excess of 600 members and the daunting task of keeping things running smoothly in this department is ably carried out by Frankie's wife Sue, whose knowledge of the sport has few equals, and Graham. The fact that he is such a well liked person comes as no surprise to the mem bers of the many supporters' clubs whose functions he attends regularly he's even got a bit of a reputation on a chopper bike these days and this role of unpaid ambassador once led him into the studios of Pennine Radio for a live phone-in type interview. Poor Frankie, while 'our side' was getting nothing but the engaged tone, a whole load of banger enthusiasts were giving him 'a hard time of it. We wuz robbed!
Inclose contest with Dennis Driscoll at Northampton
Frankie's new steed has a new 454, whereas Len's will have the engine that came from the ex-Hargreaves car now with Sam Ostle. Both cars will be identical and will weigh around 27 cwt., so all the 'specials' had better beware! The spare will be a bit lighter, and the engine in it is a 427 Chevy that is destined for the aluminium head treatment. After experimenting with a space-frame chassis a while back (the car that went to Trevor Todd), it is definitely back to beefy main-rails from now on, but the Wainman cars still differ from the accepted norm by utilising a Karrier gearbox, and lever-arm dampers at the rear to bolster the quarter-elliptics. It has been quite noticeable that this suspension set-up copes with the bumpier tracks a lot better than most. For instance, you don't see Wainman cars pogoing down the back straight at Rochdale like some do, do you? You cannot help but get the impression that he knows what he's doing! Not so long ago, Frankie relied on Fords for power, but he explained that he thought he had gone as far as he could with them, and that's Why he changed back to Chevrolet. I say "changed back" because he did have a big bad bored out Chev motor a few years back, in fact it is still there in his workshop. No doubt some faces will grimace to learn that its function these days is to facilitate the making of bell-housings! The workshop itself is part of the folk-lore of stock car racing now, so well is it stocked with spares of all kinds. You name it, it's probably there, and the Wainman reputation as an "entrepreneur of stock car accoutrements" is easily understandable when you've seen the place. No doubt this was why Stu Bamforth approached Frankie to nail together the four extra team cars we saw last year. Whatever became of them . . . ? But that's another story. The famous Smile went to Holland last year but things didn't quite work out as he hoped so Frankie opted to stay at home when the European Long Track Final came round. Still, it's an ill wind that bows nobody any good because when Frankie rolled up at White City that Saturday night, just look who he brought with him! And that's yet another story. I asked him what he regarded as his best achievements so far, thinking he would choose maybe his Long Eaton semi victory, or perhaps the Grand National Championship at Sheffield last year, and although he obviously recalled several races with pleasure, I couldn't help feeling that he doesn't spend much time looking back, preferring to look to the future, to the finest 'hour he believes is yet to come. Well, he's been second in a World Final, and second in the points championship twice, so if my guess is right it seems he won't be really satisfied with himself until he proves he is the best! It's a tall order, no doubt about that. I've no doubt he wouldn't mind winning the gold roof; I'm sure he'll be going flat out to win the Jubilee Grand Prix Series, but he wants those silver stripes more than anything else! In closing, I would just like to demonstrate how his dedication and determination have carried him steadily towards his target. The figures are pretty self explanitory.
As I left him, just a week before the opening meeting, he reminded me that there wasn't just seven days left... there were seven nights as well. That's dedication.
We don't have the orignal article photo.
instead here is the car early 1979 at long eaton