Remembering the great

Whistlin' Jack Smith >> Blog >> Remembering the great

I have assembled a few obituaries for this site and the reality is they have some form of influence on my life but none as much as one man. After fighting several problems over the last 18 months my father sadly passed away at the start of this year.

My dad Peter Ballard, was never a top class race driver, promoter, fabricator or journalist but he was one of the dedicated fans of the sport. When a driver is the winner of the final race and the crowd has quickly dispersed, those handful of people who stay to clap you would have included my dad. He loved the sport and taking me along as a child created an amazing bond between us. He may not have provided action on the track but he implanted the seed for my love for the sport – without him this site would have not existed, I would have not wanted to step onto the track. He provided so many pictures for the site and always thought it was cool when I would tell how thousands of people have viewed them. I like the phrase ‘living the dream’ and when I bought a race-car, I would thank him for helping me live my dreams and being my guiding light in life.

He watched the Spedeweekends of the 70s and then from the late 80s onwards it was a regular occurrence with me, at Christmas we watched his cine footage from Germany of Hot Rods and Stock Cars. Travelling to Kaldenkirchen, Germany to watch the Superstox World Championship is something many of us haven’t done but he did it just because he got enjoyment from the sport. He also ventured to Denmark but couldn’t track down any racing whilst there.

The chance to race came about a few years ago when Steve Tandy lent us a few cars, dad wasn’t that quick and blamed the car! The ‘itch’ to race was finally over. Steve if you’re reading this, I don’t think you realise how happy you made him.

For him the perfect combination would have been National Hot Rods and Saloon Stock Cars, my earliest racing memories are the Peach invasion or Steve O’Dell on his nose at Yarmouth – both incidents my dad would often reminisce. His favourite drivers were never the obvious ones, he liked the ones that would try, for example Rob Montagner or Horry Barnes. He also liked the Banger driver that would win races based on them having a clean car from avoiding everyone else (back when Bangers did hit each other), whilst I was supporting the Suicide Squad he was cheering for Dennis Wenhold.

He liked the nostalgia, his blanket sat on the parcel shelf with many sew-on badges that seemed to fall out of fashion in the early 90s. He took many photos, many more than ever shared with this site. Just the other day I saw Keith Duke’s album of the 2008 Thunder 500 and I’m not looking at the cars in the pits, I’m seeing dad in the background wandering around camera in hand making his own memories.

Where do we go from here, I’m not sure, my desire to race without him alongside as my mechanic has disappeared. I question whether I want to spend time on this site or watching the sport when they produce painful memories. I hear certain songs or I’m reminded of something that takes me right back alongside him, my eyes get hazy and breathing becomes hard. I have to consciously recompose myself and try to take pleasure from the many good times we had. There’s often been talk about that great oval track in the sky that is home to many heroes before and now my dad, my hero is cheering those guys on.

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