A tribute to 1/515 Frankie Wainman Junior 

Slice him any which way you want and you will find the words 'F1 Stock Car Racing' running continuously through him, like a stick of Blackpool rock. He is quite simply the face and name of BriSCA F1 whether in the UK, Holland or New Zealand and probably the only stock car driver ever to make a living from the sport - a true professional.

Born in Yorkshire in 1971, Frankie Wainman Junior was exposed at a very early age to the successful oval racing exploits of his father, 212 Frankie Senior. At the age of 12 he entered the cut and thrust of Mini Stox, making a name for himself in this competitive feeder formula for top quality F1 stock car drivers and future World Champions.

The move into the Big League came shortly after his sixteenth birthday in October 1987 in a self-built car powered by a big block Chevy engine. At the time, Frankie Senior was at pains to point out it was all Junior's own work but I'm sure having an experienced Dad in the background as a source of reference was a help, although Frankie probably saw his Dad as competition! There is no doubt the family name raised expectation levels about his debut and it was common knowledge that he had driven his Dad's F1 car around a track at the family farm as well as participating in races for mechanics. As it was, Young Frankie exceeded those expectations and in the first three weeks out on track gave a taster of what oval fans were to feast on over the next two decades. He notched up 270 grading points at eight meetings that included 4 heat wins and his first ever Final victory at Northampton International Raceway - and he threw in his first rollover at the same stadium for good measure. One of the heat wins was at Crewe in the Grand National while driving with a broken finger!

His mini stox carried the slogan 'Like Father, Like Son'. This could easily have been changed to 'Like Father, Like Son, Only Better' on his F1 and that is no disrespect to Frankie Senior who was a driver of supreme ability.

Junior started his first full season in 1988 as a blue grade driver and was among the red tops by May, ending the year as a firmly established star despite experiencing engine problems along the way and having to resort to borrowed cars.

Below is a model of FWJ's 1990 car:

 

Rather than a long season by season account of Frankie's racing career, I want to try and highlight those skills that, I feel, make him stand out in a sport jammed pack with talent. I will also summarise his racing CV and recall some of my favourite 515/1 memories.

Frankie seems to have been born to build and race F1 stock cars and entertain the crowds. His skill at the wheel of a state of the art car is a joy to watch - controlled aggression, sharp anticipation, speed and awareness are all there in abundance. Add to this mix the refined ability to set-up his cars for maximum return on either shale or tarmac and you have the dream combination. A F1 stock car has always produced more power than the suspension and tyres are capable of handling and all drivers are continually searching for a set-up that ensures they will harness the maximum possible and come off the bends quickest. There is no doubt that Frankie has this elusive skill but rather than keep the information a closely guarded secret, he is prepared to share selected tips and give advice to new drivers.

The huge number of Wainman-constructed cars bears testimony to his engineering skills honed over many seasons. His tie-up with Tim Mann in the early 90s and the Lintern cars he drove, courtesy of Tim, in 1992 on shale and tarmac were pivotal in adding to his knowledge base. Over the years Frankie has become the acknowledged expert on race technology for F1 stock cars, building leading edge, race winning machines for others as well as himself. Whether it is weight distribution, space-frame chassis, offset, stagger, big block versus small block engines, Frankie is at the forefront, not afraid to experiment with ideas picked up from the USA, Holland and New Zealand racing scenes, continually stretching and exercising his talent for innovation. He also appreciates the very real competition from other top drivers who snap at his heels. There is no room for complacency because those other drivers have demonstrated that they are more than capable of beating him.

A classic example of Frankie striving for excellence was the New Zealand style stock car he built in the UK and shipped down under. It bristled with ideas that he had developed from previous racing visits to NZ and to say it made the Kiwis sit up and take note is probably no exaggeration. In it he won the 2009 NZ 240 World Invitation for the third time - the first driver ever to do so. Below is a model of the UK-built NZ55r car:

 

Below is a model of FWJs 1996 car:

 

Racing CV

Frankie's record of Major Championship wins is the best possible tribute to his talent and dedication.

259 Final wins (as at 15th Sept 2013)

2 World Finals in 1998 and 2005

15 National Points Championships in 1994, 1996 - 2009 (The silver roof went to the National Series winner from 2002)

6 National Series Championships in 2002 - 2005 and 2007 - 2008

7 British Drivers Championships in 1992, 1999, 2001, 2003 - 2006

3 European Championships in 1988, 2006 and 2014

1 Long Track World Championship in 1998

Below is a model of FWJs 1998 Long Track World Winning car:

 

3 NZ 240 World Invitation Championships in 1997, 2000 and 2009

Like 53 John Lund, Frankie has won a massive number of other Titles but the above are what I consider to be the main ones so far.

