I have this well known capacity for sticking my neck out. So earlier this season when I tipped Bert Finnikin for points and World Champion one or two people started talking. I have watched Bert improving season by season and I now firmly believe that this will be his special one. I would call Bert a gentleman racer, and in fact any dealings with this driver from an officials point of view, have found him polite and very pleasant, even when he may have been done out of places. To watch Bert race is a joy and indeed when I have taken people to the Sport for the first time I have told them to watch Bert to watch his skills, especially at Odsal or on the large expanses of the super Belle Vue oval. He sometimes does not suit the purist as his bumpers are not as evident to the other cars as many others. He'tends to think his races and moves, like a professional chess player. His cars are a perfection of suspesion set up, and the engine tuned to perfection, making the whole car an ultimate racing machine just waiting fonts pilot. The setting up and back scenes owe much to brother Alan, who looks like Leeks version of Compo most of the time, but put spanners in his hand, and watch a genious at work.
Bert has not always been top dog however. The story starts back with his early childhood days accompanying the family as they watched his father, the late Charlie Finnikin, racing the ovals around the country. Charlie was a great favourite here at Belle Vue where the commentator of the day had a soft spot for him, and his winning ways, thus the name money bags was bestowed upon him. The green bodied car, and number 55 were well loved by all who visited the Vue in the sixties. Needless to say Bert was having 'outings' round the family premises in dads F.1, so by the time his debut was due, Bert knew which pedals to press and when. When the big day arrived for Berts first official meeting it was here at Belle Vue and a self built replica of dads car, racing under the number 28. He raced mostly in the Midlands with the odd visit to the frozen North, not really setting the world on fire, that is until 1977. In 1976 a points tally of 238 and a yellow roof were the spoils of that season, however a new car, the ex. Ian Russell/Alan Young raced and built cars appeared in the household. Original Allan Fin' was going to run it, but as Allan was still suffering with serious leg injuries. Bert thought he would give it a whirl. A piece of good luck landed in Berts lap with sponsorship from the firm for whom Bert works, Tarmac. The early season was spent learning to live with this powerful car and by mid season he was holding his own up in the yellow topped ranks. If it was the sunshine or a bit of summer madness we shall never know, but a run of three heats and finals in eight days did wonders for the points, so much so that by September he was a firmly established red top, scoring over a hundred more points than he had in the whole of 1976. At the end of the season he had amassed 592 points a total of 9 final wins and seventeen heat wins. Bert Finnikin had arrived.
1978 and things went from better to super. 1342 points second in the Semi-Finals, 5th in the World Final here at the Vue and the Dutch Long Track Championship. The Dutch connection was to prove an important part of Finn kin life as both Bert and Allan helped the Dutch lads with their motors, so much so that they are now a true force to be reckoned with. In 1979 and Bert continued his star status trail, and another second in a semi-final, this time at Leicester where he tailed Frank ie Wain man for lap after lap, the crowd were screaming for the bumper but Bert resisted the temptation. He was to share the rostrom with Frank ie at White City where Frankie won the World Final and Bert was third. That meeting will stand in many peoples memory as in the meeting final of the night Bert was deposited on top of a pile of cars and sat on top of the fence rocking very precariously.
In 1980 another car and another sponsors name along side that
of Tarmac. Stan Lees of Coregreen one of the nicest blokes I have ever
met in this sport decided to sponsor Bert. A super hairy Huddart engine
sat throbbing its little heart out under the bonnet, alas it was somewhat
volatile and a less hairy lump was fitted. This was not to be Berts year
in the World Final either, as the semis were at Odsal, One of Berts best
tracks but all sorts of problems found him a non finisher on this occasion.
By the end of the season Bert had amassed 916 points and his average was
14:1 points per meeting, which when you consider this is when Stuart Smith
was points Champion and scoring 18:6 is not half bad. He also won 12 finals
and an amazing 33 heats. In 1981 a piece of news leaked out that stunned
the Stock Car fraternity. Bert announced thatdue to work, the pressures
of maintaining a top race car, and his family he was announcing his partial
retirement, and indeed his appearances became fewer and fewer. He gained
enough points to gain a 5th on the semi-final grid at Northampton, the
result of this being a place on the second row of the grid for the World
Final at Odsal behind the eventual winner, Len Wolfenden. The 11th lap
however, it was all over for another year. Berts virtual retirement showed
in his points tally as well, finishing in 12th place with 784 points and
only 3 final wins to his credit, and 27 heatwins. His average was 14 points
a meeting, not to be sniffed at.
In 1982 things happened in a big way for Bert. First was a
Clive Lintern built car, using Allen Finn ikins brilliant ideas in the
suspension set up. An enormous Chevy breathed on by Mike Huddart gave
the car its get up and go. The Daily Mirror Grand Prix was the highlight
of theseason, Bert taking the title at Coventry. This was to be Berts
first ever major title within BRISCA. The series will be well remembered
for the expected battle between Stuart Smith and Bert in the final round,
this was until Phil Bicknell did his famous right hand turn at Long Eaton,
thus giving Bert a clear run. Being drawn at Blackburn was not the kindest
semi-final Bert could have been drawn in, and then to add insult to injury,
as the green flag dropped Bert had selected the wrong gear and was left
at the back of the field. However, an amazing fight back found him in
5th place and a good start for the World Final here at Belle Vue. A steady
race found him finishing 6th. The end of the season told an interesting
story, although - Bert was not travelling extensively, he had scored 1288
points, won 12 finals, and 37 heats. This gave Bert an amazing 19 point
a meeting average. This season has seen Bert quite obviously chasing the
National Points which the current Champion Mike Close decided not to defend
in full. At the time of writing Bert was leading the points by a comfortable
margin, and doing quite well in the Daily Mirror Grand Prix. He was scoring
a 22 points a meeting average, and nobody has any doubts of Berts ambitions
this year. As said earlier. Bert is a gentleman, and I wish him all the
bestfor this season, especially as I have tipped him for the double. One
trick he used to do at Odsal was to warm the rear tyres up. He did that
by nosing up to the barrier and rev the car up, with clouds of smoke raising
from the tyres. The crowd loved it. Bert has a faithful following and
I hope his fans have enjoyed this piece in his honour. This includes three
lads who mend buses from the Stake area who pester my life out about him.
Original article appeared in the June 25th 1983 Belle Vue Programme and was written by Pete Hearn.
Top: The 1983 super fast Finnikin special. Both car and driver are a credit to the Sport of Stock Car Racing. Photo by Steve Botham.
The Flying 'Finn' No.55 Bert Finnikin. Photo by: J.Smith.