World champion Nigel Green hit back at comments made by Stuart Smith Jnr after the Mintex National Points Shootout leader said he believed Green purposefully took both cars out of contention during the meeting final at Stoke last Saturday.
The race was notable for the battle between Green and Smith Jnr, which left Smith Jnr in the fence with a broken rear axle, and Green clipping parked cars on the last bend and failing to finish when leading.
Green had been fighting for the lead of the race prior to the yellow flags coming out for a stoppage in the closing stages. Soon after the restart Smith Jnr fired Green into the turn one fence, only to be sent the same way in turn three by his rival half a lap later.
“I think he hit me for neither of us to win,” Smith Jnr had said earlier in the week. “I would have done that if I didn’t want either of us to win. He hasn’t raced with me like that ever before but it’s time to start, I suppose.”
But Green categorically refutes the suggestion he was not trying to win the race. “I didn’t take myself out. I kept going,” says Green. “I just retaliated to what he started. I was in the lead of the race and the yellow flags brought him back into contention, whereas if there hadn’t been a yellow flag he wouldn’t have been anywhere near me.
It’s the first time he’s hit me, so it’s the first time I’ve hit him back. So, as far as I’m concerned that’s done and dusted
“And then, for some reason, he didn’t feel like he wanted to race so he put me in the fence. Every other time I’ve raced with Stuart I’ve just moved him out of the way or vice versa and let whoever crack on, but in that race he got to me and put me in the fence.
“It’s the first time he’s hit me, so it’s the first time I’ve hit him back. So, as far as I’m concerned that’s done and dusted, and the next time I’m racing with him and I’m faster I’ll just drive past him, in my normal style of racing.
“But obviously if anything cracks off after that, then I’ll again retaliate like with like.”
The rivalry between Green and Smith Jnr has been notable this season for the level of fair play between them. In the World Championship semi-final at Skegness, for example, Smith Jnr followed Green home in second place, accepting the runner-up position rather than attempting to eliminate his potential rival to the gold roof.
That unspoken rule, however, appeared to be broken at Stoke and now with the National Points Shootout Finale and the silver roof at stake at Belle Vue on Sunday, it would appear from the Shootout points leader’s comments this week that the gloves are off.
Green, for his part, doesn’t intend to raise the bar that high, unless someone else does it first. “I have always let people deal the first blow,” he says. “I’m just racing to try and win races. That’s my style.
“I will always drive past someone cleanly if I can, but if then they decide to hit me back, or to deal with me in a different way, then I’ll retaliate on the track the way I feel I should at the time.
“I’m not intimidated by Stuart or anyone. I deal with everybody the same way they deal with me.
I just made a mistake. I’m not sure if the car was damaged from the other visits I had to the fence, but it struggled to turn after going in with Stuart
“Stuart put me in the fence so he went into the fence as well. I hit the fence and stopped very quickly but managed to keep going. He hit the fence and it grabbed him and stopped him but that’s the nature of the Stoke fence. It’s like Velcro!”
Green looked all set for his 12th final win of the season but powered into the final bend too deep and clipped a parked car and was out of the race on the spot, allowing Mark Woodhull, following closely in second place, to take the victory.
“I just made a mistake,” admits Green. “I’m not sure if the car was damaged from the other visits I had to the fence, but it struggled to turn after going in with Stuart. So the car wasn’t handling as well as it was, and I didn’t even realise it was the last lap, to be honest.
“I was that busy racing with everybody else, I didn’t have a chance to look at the lap boards and they aren’t actually that clear at Stoke. I wasn’t worried about somebody hitting me from behind, it was just a case of turning in and, for some reason, it got sideways and and decided to keep going sideways and that was me out of the race.
“It just goes to show everybody’s human and can makes mistakes. It was just frustrating that it was the last lap and I was in the lead! But that is what spiced the meeting up, and everybody loved it.”
It just isn’t my style to go out and wreck someone’s chances. I will go out there to race, but if I do get caught up in a banger race in between then then we will get into it
With 154 points available Green still has a mathematical chance of snatching the National Points title away from Smith Jnr. The silver roof is the one award the world champion really wants, but he accepts his chances at Belle Vue are slim.
“I’m going out there to win races,” Green says. “Stuart’s got the Shootout sewn up in my view, so I’m not really in a position to try and influence the outcome, because it is highly unlikely he is not going to score points and I’m going to get a maximum.
“It just isn’t my style to go out and wreck someone’s chances. I will go out there to race, but if I do get caught up in a banger race in between then then we will get into it. I will go out to try and score as many points as I can and win a couple of trophies.”
Green also responded to Smith Jnr’s remarks regarding the fact he makes his own axles rather than, as Green does, buy them ready-made from America.
“As far as buying my axles rather than making my own, I’m too busy during the week and wouldn’t have the time to find an axle out of an Transit van, cut it up, clean it and machine it and start machining other bits,” explains Green.
“The time it would take with the labour, it would cost the same as buying one. My axle casings do come from America, but they are about £400. They come off the shelve and are readily available.
“If you can’t justify spending £400 and want to spend 20 hours to make all your own bits, and you’ve got the knowledge and the know-how to do it – then, yes, going down that route makes sense.
“But if you haven’t got the time or the equipment or the know-how to engineer and make your own back axles, then it’s quite a labour intensive job.”
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley and Neil Randon
Neil Randon 2017