He was also 3rd in The All-Time Top 50 BriSCA F1 Stock Car Drivers as compiled in 2004 for the sport's Golden Jubilee.

Personal Memories

Watching Frankie week in, week out competing wheel to wheel with the other top drivers in the sport and those amazing battles with Andy Smith, John Lund, Rob Speak, Stu Smith Jnr and others - no quarter asked or given, last benders, paybacks - the magic of F1 stock car racing that has the fans coming back for more.

His tangible dedication to the sport seen in the immaculately presented cars, the state of the art transporter, his willing assistance to other drivers with problems, getting involved with the administration of the sport and always being prepared to speak to the fans, particularly children who must keep and value the trophies he gives away like treasure trove. Also the articulate way in which he responds to trackside interviews - like Andy Smith he is a marvellous ambassador for the sport.

The superb way he reacts to detractors in the crowd, saluting their jeers and hand gestures with professionalism. He knows that he can't possibly be universally liked in such a competitive sport but accepts the love and loathing in equal measure as all part of the unique atmosphere of stock car racing.

The way he recovered from that massive accident on April 22nd 2007 at Hednesford when the roof had to be removed from the car to extricate him. Although badly shaken and sporting two black eyes and a nasty headache, he was back on track quicker than most people expected.

The first World Final win in 1998 after so much bad luck in previous attempts. Admittedly it was not without controversy after Frankie had cut across the infield to avoid a track blockage and collided with the leader Andy Smith but despite official protests the win was confirmed.

Below is a model of FWJ's 1998 World Final winning car:

 

Witnessing one of the finest World Finals ever in 1999. Andy Smith, Frankie and eventually John Lund had spectators on the edge of their seats as they each went for the win. Perhaps it was inevitable that they would wipe one another out and hand the World Final to 97 Murray Harrison but the demonstration of pure, unbridled stock car racing was spellbinding.

The first ever World Final staged at Northampton International Raceway in 2005 saw Frankie win his second World in a flag to flag victory. But it was the way he coped with that first bend lunge from Andy Smith that sticks in the memory. Frankie was on inside pole with his arch rival Andy alongside and when the green flag waved, he went deep into the first bend knowing that Andy would challenge hard - and he did, cracking the Wainman rear bumper. Frankie scraped the armco fence but maintained forward momentum and was away and gone, unlike Andy who lost valuable time while scrambling to gain traction.

Below is a model of FWJ's 2005 World Championship winning car:

 

Early in 2009, I followed Frankie's exploits in NZ with great pride. He represented BriSCA and UK F1 stock cars with passion and dedication and, with help from his team mates, was rewarded with that third 240 World Title and he captained Team GB to 3rd place in their first ever tilt at the NZ Team Championships. In 2010 Team GB again captained by Frankie went one better finishing in 2nd place.

It was May 2000 that I ventured out on track in the two-seater stock car driven by Frankie Wainman Junior. On track at the same time was 29 Ian Higgins with his passenger. It was the thrill and experience of a lifetime and the ten laps went by in a flash. What I will always remember is that first 'friendly' tap from Ian's front bumper. The metallic clang, the shockwave and vibration through our car was not good for loose fillings but I couldn't wait for Frankie to pay him back and he did - with interest! The nearest I will ever get to F1 stock car racing on the dangerous side of the safety fence - magical!

Below is a model of FWJ's 2001 car:

 

I have already highlighted Frankie's ability to promote F1 stock car racing at every opportunity and like most fans I keenly awaited the BBC Documentary, Gears and Tears, that was televised in 2010. It featured the 2009 racing year of the Wainmans and the Smiths and did not disappoint. Via main stream television it introduced BriSCA F1 stock car racing to a wider audience and unlocked oval racing's hitherto well kept secret. Increased spectator numbers and returning fans were just two of the many benefits.

At the age of 38, hopefully Frankie will continue to grace the raceways for many seasons to come and , of course, the third generation, Frankie Samuel, has already made his debut in mini stox. The Wainman name is set to endure and could the future slogan become 'Like Grandad, Like Father, Like Son BUT Even Better Still!' What a mouth-watering prospect!

UPDATE APRIL 2012

The 2012 season marks Frankie's 25th year of racing F1 stock cars during which time he has enjoyed phenomenal success, as evidenced by his Racing CV. To mark this milestone I have produced the following tribute picture using seven models of Frankie's cars that are part of my collection.

 

Congratulations Frankie!