It is difficult to imagine how hard it must be to follow in the footsteps of a father acknowledged as a 'Legend' in your chosen sport. Expectations are high, failure not an option. The fact that Andy was able to carry with pride the slogan 'Super Smith Too' early on in his racing career was evidence that the Oval Racing DNA had been passed on by his celebrated father. This is also the case with Andy's younger brother, Stuart Junior, already a World Champion and current National Series Champion, but that is for a future feature.
Andy cut his oval racing teeth in the Mini Stox formula showing immediate promise but lacking a competitive engine. When he did get one in his last season many race wins came his way. During his five years in this established feeder formula for F1 stock cars, he raced against the likes of Rob Speak, Frankie Wainman Jnr, Paul Harrison and Simon Panton and they all went on to make a name in The Big League.
He progressed to Hot Stox in 1990 where he went from white top to star grade in his first season, enjoying considerable success. Andy was learning all the time and in 1992 he introduced a self-built tarmac special that took him to a maximum points return in its first outing. It was powered by an offset Rover V8 engine. Unfortunately, in the haste to get the car finished, it had not been weighed and post race was found to be 35kgs too light. Andy was stripped of his prize money and points and had to accept a three meeting ban. On his return to racing he continued where he had left off - he was the man to beat and his tarmac special the car to copy. During his very successful three years with the Hot Stox formula, Andy acted as a mechanic for 33 Peter Falding when he could, gaining valuable information for when he made the move to F1.
This came about in July 1993 at Northampton at the age of 20. His first F1 car was a self-built, lightweight construction powered by a 510 cubic inch big block Chevy and intended for use on both tarmac and shale. He started among the blue grade drivers and once he got used to the increased power, success was quick to follow. In August in only his fourth F1 meeting he won his first ever Final at Hartlepool - The UK Open no less! By the end of the season he had collected five Finals and a top ten finish in the National Points Championship.
Although Andy's impact on F1 stock cars had been swift and decisive it was the new self-built car he unveiled in 1994 that really captured the imagination and the headlines. It was simply stunning. That such a young driver could produce what was a state-of-the-art, low slung tarmac special containing so many clever tricks was an astonishing achievement. It turned out to be so advanced that the sport's administrators were forced to try and close the ever widening gap between tarmac specials and more traditional cars by introducing new regulations. OK for those drivers playing catch up but highly frustrating for those who were consistently pushing the boundaries and trying to advance the sport.
In 1994 Andy had cars for both shale and tarmac surfaces but the shale car developed problems before the Bradford staged World Final and he had to adapt the tarmac special. It was set up during WF week and Andy went into the race with low expectations, knowing that 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr was quickest around the Odsal Bowl. But as so often happens in BriSCA F1, fate was to intervene and a radiator problem for Frankie, when well on the way to victory, caused loss of coolant and a premature end to his race. Andy became the first World Champion son of a World Champion father and the scenes of jubilation on the start finish line in front of a packed stand, as the Smith family celebrated the win, lives on in the memories of those who were there on that September night. Below is a model of the 1994 World Championship Winning car:
By season's end Andy had added three Finals to his total and with the gold roof in 1995 he amasssed a further eleven Finals and became National Points Champion. That close battle for the Points Title between Andy, Frankie Wainman Jnr and 53 John Lund was another source of vivid recollections. Week after week they clashed bumpers and as the season closed the antagonism between the three of them became ever more intense. It was a close run competition right up to the wire but Andy took the title when Frankie and John became intent on taking one another out of contention with some amazing hits and the inevitable retaliations.
Since those first three seasons, Andy has continued to put together an impressive racing CV that includes:
106 Finals (as at 31st Oct 2011)
5 World Finals (1994, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010)
2 National Points Championship (1995 & 2010)
2 National Series (2006 & 2010)
4 British Championships (2000, 2002, 2007, 2009)
Below is a model of Andy's 2002 car:
In 2003 he took a year away from the BriSCA circuits to concentrate on the ASCAR Days of Thunder Series at Rockingham. He successfully completed his Rookie Training programme in a car that reached speeds of 155 mph on the Rockingham tarmac and, along with other drivers with a stock car background, did himself and our sport proud. But the pull of F1 stock car racing should never be underestimated and Andy was back full time in 2004.
