Following the magazine's policy of looking at those underated drivers who are the backbone of the sport, PETER HEARN reviews the short but violent career of Bradford stocker, Ian Smith.
To those of you living south of Sheffield, the name Ian Smith might not be very familiar. Amongst those who love stock car racing as a contact sport and also realise the talents of a driver racing budget machinery, the name of Ian Smith is often mentioned. He is a great favourite with the fans in the north, due to his never-say-die attitude and the fact that he moves over for nobody.
He is a driver who, equipped with the right combination of car and engine, could be similar to that other great northern favourite, John Lund, on whom I will be doing an article in the near future, but back to Ian Near Halifax there is a banger track called Sunnyvale and on this dusty, dried up lake bed, some of the top names in BriSCA Stock Cars in the north cut their teeth, racing in the old fashioned banger tradition of no holds barred. Ian was top dog down there and learnt never to under estimate the opposition, especially when it could have been Colin Gautry or the Jebsons or even a name that stirs the soul of all true stox fans, Gordon Smith.
Sunnyvale is still alive and well, one of the top men there, now being one of the top entertainers on the club circuit in Yorkshire -Boner Colino - well remembered for his fabulous act at the drivers dinner dance last year. Ian's first stock car as such, was raced at Sunnyvale and had the dubious honour of belonging to a guy called Nick Nixon who apparently used to terrify everybody with the beast in the early sixties. Unfortunately, my records do not show any trace of him, perhaps somebody may enlighten me on this one. Anyhow Ian and friends were out for a ride and near Borobridge they spotted this object in a field. On further investigation it was found to be this monstrous stock car.
After moving umpteen years of weeds, birds nests, etc. the thing was carted back to Bradford, done up and with the number 64 adorning it, promptly started its infamous history all over again. And I believe it's still racing today.
When stock cars returned to Bradford under the guidance of Barry Gomersal in the seventies, Ian being a Bradford lad became rather interested and after a spell working the pit gate up there, decided to buy a car and have a go at BriSCA style stock cars. At this time a young lad from the Batley area, had his car up for sale. His name was Andrew Hicks and one night they went and collected this machine. To their surprise, Andrew's home was a vicarage and out came the vicar, prayer book in hand, to help with the loading up, with Ian probably hoping that he'd say one for him that Sunday! The car safely back in Bradford, Ian would sit in it and pretend at racing, till eventually they stopped playing silly sods and decided to have a proper go. They purchased the chassis from another well known northern character, Dave Grantham and after much feverish activity they set out for Skegness and their first meeting. Two things were drastically wrong, three if you count Colin Gautry with them. First nobody had been to Skegness before and it is not the easiest journey from Bradford. After crawling in and out of the windows to ask directions - the doors didn't open - they arrived at about nine-o-clock. At this point problem two had reared its ugly head. At most stock car tracks there are two straights and four corners and Ian's car loved the straights but the corners caused much consternation as the car wouldn't go round them. Eventually after moving the stadium a couple of feet nearer Butlins, they decided to call it a day. At what time they arrived home they didn't say but I bet it was a race to beat the milkman. The car was eventually sorted out and on one memorable night at Nelson, he had a super duel with Frankie Wainman and Stuart Smith. It really had the crowd bouncing and it was then that Ian started being mentioned in magazines and spectators began to watch out for the brash young driver from Bradford. This car ended the way of so many others, stuck firmly in the fence post at Nelson. That track did as much for car survival as a British Leyland shop steward does for productivity. As 1981 loomed, Ian paid another visit to Dave Grantham and his new chassis purchase kept him in the public eye. The Christmas meetings in 1980 were Ian's star achievements. His drives at Odsal and Sheffield caught everybody's imagination and suddenly they all wanted to know who Ian Smith was.
This year has seen some epic drives at Odsal, Sheffield and Rochdale - where you have to be good to survive the battering you get from the track. One super meeting he had recently was at Belle Vue where he borrowed Roy Pages, ex-Gordon Brown car and drove a classic heat just showing everybody what he could do given the right machinery. Ian is well respected by many of the top drivers and although he is only a yellow top, his exploits are much revered. Ian is busily working on the car at the moment, getting it ready for the World Final meeting at Odsal. It has a very attractive colour scheme, the same as the firm who give Ian some of that all important sponsorship that helps the racers in these hard times. Ian's sponsor is T.C.Harrison JCB, for whom he works and although it is not cash sponsorship as such, they provide workshop facilities etc, which are invaluable to any driver. Ian would like to thank T.C.Harrison for their help, because without then. assistance it would be back to the street for repairing sessions and the law in these parts doesn't exactly go overboard on F I stock cars being repaired on the highway. Another problem Ian has had, is that his mechanic, Nigel Firth, is unable to assist as he has recently bought a house and with wedding bells in the offing, something had to go, so Ian does nearly all his own maintenance. In times of relaxation, the topics of beer and women rate highly in the Smith guide to better living. Seeing his fabulous-looking lady friend, Lorraine, I am surprised he has the time for much ale consumption but believe me he has, and many a jar or two have been shared in his company. Another even more terrifying problem affects Ian. It's called the Hearn jinx. All I have to do is go in the pits prior to a meeting, look at the car and all sorts of horrible things happen to it. So now when Ian spots me, there are various hammers etc, directed at the Hearn personage. One classic was the article I wrote in the Odsal programme, telling everybody to watch for him and he didn't even reach the start line in the first race, an event he keeps reminding me of. I hope this article breaks the jinx and I also hope that Ian has the chance one day, of one of the more exotic type engines being campaigned by other drivers. It's only recently he has changed from Buick to Chevrolet power. Ian is a non-move-over racer and what's more, he has respect from the fans, other drivers and fellow stock car reporters for it. I would like to think that one day a red roof could adorn the car and I am sure Ian would be a worthy driver to hold it. Let us all hope that the escalating costs do not kill off the grass roots racers and that we will have the pleasure of seeing Ian Smith's own brand of action racing for many years to come. PETE HEARN
Original article was written by Pete Hearn copied from the October 1981 Rods & Stocks International Magazine