'Man of the people', 'Sir John', 'The Drivers' Driver' or just plain 'Lundy' are just some of the terms of endearment used by stock car folk when referring to 53 John Lund.
Now in his 33rd season of F1 stock car racing, John has achieved the lot. He is part of the very fabric of the sport and in that inner cabinet of extra special drivers - BriSCA's Hall of Fame. Aged 55, he is still running a large dairy farm while continuing to grace the ovals and, as seen at the Golden Helmet Meeting at Coventry on Sunday 4th October, is still winning Finals (even with impaired vision!).
It was nearly 40 years ago, in the early 70s that teenager Lundy became captivated by the stock car racing he witnessed at that shrine of raceways, Seed Hill Stadium Nelson. He and a friend began building a car with the intention that the friend would race it but fate intervened and it was John who finished off the Buick powered silver car with help from 102 Brian Wignall and 186 Henry Wolfenden. He made his racing debut on 28th March 1976, aged 22, at Rochdale finishing sixth in the Consolation. He went on to win his first ever Final again at Rochdale in the October of that first season and quickly became a terrace favourite. A number of rollovers were executed in his 'no fear', enthusiastic approach to racing but he still gained valuable grading points. He quickly demonstrated the skills of a natural born stock car driver.
He started the 1977 season from blue grade and there was now a Chevy engine powering the silver machine. By May he was up to star grade and he remained a red top throughout the remainder of the 70s and into the early 80s. There were five Final wins in 1981 and he rose to Superstar in 1982 but real success seemed to take longer than some of the knowledgeable stock car commentators had predicted. This was probably due to a combination of factors; lack of funds, busy job, easing off to avoid excessive damage and a more thoughtful approach to his racing. John has been an innovator throughout his racing career, always on the lookout for extra grip, speed and better handling of his cars and the skill and technique he has demonstrated over the years with his chassis has kept him at the leading edge. But back in the early 80s, it was his power units that were proving somewhat unreliable and holding back the rate of his success. Nevertheless, he recorded forty Final wins between 1978 and the end of the 1986 season.
But the real break through came when he acquired a Mike Huddart built big block Chevy for the 1987 season and never looked back. Between 1987 and 1992 he enjoyed his most successful six years of racing with 127 Final wins, 4 World Finals, 6 National Points Championships, 3 British Championships, 2 European Championships and 1 Long Track Championship. That was sixteen major titles in just six seasons.
Rather than catalogue his career season by season, I want to recall some of the unforgettable moments that Lundy has provided for me watching from the terraces.
The 1980 World Final at Coventry and, as the green flag dropped, John proceeded to deposit 391 Stu Smith Snr in the fence where he sustained a burst radiator. Unfortunately for John, the race had to be restarted and Smithy was able to repair his car in time. He duly went on to win but John came in a very creditable third.
His first World Final win in 1987 at the old Belle Vue was the last before the stadium was sold. 260 Dave Berresford was the pre race favourite and 212 Frankie Wainman Snr was in the mix but on lap one Lundy eased Wainman aside and forced Bezz to go wide round a stationary car. It was a display of superb track craft and driving skill and John never hesitated as he led the race through the traffic, pushing cars out of his way with great aplomb. Below is a model of the 1987 World winning car:
In 1987 John became only the third driver after 3 Ellis Ford in 1965 and 391 Stu Smith in 1969 to do the triple of World, British and National Points titles in the same season.
The 1988 World Final win at Hednesford saw John lend one of his cars to 29 Ian Higgins who started ahead of him on the front row. This was the exceptionally generous act of a true gentleman towards a fellow driver. In the race itself, Lundy again showed why he was destined for eight World Final wins (so far!). 33 Peter Falding who was well on the pace had the opportunity to push John aside and give himself some breathing space but the hit was not hard enough. Lundy eased back onto his bumper and when the time was right he walloped Peter wide and made sure he couldn't get back at him. Track craft at its very best. Below is a model of the 1988 World winning car:
The memorable World Final at Hednesford Raceway in 1991. Details of this race can be found on the 'Memorable World Finals ' page. It was the race that became immortalised by the Michael Turner painting of the dramatic finish with John in the foreground and in his wake, 162 Richard Pratt rolling in front of a backwards facing 55 Bert Finnikin and 471 Bobby Burns speeding down the outside. The picture can be seen on the 'Stock Car Nostalgia' page. My framed print proudly hangs on a wall at home and provides a daily reminder of an incredible race. Below is a model of the 1991 World winning car:
In 1997 at the Bradford staged World Final, 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr approached the five laps to go board comfortable ahead of John in second place. But you never know what is going to happen in stock car racing and when the unexpected does occur you have to be able to take advantage. For some inexplicable reason Frankie caught a car that was pulling off onto the centre green and this slowed him sufficiently for John to catch and pass him. It was World Final number six and just as sweet! It equalled Stu Smith's record of World Final wins that for many seasons had looked unbeatable. Below is a model of the 1997 World winning car:
The shock introduction of the short wheelbase car in 1999 was an unforgettable moment. Not many gave it a chance but as ever John proved it was a winner. Below are models of the 2000 and 2002 cars that won the World Finals in those years:
These are just some of my personal memories.
But what has impressed above all else about John Lund is his relentless determination to succeed but not if it means bludgeoning the opposition with his front bumper. He certainly knows what that is for and there have been the odd moments in the past with 162 Richard Pratt and 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr when an element of tit for tat hits has crept in but they have been rare and, at a time in the sport when deliberate fencing and follow ins have been capturing the headlines, John Lund is among those who consistently demonstrate how the front bumper should be used.
Let me finish this tribute with a summary of John's achievements to date:
8 World Championships, 6 British Championships, 6 National Points Championships, 3 European Championships and 1 Long Track Championship. There have been a plethora of other titles but the above are what are considered to be the Majors of F1 stock car racing.
In addition John has won 222 Finals as at 7th June 2010. This places him in third place in the All-Time Top 50 UK Final Winners behind Stu Smith on 501 and Frankie Wainman Jnr on 249 (As at 7th June 2010.)
Below is a model of John's 1992 World winning car:
John was top of The All Time Top Fifty BriSCA F1 Stockcar Drivers compiled for the Golden Jubilee in 2004.
Below is a model of the 1996 World winning car:
The measure of John's continuing popularity among stock car fans was there for all to witness when he won the 2009 Consolation Semi-Final at Kings Lynn on World Final day and again when he won the Final at Coventry last weekend. The applause and cheering from the spectators was long and loud and his own enjoyment and that of his family and friends was great to see.
Long may Lundy continue to entertain us on the BriSCA raceways.
In 2011, author Scott Reeves published a book on John's racing career entitled 'Gold Top - The John Lund Story'. A picture of the cover is below: