Andy Steward has been around the ovals for many years and racing in National Hot Rods for the last 10. I met up with Andy at Birmingham Wheels on the 11th March 2006 and had a chat with the then 2006 points leader to find out a bit more about his career so far……
This is your 10th Season of National hot Rod racing which has been something of a roller coaster ride, tell us how it all started
Well I was racing Bangers to start with and then I went to Stock rods, I forgot how many years ago and then I got talking to Ricky Hunn and I won the Stock Rod world final and was English Champion as well at the time, I had a deal with Ricky and bought his rod and it all started at Buxton one day
You raced the stock rod for several years culminating in winning the 1996 Stock Rod World Championship, how did that feel
It was a dream come true really, I did load and loads of meetings, it was nothing unusual for us to do 100 meetings a season from Scotland down to Cornwall, we went everywhere really, you can win the British, European, and the National but the World is the one you want
In the summer of 95 you started racing a national as well, and made quite an impressive debut at the English Championship at Arena in Aug 95, getting a 10th in your first race with a fourth in the second, and coming home second in the meeting final, You then went over to Tipperary and came home second in the International Challenge cup behind Ricky Hunn and then 3rd in the British Championship the same monthYeah,
I literally jumped in the car and everything went well and I had a real good time and everything was perfect really. I had a brilliant start. I suppose having an ex Ricky car it was fairly well tuned in anywayIt was spot on and Rick helped me look after it, coming from stock rods to hot rods was a big difference and Ricky helped me a real lot and he’s still a good mate and he’s treated me really well
You finished the 1995/6 Season in fourth place in the points and then came that fateful world final.
Oh yeah, the world final !! – I just got pipped on the line, It was bit of a helter skelter ride and if you look at it I had a puncture on the inside rear 3 or 4 laps from the end and it was getting softer and softer. I thought he was going to get under me coming into the bend but he actually went round me, he had a bit of grip and done me on the line. I look at it every day, the picture is on the wall at work
In 96 you also won the English Championship, International Challenge Cup and the Thunder 500 as well
Yeah I had a brilliant year, I was on a crest of a wave really, I know the world final went wrong but we had some good meetings and you’re gonna win then and loose and get smashed up as well, you’ve got to be a racer really!
The 96/97 season saw you retire from Stock rods and you also started pick up truck racing as well, You finished 5th in the points and managed a fifth in the world, why did you want to go pick up truck racing?
It was just a different challenge and I just love racing at Mallory Park, It is my favourite track and if we could race there 3 or 4 times a year I would be really happy, I like Mallory, I spent 2 and a bit years in the trucks and we had a lot of good fun and won a lot of races and there again I was with Ricky and all the boys, Geoff Simpson, Longhurst and all that and we just had a good time
So it’s as much about the people you race with as much as the racing
I think so, Ricky and all them decided we were going to get one and off we went, we had 2 years of a travelling circus, every weekend was like a Spedeweekend. With the trucks we were staying at tracks, it was a new challenge, something different.
Your national career suffered at the hands of pick up trucks, you only finishing 10th in the points in 98 although you did pick up 2 more Thunder 500 trophies on the way
You can’t do both and once the trucks went to Rockingham I sold my truck and just concentrated on my Hot Rod, Yeah they do suffer, you can’t do both of them, you just don’t have enough time
The next two seasons saw you not even qualify for the World as long circuit racing took priority. However for the 2000/1 series you were back with a vengeance, winning the Celtic Thunder in Tipperary and finishing 4th in the points. Although you retired half way through the world final, what made you want to return to the Nationals full time
I Love the Nationals, I love the people, I love coming here racing on a Saturday night. I can concentrate on my work more, race here on a Saturday night, go home it’s all done in a day, I like the people that are here .and the boys that are with me, it was taking up so much time doing Pick Ups you really have to be at it full time, I work for myself and Hot Rods suit me better.
The 2001/2 season saw you receive that 6 month ban for putting Shane Brereton in to the fence at the best in Britain meeting at Wimbledon, you appealed on the grounds of inconsistency in the way the NHRPA handed out their punishments but the appeal was overruled. You took your ban with the promise to come back why was this?
