My First Year Racing

Whistlin' Jack Smith >> Blog >> My First Year Racing

For those lucky enough to meet me face to face have usually been racing drivers and they normal put a question to me “how’s your racing going” – and unfortunately it didn’t go to plan.

The pick-up I purchased was built for tarmac racing and I should have gone down that route. I tested the car at Arena Essex and although I wasn’t mega quick I was by the end of the day feeling comfortable in the car and found my limits. The tyres were second hand and the engine wasn’t in the best shape but felt happy.

To start racing wasn’t just about having a race car I needed to splash the cash and purchased a recovery truck, the road trip to Kent was eventful and this vehicle ticked a lot of boxes. I tried several helmets and eventually felt comfortable in a Koden and got the necessary overalls – though I was confused by the salesman telling me I spent too much money and should have got some more basic ones as I completed the transaction.

I did get the transport later than I should of and missed the first meeting at Stansted, which was a mud bath. The choice of racing of Stansted was really down to the fact I could keep the car as a Pick-up, however I under estimated the bumpiness of the track and what would be needed to make the car competitive.

Early May I made my race debut in my own car, it was a great feeling to know that I had worked hard to get into the financial position to do this and made modifications to the car to suit me. I planned to start the first race from the back but as soon as I pulled onto the track I thought I could just start on the front row and maybe win this. What I didn’t realise at this point is the Stansted Hot Rods do not have grades so every would start on the home straight, plus they had better machinery for the track and more race skill. By the first corner I was already swamped got hit from behind, caused several cars to run wide allowing one to scamper off into the distance.

I started the other races from the back and somehow managed a fourth place in the final, which I thought was a good result as 11 cars started the meeting. Retirements and spins from others did help out a lot in this race, this was my best finish of the year but I wasn’t given any points. Why? Perhaps because I wasn’t registered as a finisher because I was lap down, but to be honest I don’t really care I knew at this point I was never going to win the points and that was never my aim. My initial aim was to get out there and know that I’ve have at least tried.

The low from that meeting was getting too wide and clipping the wall, which ripped off the front bumper, something I dragged under the car for a lap or so. Only cosmetic damage really.

I have been told by my wife that whilst racing at Stansted I never seemed happy compared the test I had at Arena, I was always frustrated and angry when I got out of the car. For those that have never been to Stansted Raceway (which used to be known as Henham) it is a bumpy dirt track and my car couldn’t cope with the bumps. I felt I was being thrown about and was getting too much air that meant I couldn’t get any power down and even point the steering wheel in the right direction. I was too hesitate which in a sport when speed matters you will get left behind.

The task was now to re-jig the car to make it softer. That first meeting I had plenty of drivers telling what I needed to do, though I would add they were all different. Although I appreciated people going out of their way to try and assist, it was all jobs that required new parts and wouldn’t be done there and then – plus I already knew the car was bouncing about too much.

Weddings and a holiday meant I missed a few meetings, my second meeting I felt I had my best race not because I had a decent finish I knew I was last but I spent the majority of the race (heat 2) trying to hold off another driver. Then the exhaust snapped off, a hasty mod got the car out for the next heat but it fell off before I could start the final so we loaded up.

Come the third meeting and the suspension had been changed but I didn’t feel I was going any quicker, I was still being lapped by just before the end of the race. I knew to make more improvements would be to throw more money at the car, to make it work better at Stansted a track that I never thought I would be racing at. It was convenient but I was heading away from what I wanted to do and decided that I needed to get back onto the path of racing on a tarmac track.

There was another incident I wanted to mention that I can’t remember which meeting it happened but I got loose and ended up riding up the marker tyre on the inside. The car was left perched here for the remainder of the race, which gave me a unique view of the track on the entry to the straight at about 30 degrees with cars kicking back the dirt. When I got out of the car I forget that the wedged tyre made the car about 2 foot higher and as pushed myself out of the seat to transfer my weight to the other leg it wasn’t touching the floor, the chicken bar took my weight in the wrong place just to add insult to injury. I think that covers it for my moments of 2015.

Then my dad who is my inspiration and a very proud chief mechanic got very ill so required chemo and a bone marrow transplant. I had also been very unhappy in my job with a useless manager so quit to help the parents as much as I could. My dad was very upbeat with his situation and returned home after a month, I found new employment quite quickly but I wasn’t thinking about my own racing, I had lost my mojo. I remember my dad quizzing me to see if the reason I wasn’t racing was due to my lack of mechanical skills, but the real reason was I didn’t want to do it without him. The car then spent the next half year sitting on a driveway.

That pretty much brings me up to date, changes have already been started on for the 2016 season. I’ve accumulated more spares and know my way around the car better. I’m feeling upbeat for getting back on track. I truly understand the dedication I need to put into the car to get it race worthy.

To answer the initial question of “how’s your racing going” in a nutshell, I would say “the results have been pathetic and I step out of the car after every race really wound-up”…..then I think about it again and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m finally living my dream!

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