Robert Geoffrey Finnikin from Leek, Staffordshire is known to all BriSCA F1 fans as plain Bert Finnikin. He was introduced to the sport at a very early age. His Dad was Charlie Finnikin who carried the nickname 'Mister Moneybags' courtesy of the Belle Vue, Hyde Road PA announcer Bernard Tennant. Charlie's racing career spanned 17 years from 1956 until retiring in 1972. He won 8 Finals and had a total of 66 race wins. Tragically he died in October 1973 from a heart attack - the year that Bert had taken over his racing number.
Bert's first taste of F1 stock car racing was at Long Eaton in April 1972 at age 15 and 50 weeks! He made his official debut two weeks later at Belle Vue, Hyde Road in a self built replica of his Dad's car with the racing number 28. During 1972 and 1973 he made gradual but positive progress, heeding advice from his Dad, and was up to blue grade. But following the unexpected loss of his Dad, Bert and his brother Alan had to take time away from the racing ovals.
He returned in 1976 with a new mini-bodied car and sponsorship support from his employers, Tarmac. But it was 1977 that was to prove the season when everything seemed to click into place. Just over halfway through the season he acquired an Alan Young (393) built car that had passed through the hands of 38 Ian Russell before Bert gained possession in August 1977. He changed the Oldsmobile engine for a Chevrolet and in seemingly no time at all 7 Final wins came his way at Long Eaton, Coventry, Belle Vue (Hyde Road), White City (Manchester), Leicester, Brafield and Skegness. There was now a red roof on the car - Super Finn had arrived!
Over the next four seasons Bert recorded another 26 Final victories, Including the BriSCA Supreme Championship, and was regularly going wheel to wheel with the big names at the time but the 1982 season was to be another step change in his racing career. A brand new state-of-the-art car emerged from the Clive Lintern workshop powered by a Mike Huddart prepared big block Chevy. It was a collaboration of Clive's engineering skills with the suspension and set up abilities of Bert and his brother Alan and quickly took Bert to the front of the pack.
Between 1982 and 1985 Bert won the National Points Championship, the Grand National Championship and became British Champion. He also recorded 32 Final victories.
Another Lintern car was debuted in 1986 and took him to the European Championship that year together with 5 Final wins.
Another 12 Finals followed between 1987 and 1989 and in 1990 Bert purchased a 33 Peter Falding car that seemed made to measure for him. He won 9 Finals that year but it will always be remembered for the World Final at Bradford. In his semi-final at Scunthorpe, Bert had led for most of the race but clashes with other cars in the final few laps dropped him to 4th place. At Odsal Stadium in September, Bert gave a master class in stock car racing. He followed 53 John Lund, 260 Dave Berresford and 85 Ray Tyldesley and got by each of them with skilful use of his front bumper. But John Lund was not easily shaken, off retaking the lead on two occasions before Bert made his final pass stick and pulled away to win the one Championship he had been striving to win for 18 years in memory of his Dad. Below is a model of Bert's 1990 World Championship winning car and the cover of the World Final programme:
Another new car came out in 1991 via the Lintern workshop and became immortalised in a Michael Turner painting of the chaotic finish to the World Final at Hednesford that year. Right up to the last lap it looked as if Bert would retain his World Title. However, 33 Peter Falding had other ideas and launched what seemed an impossible challenge from so far back. He somehow made contact with the 55 car and both cars hit the armco on the 4th bend but slid round the barrier with Peter ahead of Bert. Then arrived 162 Richard Pratt who turned into the 33 car and overturned putting Peter back into the Armco. Bert was still going albeit with a flat tyre and limped past Peter who managed to keep forward momentum. By now there was a dust cloud and tyre smoke shrouding the scene and through it came 53 John Lund to take the victory with Bert spinning across the line in 2nd place and Peter Falding 3rd. Still one of the most amazing finishes to a World Final ever and a print of Michael Turner's painting hangs on my office wall as a permanent reminder.
From this point on Bert's appearances each season seemed to get less although he was still winning Finals. The start of the 1993 season was delayed due to a dispute between the drivers and the promoters and Bert eventually turned his attention to F2 stock car racing but not before he exceeded the magic 100 F1 Final wins barrier. He still remains a member of an exclusive club of only 10 drivers to have achieved this feat.
The F2s seemed to rekindle his enthusiasm and he quickly became a force to be reckoned with coming close to winning both the smaller formula's National Points and World Championships under number 559.
Bert has occasionally been back out in a F1 registering as number 5 in 2002 and 2003 but a health scare has necessarily limited both his F1 and F2 outings.
Bert's son, Craig, also raced with some success in the F2 stock cars but his move to the F1s in 2000 was always on the cards. He has become a top performer in The Big League and in 2014 won the World Championship making himself and Bert the 5th Father and Son to become BriSCA F1 World Champions.
Bert could be described as quiet and unassuming until he got behind the wheel of a F1 or F2, preferring to let his driving do the talking! He eventually achieved a total of 101 F1 Final victories to add to his racing CV and amassed 509 race wins. The name of the Finnikin family is firmly part of stock car folklore alongside the Smiths, Wainmans, Harrisons and Faldings.
Just for the record, Bert's brother Alan raced F1s as well as Alan's son, Stuart. There is also 15 year old Courtney Finnikin, Craig's cousin, who races Ministox.