Peter Falding thoroughly deserved the recognition of a testimonial after close on 25 years of commitment and dedication to his chosen sport.
He was born in Sheffield in 1965 and his family were already involved in stock car racing with father Rod racing F1s. Peter took to the track in 1976 in a Mini Stox, appearing only at Long Eaton and raced this formula for four years. His first ever experience in an F1 stock car came at Northampton in 1981, at the age of 16, in one of his Dad's old cars. In 1982 he acted as one of 175 Glyn Pursey's mechanics and in that same year he left school and began work at C F Booths where, together with his father, they maintained the company's fleet of commercial vehicles. Booths sponsored Rod and extended this help to Peter. In 1983 he took to the wheel of another of his Dad's old cars and from six outings gained a yellow roof and won the Novice of the Year Race at Northampton.
In 1984 he built the first in what was to be a long line of 'Peterbuilt' cars. By May he was up to blue grade but late in the year came a defining moment when he invested in a more powerful engine from Brian Powles and that led to his first Final victory at Northampton in November.
It was 1985 when Peter scaled even greater heights with a heat and final at Bradford that paved the way for his elevation to the Superstar grade in May. Even from the back of the grid he recorded four race wins in quick succession.
Some of my favourite memories of Peter are from World Finals. The 1986 World Final at Coventry saw him demonstrate the uncanny knack of a great stock car driver for being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the misfortune of other drivers. At the Northampton semi he finished second behind 391 Superstu Smith and lined up on the inside of row two. He thought his chance had gone when 212 Frankie Wainman Snr, 304 Dave Mellor and 306 Mick Noden launched a combined attack and put him in the fence. He recovered but was well down the field. Undeterred, he pushed hard and with the drivers ahead encountering problems he found himself in the lead and praying that the air would remain in all four tyres! He took the chequered flag to a massive roar from spectators all round the packed stadium and became the youngest ever World Champion at age 20.
Here is a picture of my model of Peter's 1986 World Final winner:
Early in 1987, Peter travelled to New Zealand to compete in the 240 cubic inch World Championship as part of the UK team that was to assist 501 Chris Elwell to the title of 240 ci World Champion.
The 1988 World Final at Hednesford had Peter alongside 53 John Lund on the second row and they were joint favourites. Twice Peter pushed Lundy wide and took the lead but he got baulked by another driver and John was back on his bumper, forcibly sending him into the armco and buckling his wheel. Winded by the impact but ever resilient, Peter bounced off the fence and eventually finished 5th.
He went over to Baarlo in 1988 for the World Long Track Championship and driving a car powered by a 510 inch Chevy, he took the title of World Long Track Champion and went on to defend his title in 1989 in the same car.
1989 lives in my memory for the incredible season long competition between John Lund and Peter for the National Points Championship. They raced at 88 meetings and the championship was not decided until the Final at the last meeting of the season when Lundy won by a mere 69 points. Meeting by meeting the lead in the chase for the points title changed and who could ever forget that magical weekend in July when Peter had stretched his lead to 121 points after a Saturday Aycliffe only for Lundy to close the gap by scoring a 69 point maximum at Sheffield the next day, depositing Peter on his roof in the process.
There is always a queue of willing buyers for an ex Falding car or a new 'Peterbuilt'. Hardly surprising when you see the success that the new owners achieve. 55 Bert Finnikin was a prime example when he won the 1990 World Final at Bradford in a former Falding car and so was H24 Willie Peters some years later, enjoying great success in a brand new Falding construction. Peter has always been willing to share his racing expertise with other less experienced drivers; help that I'm sure has been much appreciated over the years.
The 1993 World Final at Coventry saw Peter claim his second World Title despite the efforts of John Lund, 422 Nigel Whorton and 77 Ian Platts. During the first 12 laps the bumpers flew in on the 33 car. Lund moved him over only to clip another car and end his race; Whorton got in front but Peter bumpered him wide on the next lap to regain the lead; Platts closed in heavy traffic and forced Peter wide, taking the lead for 2 laps. But Peter was right on his rear bumper and eventually the pressure told, with Peter taking the lead once again and despite the intervention of yellow flags, he held it until the chequered flag.
Below is a picture of my model of Peter's 1993 World Final winning car:
The 2003 World Final at Coventry was almost ruined by an over watered track. Only 10 cars were to finish the race. Peter was on row four and proceeded to steer through the carnage of spinning cars to control the race from the front. A brief challenge from 97 Murray Harrison fizzled out and Peter drove to victory seemingly able to handle the slippery conditions with great skill.
Here is a picture of my model of Peter's 2003 World winner:
In the 2004 World Final at Coventry, Peter triumphed despite only leading for 6 of the 25 laps! 321 Ed Neachell, in his first season, led for 7 laps, 390 Stu Smith Jnr for 3 laps and 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr for 9 laps. It was a memorable race of attrition - a real stock car battle and at one stage, on lap 15, 21 Mark Gilbank made contact with Peter and sent him backwards into the third and fourth bends. It was at this point Ed Neachell took the lead but the pressure of the occasion provoked his only driving error in 22 laps when he slid wide to let Peter through to victory and his 4th World Title.
Here is a picture of my model of Peter's 2004 World winner:
Diehard supporters will have their own memories from Peter's 25 seasons and they could include - his entrance by helicoptor to a Hednesford World Final; his spoof parachute jump into the Northampton staged World Final; his unease in front of the camera during pre and post race interviews, preferring to let his racing do the talking; his celebration atop the aerofoil with his son after the 4th World win; his innovative car building skills; his highly successful racing activities in Holland and away from BriSCA in Eurocars - the list could go on and on.
Peter is only the fourth driver to be awarded a testimonial meeting and how fitting that he should win the Final!
His racing CV makes for impressive reading, the record of a genuine stock car legend:
4 World Titles 1986, 1993, 2003, 2004
3 Long Track World Championships 1988, 1989, 1992
National Points Championship 1993
British Drivers Championship 1996
3 European Championships 1991, 1993, 1994
He was 5th in the All Time Top 50 BriSCA F1 Stock car Drivers compiled for the 2004 Golden Jubilee
Including his testimonial Final win I believe Peter has recorded 99 Final victories to date.
I'm sure that Peter would be the first to acknowledge the support and influence on his racing career of father Rod and I conclude this tribute with a picture of my models of Rod Falding's 1980 car alongside Peter's 1989 car: