Profile of Classic Hot Rod Driver 924 Stuart Wright
33 year old Son of Hot Rod Veteran 24 Roger Wright, Cheshire based Stuart has been brought up with short oval racing. Being the son of a driver it was only natural that Stuart started in racing himself. This was at the tender age of 12 in which he started in the Incarace Mini Stox Class.
More than twenty years later after a career of Mini Stox, 1300cc Stockcars, Stock Rods, Startrax Rods and Classic Hot Rods, Stuart enjoys his racing as much as ever. Whilst out at the season opener for the Classic Hot Rods on a bitterly cold night in March Stu stated with a wry smile, “Stock Rods are a drug. I cannot tear myself away from them! As much as I love my Classic Hot Rod, the Anglia is a toy to race and show off, but Stock Rods……well, if they race on the same night as Classics I would be hard pushed to decide which formula to compete in.”
On questioning Stuart as to why, this was his reply. “The closeness of racing. I don’t profess Stock Rods to be the best spectator class of short oval racing. It hasn’t got the roar of stockcars and the contact and they don’t have the speeding beauty and brilliance of hot rods. If you get into it, and you know who’s out there then yeah it can be good to watch….but for a driver they are an adrenalin rush. Two years ago at the National Weekend at Hednesford, I didn’t have a great qualifying day on the Saturday. So on the Championship Sunday I started 29th on the grid out of 32 cars. I finished the Championship Race in third! When you come from the back to the front, fighting your way through a class grid, nose to tail with inches or less (!) between cars….there’s no better feeling. You have got to race harder and prove yourself more in a race like that. Its a greater challenge I believe than stockcar racing. In stockcars to beat the opposition by bashing them out the way. In rods you out race the opposition.”
In spite of this passion for the budget rod formula, Wright indicated where his future lay. “ I do love my Classic Hot Rod. Its a beautiful toy, and I love racing it. And there will be a day, and it will have to be sometime this year, when the Stock Rod has to go, because quite simply I cannot afford to keep racing both.”
Being a motor engineer by trade, cars have been Start’s life and passion. “I work on cars all day, then after work and tea, I’m invariably back out in the garage at night tinkering with one of my race cars. Whether it be the Classic, the Stock Rod or the Startrax Rod that I use at the shale ovals of Chesterton and Belle Vue sometimes.”
Everything is on a budget to Stuart and dad Roger. They both build their own engines and make as much as their own race parts as possible. So when Stuart’s beloved Anglia was written off in a shunt in the now notorious National Weekend at Hednesford in August 2012, it really was a case of the long deliberate build, burning the midnight oil to return to the Classic Hot Rod scene again. “People were saying to me ‘oh, you can pull that straight again, but whe we got it some and stripped the shell, we knew it was too out of shape. Yes, parts and panels were salvageable, but it he had chosen to use what we could and rebuild, by the time we would have done it, using what we could salvage and putting new bits in, we’d have basically built a new car anyway. So… in the end that’s what we did. We sourced another Anglia shell and built a brand new Classic Hot Rod.
And the finished article, which took Stuart and his dad Roger six months to build it an absolute stunner. Powered by a two litre Pinto and self built gearbox, the silver and black Anglia to one of the best presented cars currently racing.
I asked Stuart about the colour scheme, as it’s a departure from his traditional yellow and red which he still uses in Stock Rods. “Saw one of my mates kids playing with toy bangers. The lad had brought to the track and was playing with his toy cars and I saw that they’d been painted up. And one car was painted up silver on to and black from the waist down. I just liked the look of it and painted the original Anglia I had that way last season. I continued it with this next car we built. Gary Chapman does the sign writing. He’s not the cheapest or the quickest but he does a fantastic job. All proper sign work and not a sticker in sight!”
Stuart is delighted how the new car is performing too. It was very much on the pace at the opening Hednesford meeting and was absolutely flying in the final, mixing it well with Foxlow and Smith before bettering them and challenging the flying Stu Donald for the lead. When I put it to Stu that he could have won that final he was rather self effacing. “I think Stuart Donald eased off in them last few laps. He was watching me in his mirrors and I reckon he had me covered. He’s a clever and experienced driver is Donald!”
Stu agrees that the inclusion of the likes of Stu Donald and Tim Foxlow in the formula has certainly raised the bar of quality in Classic Hot Rod racing and the publicity the formula is receiving can only be healthy. He does however believe that there maybe a fine line to draw in the formula’s popularity. “18 cars here tonight at Birmingham is just right for all in racing. 20 to 25 cars at Hednesford is busy. But if you get more than 25/30 cars you cannot have all-in racing in CHRs. It may well result in close hectic racing but the damage that may result will be counter-productive for the health of the formula. The cost of damage in Classics can be high. That’s why the drivers’ attitude in racing Classics is also critical. Yes we want close keen racing but you’ve got to know when to back out when the gap just aint there. Wings can be hundreds of pounds and to keep the car at a high standard of presentation which this formula necessitates is very time and labour inductive. If the formula progresses and car turn out increases, the promoters will have to re-arrange the race format for two thirds heats and a final. But whatever they do they must still allow drivers to have three races a meeting. “
Inspite of his competitiveness and success at a big track like Hednesford, Stu bucks the trend by stating Wimbledon to be his favourite track. “I love the challenge that racing on a demanding tight track like that gives. Keeping it tight, trying to race as close to the straights as you dare on the straights to maintain the fastest racing line. Just brilliant. Couldn’t get the new car ready in time for this Feb’s meet but last year I got a brace of wins there.”
Stu hopes to do all the CHRs meets this year – including Aldershot and could be another keen competitor for the Classic Hot Rods Points Championship.
We wish him well.