“I THOUGHT that everything was building up against me ever winning the ORCi Stock Rod Scottish Championship,” James Gray, who lives in Boness, recounted, “I was fighting for the lead last year with Leon Stewart when we touched and as a result we both had to retire," writes our Cowdenbeath Racewall reporter Jim Turner.

"This year I worked all week on my car changing the corner weights checking that everything was correct. I had watched the weather forecast and it had predicted a wet weekend so I made sure that the car was set up to suit.

“When I got to the track there were a couple of practice sessions and when I went out for the first the car was terrible so I went back into the pits, checked things over and they seemed to be alright so I put on another set of tyres. When I went back out the car was flying so I was quite happy.”

He added: “Then came the draw for our grid positions - and what happened? I drew the last place on the grid and immediately thought that my chances of a win had gone for another season! However my wife Lisa was confident that I could win.

“When the race started I got away well and the car felt electric. I was finding grip on both the outside and inside lines and was soon making up ground. Before I new it I was in fourth place and then there was a race suspension when Martin Rankine’s car came to a stop on the back straight. This allowed up to line up n single file behind the leading car.

"When the race restarted Michael Bethune slid into Stuart McKinnon who bounced off the wall and I had to back off. I soon started to catch Michael and managed to dive inside to take the lead. I knew that I had to keep my concentration as Michael could easily come back at me. Luckily I was able to open up a gap and I felt quite emotional as I crossed the finish line to become the Scottish Champion. I felt that all the hard work that I had put into my racing had finally paid off.”

When asked how he got into stock car racing James recalled: “My dad used to mechanic for saloon driver Willie Dunn and when I was old enough I was taken to the racing each week. It is a family thing – if one goes then all the family go!

"I finally decided that I would like to have a go at racing – that was in 2007. I had watched a stock rod race and decided that is what I wanted to do. I bought a car from Brett Sneddon. The car wasn’t all that good but I managed one race with it that season.

“It was a big cultural shock for me. I had just started working with Dingbro in Falkirk, but I couldn’t weld, didn’t know much about the mechanics or electrics of cars and had never painted one! I had to learn quickly. I didn’t even have a garage but got a space down at the harbour and soon moved the car in. Over the seasons I have had to learn quickly and started to win races.

“This year has probably been my best in the stock rods although it didn’t get off to too good a start. The rules changes seemed to affect my car and I struggled over the early part of the season to get it running as I wanted it too.

"The first major championship was the ORCi at the Racewall. I had won the track points the previous season so I was starting from the very back of the grid and with the car not being right I was struggling a bit to get good results. The qualifying rounds weren’t too bad but I found I had a bent strut which I changed at the garage. When I got to the track on Sunday I nearly didn’t make the race. I was there in plenty of time but when I came to take the car off the trailer the clutch cylinder popped out. We had to take the engine out to replace it – I had to borrow one and we quickly fitted it, got the engine back in and connected up. However we couldn’t bleed it so the engine had to come back out, get another cylinder from Mikey and finally had the car ready to race with about 20 minutes to spare.

“The race turned out to be good. I made steady progress but the last lap was pretty hairy. The leading cars had a bit of a coming together on the back straight with the second placed car ending up hitting a marker tyre. The leader was sideways around the pit bend but just hung on to cross the line first whilst I made up a place or two by going through on the inside as the leading cars came together to finish in third. That was to become the runner up when the leader was penalised for contact. I was relatively pleased with the result although the car was still not at its best.

“Soon after that the car began to handle well and I started to get good results only to have the car wrecked when I got caught up in a big shunt which badly damaged my car. Alex Hunter straightened the car and I set about rebuilding. Luckily when I was back on track the car was as good as it had been before it got wrecked.”

James went on: “The main championship is the World and it’s a race that everyone wants to win. Although it should have been run in the south west of England the Autospeed promotion decided that the Racewall was the place to hold it.

"The drivers had been split into groups and time trials would determine where you started on the grid. I was in group 2 and whilst I was fastest in my group I was to start from row 6 on the inside. I had used a dry set up for the practice and than a half dry set up for the next. That is what a decided for the World but it turned out to be the wrong choice. Throughout the race I struggled and it took me all time just to hang onto my sixth place. Lee McGill made the right tyre choice and he literally ran away with the World Championship.

“By the end of the season I finished third in the track points – only one behind second placed Lee and if it hadn’t been for that crash I had I could have been challenging to retain my title.

“I won the Gordon Ross Memorial Trophy for the second successive season and one of the goodies I got for doing so were four tyres. At the last meeting of the season we raced for the Si Laing memorial trophy –Si had helped me a lot at the track and it was a big blow when he died during the latter part of the season – and I was delighted to be the first name on the trophy. It will be an annual event now – Si was a popular figure at the track.

“During the season we set up a committee to keep everyone informed on what is happening. I am on the committee with Leon Stewart, Michael Bethune, Stuart McKinnon and James Matson. One of the things we put in place was that we could present the final winner with a tyre each meeting and it would either be from a driver or a firm, through sponsorship. We try to keep everyone up to date with rule changes and to find out who is going to be racing.”

Looking ahead he said: “I have built a new car for this season and it sitting in my garage already to go. I am hoping to have another good year and with the World Final being staged at Nutts Corner I will be hoping to have a couple of trips across there to get the car set up. The one daunting thing is the costs of the ferry to get the car over and back but I love racing over there.

“I am married to Lisa and have three daughters Lauren, Leona and Sophie, and as a family we all go to the racing as often as possible. I do most of the work on the car myself but sometimes get a hand from Kevin Boyle and sometimes my nephews.

"However, all my daughters have been known to help with the mechanics whilst Lisa has been known to get hold of the tracking bar to help at the racing. I am grateful to my sponsors Cuthill Engineering – who build all my engines, RD Alliances, Central Motor Solutions, Saltire Fabrications, GoJoiners and Alex Hunter for all their help and support.”