If you look at the rules and everybody that got a ban, they all come back in a month or two, I was the only one who served a 6 month ban. It done be a bit of good really, I went on holiday, did other things, gave my brother my car and just chilled out and came back meaner!
The last two seasons have seen you win the Irish GP, Celtic Thunder, the best in Britain & finish twice in the top group in the points but both years the car has let you down for the big race.
Yeah we just had bad luck, at the end of the day Mr Lucks got to be with you on the big day and that’s the end of it.
So to the present, you are top of the 2005/6 points and have been there all season with a string of steady finishes, what has changed for this year
We hit a good streak, the car’s going well, my brother helps me full time doing the car, the boys are all keen and it’s being going well
As I said you are top of the points, is it important to win the points title or are you happy to finish in the top group to secure that grid position for the world final
I think if I can be in the top 4 I will be more than happy come July. The top four is what I am aiming for and I am not worried about winning the points, if you win them then that’s a bonus but if you can finish in the top four you haven’t had a bad yeah really.
So will you be praying for rain at Ipswich in July,
It must rain one day!
Why do you think you can master the wet conditions so well?
Well I’m a bit heavier than other people, I was good in stock rods in the rain, I don’t know really, I think we just have a good set up in the rain
Not only do you contest all the National rounds you are a regular visitor to Tipperary and you also attended a lot of outlaw meetings at Arena and Ringwood last year,
The Outlaw boys I have some good runs in with them and done some real good meetings, down Ringwood, I have had some blinding meetings down there. If the Nationals aren’t on somewhere and the boys want to go, we load up and off we go.
Are there any plans afoot for new car this season?
I’ve got another SHP car sitting at home, another 206, but at the moment this old cars going so well, why change if it if its not broke
We also saw you out in a banger at the World championship last year, how did that come about
It was built for a team and I used to race bangers, someone bottled out so they rang me up 2 days beforehand and asked me I wanted to race it so I said yeah, no problem
Was it good fun?
Yeah, if you’ve been a banger driver you’re hearts still in it
Bit like racing a national at times then
No, No No! I did a banger meeting at the end of the season, a charity one, I probably do a couple a year now
Have you any more banger meetings lined up?
I‘m not sure, I might be doing one at Ipswich shortly in a big Open memorial meeting for a lad that was seriously hurt, so I will probably be doing that I think. At the end of the day when someone’s been seriously hurt or injured it doesn’t hurt to put yourself out
Your racing team seems to be very much of a family affair, tell us a bit more about it
Fergs been with me ever since I’ve been racing, I don’t how long that is, but he is the bus driver and helps with the car, my bothers boy is into karting so he likes messing around with my car, Then Ross who’s with me, his Dads scrap yard is right next to my yard and he has grown up helping me and of course there’s my brother.
A good team then
Yeah, we always got the four of us and we all get on well, that’s the main thing, getting on
The family firm (RT Steward Transport) is heavily involved with your racing, sponsoring meetings at Wimbledon and also helping to underwrite the costs of the National Hot rod stand at the NEC.
Yeah we help, Deane Wood looks after me when I go down south racing for him and I sponsor a couple of meetings during the year for him, just to give a bit of money back, that’s all
The firm also is heavily involved with the local community, sponsoring the local Suffolk and Tendring shows as well as sponsoring several classes there
My dad likes to do some shows and we do a lot of farm work as well, we do an awful lot of farm contracting work, We have to do a bit of PA back there!
You also planned to have an open day in December last year at the depot last year which is renowned locally for its Country Cafe but had that much interest in it that you are now planning to have it in the warmer weather, tell us more about it.
The snow was threatened in December and it was so cold that we postponed it, we’ve moved to new premises on the A120 and the Café is now so busy so we will have it when it’s a bit warmer in April/May
Any hot Rods on Show there
We will have a few cars, I’ve spoken to few boys and they will bring their cars. Dave Richardson who does the commentary on the TV is organising it all, he does our websites, so we are waiting for the warmer weather
Finally tell us what you plans for the future are, do you have any plans to join the growing number of hot rod drivers in the SCSA series or are you going to stick with the hot rods
I will be racing the hot rods with the Nationals, do a few outlaw meetings. I’ve been racing a long time now and all I want to do is race for fun, enjoy myself, do well , be competitive and as long as I am competitive I’ll be racing