Who remembers this record-breaking day for stock car racing in Hartlepool?

Dramatic action at the 1978 Hartlepool stock car race meeting.
Dramatic action at the 1978 Hartlepool stock car race meeting.

If ever there was a day to remember in stock car racing, it happened on July 30, 1978 in Hartlepool.

The weather was hardly perfect. There was torrential rain but that did not stop thousands of followers who packed into the Hartlepool Stadium.

The Mayor of Hartlepool Coun Hugh Gardner presents stock car driver Stuart Smith with a trophy.

The Mayor of Hartlepool Coun Hugh Gardner presents stock car driver Stuart Smith with a trophy.

They were there to watch the World Championship semi-final and it attracted coach loads of supporters from as far as Harringay and Oxford.

What they witnessed was driver Stuart Smith rewriting the record books.

He became the first stock car driver ever to win three finals at one meeting, according to the Hartlepool Mail at the time.

And he added a heat win and a Grand national victory to his tally.

Such was the enthusiasm that small groups of fans were inside the track four hours before the meeting was due to start, to secure their vantage points on the bends

Hartlepool Mail reporter, 1978

The Hartlepool Mail report of the event described the amazing atmosphere. “Such was the enthusiasm that small groups of fans were inside the track four hours before the meeting was due to start, to secure their vantage points on the bends.”

Conditions were far from ideal and the preliminary races were slow. But the mood changed when the day’s proceedings reached the start of the semi-final race.

Smith was in pole position and the only danger he faced was when he caught up with a back marker. He finished way ahead and qualified for the finals at Belle Vue later that year.

The Mail’s 1978 report said: “That win would have suited any other driver but Smith also decided to compete in the Formula Two races in Warren Taylor’s car, and won heat, final and grand national.

“He also won the final in the regular Formula One meeting and no doubt would have added the Formula One Grand National if his eyes had not been so sore from the spray that he decided to call it a day before the last race.”

He said afterwards: “I didn’t realise at first that this was a new record because my main attention was in winning the semi-final.”

The Mail reporter at the time said that Smith’s main feat had been to win the Formula Two Grand National when he started a full lap down on the rest of the field.

The Mayor of Hartlepool at the time was Coun Hugh Gardner and he presented Stuart with a trophy.

Other stock car drivers to grace the scene at the time included Willie Harrison, Mike Close, Dave Berresford, Robin Randall, and Dave Haywood.

There was Ted Frater, John Lund, Frankie Wainman, Phil Hayhurst, Dave Parrington and Steve Wade.

Were you there for the big event and what do you recall most about Hartlepool’s stock car racing days?

Is the stock car and greyhound stadium a big miss in the town?

Get in touch and tell us more by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.