Below is a model of Andy's 2006 World Final winning car:
In September 2010, Andy won his fifth World Final and in doing so became only the third driver to win three World Titles in successive years, emulating the achievements of 252 Dave Chisholm and Andy's late father, Stuart Smith Snr. And in 2011, Andy won his 100th Final at Belle Vue.
For me, Andy Smith is the complete package; born to race a F1 stock car hard and fast; programmed to win; destined for greatness. He has the engineering skills to build race winning cars, the knowledge based on experience, experimentation and gleaned from advice given by the likes of Peter Falding and Cecil Sayers to set up a car for any surface and differing race conditions. His supreme driving skills are demonstrated week in and week out and evident from his racing CV: great anticipation, fast reflexes, effortless control, aggression, speed and hunger for victory. It is no coincidence that he holds the lap records at seven BriSCA tracks, four on tarmac and three on shale. His do or die lunges from half way down the back straight on the leading car entering the third and fourth bends have to be seen to be believed. Sometimes they come off, often they don't but settling for second place does not sit easy with Andy Smith. He is, like Frankie Wainman Jnr, a superb ambassador for the sport, eloquent during live interviews and involved on the administration side.
He has a life away from the tracks with the Rochdale based family business and his wife and two daughters. His wife, Lisa, was herself a very useful F1 stock car driver and, having mentioned earlier about racing DNA, who is to say that either Rebecca or Jessica will not one day take to the tracks and maybe outperform 309 Jayne Bean, to date the most successful lady driver the sport has seen - a mouth watering prospect indeed.
When Keith Barber compiled his All-Time Top 50 F1 Stock Car Drivers for the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2004, Andy was in 13th place. With his three World Finals and other Final wins since, he would surely be in the top five if the list were redrawn today. Back in the 70s, most fans would arrive at a meeting and scan the pits for those drivers they knew would guarantee action and excitement. They would not necessarily be their particular favourite driver but it did not stop them from admiring and respecting the individual skill of others. And so it is today. Put Andy Smith, Frankie Wainman Jnr, John Lund, Stu Smith Jnr and other top drivers into any race and there will be fireworks and when they all come together in the Final, keep hold of your seats!
Below is a model of Andy's 2008 World Final winning car:
2010 saw BriSCA stock car racing featured on BBC television in a documentary entitled 'Gears & Tears' covering the 2009 racing season of Team Smith and Team Wainman. Via main stream television it took the sport to a bigger audience and highlighted the diverse personalities and the immense driving talent that regular fans see at every race meeting. This includes the current crop of young drivers who consistently keep more experienced drivers on their toes. Their abilities are impressive and give the future of F1 stock car racing a healthy glow.
But if they want to leave an indelible impression on the sport they will have to emulate the success of drivers like Andy Smith. In my view, he is among the Ultimate Elite Group of Drivers that include John Lund, Stu Smith Snr, Frankie Wainman Jnr and Peter Falding - The Time Lords of BriSCA F1.
Below is a model of Andy's 2009 World Final winning car:
Below is a model of Andy's 2010 World Final winnining car complete with silver stripes on the roof for his National Series victory:
Following the 2011 World Final at Northampton International Raceway won by 2 Paul Harrison with Andy finishing in 3rd place, he placed his racing equipment up for sale and his retirement was reported.
Whether an Andy Smith supporter or not, all fans of stock car racing will acknowledge that, like his father before him, he has made an incalculable contribution to F1 Stock Car Racing that will never be forgotten. Thank you Andy for providing so many hours of enjoyment to countless fans over so many years.
Apparently Andy's hard driving brother, 390 Stuart Smith Jnr, will be continuing his already highly successful racing career. Not good news for some drivers but great news for the fans.