There is no-one better than five-time World champion Andy Smith to give a personal insight to the fascinating Stoke World Championship semi-final.
As well as five World titles, Smith won 11 World semi-finals during his career, and won the third of his World Championships the only time the race has been run at Foxhall Stadium in 2008.
In Part Two of our World Championship semi-final preview, Andy gives BSCDA E-NEWS his view on the leading contenders for this weekend’s Stoke showdown.
At Stoke I’ve noticed they do have a tendency to over water the track on the odd occasion, which makes for a lot of banging and crashing, spinning out and chaos. It might be some people’s idea of what you want to see at stock car meetings, but it makes it very difficult for drivers to have any consistency, so the track preparation will come into it in regards to how much of a lottery it is in the early laps. You could find the first two rows could all spin out. Stoke is a very unpredictable type of track, which adds to the excitement.
4 DAN JOHNSON (Inside front row)/ 84 TOM HARRIS (outside second row)
Obviously we had the incident between Dan and Tom at the British followed by Northampton. They’re both top class drivers and very quick and should be looking at getting into the final as their main priority.
Obviously what Dan did to Tom at Sheffield wasn’t as graphic as what Tom did to Dan at Northampton. I’ve not spoken to Dan about it and whether it was intentional or not but to me it looked a bit out of order, really, in a big race.
Put it this way, I would have been very, very unhappy if I were Tom Harris that day, and obviously he showed how unhappy he was when he got his revenge hit at Northampton.
It was hard but, flipping it over, if I were Dan Johnson I would have thought to myself, well, Tom had to do what he did, really.
If one of them wants to take it a stage further, now is the ideal time in a semi-final, because you can wreck someone’s whole season in an instant. But you have to really hold a grudge to do that, I think.
I don’t think I have ever resorted to those tactics in a semi-final because you want to get into the World Final. Once in the final anything goes, because if you want to nail someone you can do it then. In a semi-final? It doesn’t usually happen.
And recently they have raced each other very cleanly. There might not be the fireworks everyone has been talking about.
Tom is a cracking driver but his focus has not been so much on Formula One recently. However, he is really getting that shale car now to his liking.
212 DANNY WAINMAN (outside front row)
Danny Wainman has really good shale pace. If you look at the lap times, invariably he is quite often the fastest car on shale. But he doesn’t seem to be able to turn that into consistent wins, just places final-wise. He is more of a place man.
He doesn’t seem that eager at the start of a race to me, whereas his brother is always the opposite. He is a very different driver to Frankie, but I would like to see Danny get a cracking result and I would like to see him come out of the shadow of Frankie, really. It would be good to see.
He’s got the speed, no doubt about it, but he needs to raise his game. He needs to drive for himself and go for it. If he does, I can see him getting a really good result in the race.
1 FRANKIE WAINMAN JNR (Inside second row)
Frankie has all the experience in the world and he is driving superbly at the minute. When I packed in racing I expected Frankie to take advantage of the big race opportunities with me not being there. He ordinarily would have taken them, but he didn’t seem to do that and he spent a few years in the doldrums. Perhaps that was because he was spreading himself too thin with his kids racing – I know that Ministox is very demanding – it must have been hard for him toing and froing.
But now they are all under the same banner with Frankie Jnr also racing in Formula Ones, I bet if you ask Frankie now he will tell you he finds it a lot easier now to prepare his stuff to go racing and to be right at the top.
What I found with Frankie, when we were racing together, he always raced 100 per cent. He would never, ever, have anything in reserve in the John Lund style. That was the beauty with Lundy. He always had an edge in big races – he saved something back equipment wise, with his mindset. He would just save something back for the big occasion.
I always tried to learn from John in that respect, whereas Frankie was always flat out in every race. He didn’t always have the tools sometimes to push on in the World Finals, whereas I have noticed for the last couple of years his run-of-the-mill meetings have not been as dramatic. He’s not winning as many races but he has done really well on the big stage – World Final, British Championships – he is at that time in his career where he seems to be able to raise his game for the big race.
When Frankie brought that shale car out I remember thinking to myself, he should have done that years ago. I wondered why it had taken him so long to follow the pattern of how an out-and-out shale car was built. He sort of stayed with his pattern of how it used to be and a car that was easier for a customer to race on both surfaces. He probably stayed with that style because of his business, but from his results point of view he is as good a driver as anybody but just hasn’t had the fastest car for a few years on shale.
Once he built an equally fast a car as everybody else, he’s been very difficult to beat. I just wonder why he didn’t do it sooner. But I bet he thinks it’s the best think he’s ever done really.
The good thing about Frankie’s car is that it’s very good in all track conditions, throughout the race it will be very consistent.
Any of those front four could win it, couldn’t they?
With Danny it would be an over-achievement but the other three have got it in them to win. You can’t really split them. You can throw a blanket over them, it’s that close.
Frank is capable of beating all of those lined up around him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won the race, to be honest. If I had to pick a favourite to win, it would probably be Frank.
150 MICK SWORDER (outside third row)
I hope Mick Sworder races in the Stoke semi. He could well win that race, if he does. I know I’m biased but I don’t think there’s a faster car around the track and when Mick has got his head in gear, watching him is like poetry.
He can put the car all over the track – he’s got such good car control. He’s an artist in that car. But whether he has enough enthusiasm to put the work in and put an engine in the car, I don’t know. I hope he does because he will add to the event.
21 MARK GILBANK (outside fourth row)
It depends how the race goes. If the track is a bit treacherous and inconsistent early on and if a few of the top drivers higher up the grid trip over themselves, Mark will be there to pick up the pieces. He’s another one who has not won a big race. It’s unbelievable, really, the amount of time he has been in the sport. He’s a quality driver, so it’s amazing to think he has never taken a big race win.
He’s another driver it would be nice to see win a big one before he eventually drifts by the wayside. He races a very old car, but he is always modernising it in quite subtle areas to try and keep up. It’s quite a quick car – he won at King’s Lynn earlier this season – he romped away and was the fastest man on the track, so you can’t rule him out.
Andy Smith was talking to Neil Randon
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley and Paul Tully