Sunday, 15 July 2018

Midget Heritage Newsletter 20 - July 2018

Welcome to the latest newsletter and thanks to those of you have subscribed.

Pete Smith

Sorry to pass on the news that Pete Smith has passed away. Pete was one of the original drivers in the formula and raced from 1968. He was also one of only four drivers to top the Midget points at some point during the Spedeworth years - the others being Rod Tanswell, Frank Boyles and Mick Bonner.  He was a proven race winner, particularly in the early years and took victories on most of the Spedeworth circuits but the long circuit outings at Brands Hatch (two wins in 1968) and Lydden Hill (hat trick in July 1970) stand out.  He was a founder member of the MARC in 1971 switching from a type 3 Dastle that year to the newer type 7. According to my records his last win was at Aldershot in 1975. He raced the following season and maintained blue grade but just did the one outing in the UK the following year when I think he was exploring overseas racing in NACO Speedway cars in Holland. He popped up again in the UK driver listings in 1983 denoted as racing an oversize engine - presumably to European specification.

European Championship

The European Championship was contested in England (at Hednesford) for the first time since 2013. It was previously held at Lochgelly in 2014 and then for three seasons at Posterholt. Great news is that there was a European presence with Dutchman Francois Damen who of course won a race on his last visit racing a Pooley car.  He was not in luck this time with the title being won for the fifth time by Jonathan Pooley which his brother Daniel second. The first rear engine car home was Steve Sutch.  I often wonder if I should point out what could be seen as 'class wins'. I used to do it back in the day for the front engine cars.  This race saw Neal Smith make his midget debut and he came through from the back of the grid to third place but retired. I wonder when/if we will see him out again in the near future?

GP Midgets World Championship

With the race approaching I thought I would have a look at the top six in the points and also our overseas driver...  Ipswich hosts the World Championship for the fifth time. Interestingly the four previous runnings there have delivered four different winners. Jason Carnwell won in the Cheetah in 2007 with Jonathan Pooley taking the crown the following year and then the last continental to the win the title, Klaus Kilianski in 2009. Ipswich last ran the event in 2015 when the other Pooley brother, Daniel took the tag.

On paper it's Jonathan Pooley who starts as the favourite once again having won it seven times in total and is defending champion as well. At the time of writing I'm waiting for the qualifying points which run across the seasons from the previous staging.  In this season's points it's Daniel that leads the chart from Jonathan with leading rear engine driver Steve Sutch in third.  With the top drivers going off the front in the World Championship it's rarely a classic race with passes-a-plenty but there could always be some surprises. 

Holland will be represented by Francois Damen in his rear engine Scorpion. Whilst sceptics will say that: "one overseas driver does not a World Championship make", Francois has already won a race at Ipswich and has been racing, competitively too, this month at Posterholt amongst the Formula Toyotas.  Without his efforts and also those of Richie Scheepens over recent years there would be no prospect of continued international competition.  Sticking with this topic I personally feel that Francois should be seeded into the grid someway other than taking his place on the grid based on the handful of points he has accrued in England - he will have to start at or near the back simply because he is not a regular racer here.  He should have the opportunity to start further up the grid - maybe look at his lap times from the last time he was at Ipswich or ballot him in the top six.

Next up in the English points chart is Jamie Young who has been going very well indeed in his side engine machine. He might have to start a little further back though as he was not around for all the qualifying races following immediately following last year's world championship.  Leon Smith is next up in the points and of course a driver with bags of experience of racing in big pressure events from his Hot Rod days. Leon was a top six finisher in the Hot Rod Worlds in the 1970s and 80s - against some of the all time oval racing greats. Leon was third in the Midgets World last season.  Completing the top six in the points scored this season in England is Tony Smith, one of the first drivers to have made the switch to side engine machinery, and he's another race winning driver.

Thank you

I mentioned some blanks in the archives in the last newsletter and was delighted to hear from and subsequently meet up with Alf Boarer who kindly provide a stack of results and data from the 1980s - lovely to see both Alf and Diane again. Alf also went along to the Eastbourne event and was interviewed by our good friend and top commentator Paul Huggett before the racing.

Finally in the thank yous - great to hear from Peter "Olly" Olsson who is on holiday in Australia and will be watching the Australian Formula 500 Championship later in the month in Darwin. 

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