Remember the date – October 20, 2018. That is the day John Lund, the eight-time world champion, who has not been seen on the track since the last meeting at Coventry Stadium in November 2016 where he finished fifth in the Grand National behind Paul Hines, makes his reappearance behind the wheel of a BriSCA F1 stock car.
The announcement that John had booked in to race at the National Points Championship Shootout round at King’s Lynn this weekend has had an almost spiritual effect on BriSCA F1 fans.
Social media has been jammed packed full of Lund tweets and posts. And they are all brimming with excitement of his return to action.
John Lund driving an F1 stock car again has brought the feel-good factor back to BriSCA F1. All is good with the world. Fans have been waiting for this moment for nearly two years, and for some it is the fillip they have desperately needed. It has given them a reason to go racing again.
Lund’s absence from the short ovals coincided with the demise of Coventry Stadium. The combination left many with a tangible sense of loss. The debacle that resulted in the stadium being stripped not only of its fixtures and fittings but, maybe more importantly, of its dignity after decades of unrivaled entertainment on the first Saturday of each month from April to November, left many fans angry and deflated. Some have never returned to the sport.
While stadiums inevitably come and go, Coventry Stadium was where the heart and soul of the sport existed and no other track has, of yet, been able to transplant that atmosphere of anticipation and dedication each month.
But now John Lund, the stock car Messiah, is returning to the track – with his old-school-style open-face crash helmet and goggles – and some fans have, as a result, rediscovered their passion for the sport. Coventry may be gone forever, but John Lund is back!
It is apt that it is King’s Lynn where he makes his comeback. His last final win was at the Adrian Flux Arena in 2010 and his last World Final appearance was at the track in 2015, where the cheers he received as he made his entrance on to the track for the parade had to be heard to be believed.
John Lund began his stock car career 42 years ago. Just pause for a moment and take that in. It was on 28 March, 1976 at Rochdale, and he won his first race at six months later at Nelson.
Curiously, while Lund has won every major title in the sport many times over, it took him 11 years to win his first one, the British Championship. And, as so often happens in BriSCA F1, once he won one, more would follow. Later that season he won his first World Final at Belle Vue and he would go on to take the National Points Championship that year as well.
He has had his rivalries during his career. During the 1990s it was Frankie Wainman Jnr who would be his main adversary, as well as Peter Falding.
But one of his most famous on-track battles would be with Richard Pratt. I wrote about it in my first book The Sound and the Fury:
In the late eighties he had numerous skirmishes with Richard Pratt. Pratt was another who liked to act as a spoiler. At one Northampton meeting in 1988, Pratt hit Lund so hard, Lund’s car went through the wires like an egg slicer. On that occasion, revenge was metted out in the Grand National. Lund took the flag for the win just as Pratt was in front of him, a lap down. In a split second Lund swooped on Pratt before the next bend and buried him into a pack of parked cars. He couldn’t have timed it better.
“We always had a good crack afterwards with Pratty,” Lund says.
“Unfortunately, if you are trying to win a race or going for a good place, it’s very difficult to defend yourself against someone who is determined to get you. For someone who has no interest in winning it’s easy, you just keep you foot on a bit longer. There’s not a lot you can do.”
What I didn’t mention in that section of the book was how Lund, despite the damage created by the hit, walked back up the track to where Pratt was parked waiting for the restart and shook his hand. Lund has always been pure class. That is him in a nutshell. He never beared a grudge, he just made sure he got even when the opportunity arose.
Some of the current crop of drivers could learn a thing or two from his attitude.
And so this Saturday is all about celebrating the return of the king of BriSCA F1. It may be expecting too much to imagine Lund taking a chequered flag around on a victory lap on Saturday night, but one thing is certain, as the 64-year-old drives on to the track to take part in his heat, he will receive the most enthusiastic, emotional and loudest ovation to be heard at any stock car track for many years.
Neil Randon 2018
Photos: Colin Casserley and Neil Randon
I watched John Lund racing on various tracks form his debut up until 2012 when I stopped going to meetings after a 1971 start.
He is a gentleman of the sport, a top class racer, and as close to the great Stuart Smith 391 in skill that I have ever seen. If John was in a race, you couldn’t help watching him skilfully working his way towards the front. Electric ! Long may he continue. Thanks John.