I BUMPED into Stock Rod driver Leon Stewart in the pits at the Racewall after the last meeting of the season and was told: “Well -that just sums up my season", writes our Cowdenbeath Racewall scribe Jim Turner.

"We had a problem with the trailer lights and it took us a while to get it sorted out so I was late getting here.

"We started to unload the car only to find that it wouldn’t start. The mechanics began to check to find out what the fault was. I went to the office to check-in but when I got there someone had collapsed.

"I’m a trained first aider so I went to help and was able to give the paramedics the information they needed when they arrived. I hurried down the pits, and got into my overalls. The car was ready but by then the cars were on track so I missed the Simon Laing Memorial race.- which was a big disappointment.”

He told me “I went out for the second heat and finished in seventh therefore qualifying for the National Championship but then had one of my springs come adrift and I never got to start the race.”

Leon went on: “It has been a horrible season – probably my worst ever - and I am glad it is over. I suffered a lot of mechanical failures and damage, sometimes getting caught up in other drivers’ crashes which somehow resulted in me coming off worst.

“This year, at the Scottish Championship, I went out in the practice session. One of the cars ahead went through a big puddle and sent water onto the track. I was the second car to hit the water and ended up crashing heavily into the wall. The car wasn’t repairable and neither was I!!! I later found that I had damaged my foot rather badly.”

"I had had a couple of good results in the weeks before and I felt that if I had a reasonable grid draw then I was confident of getting a decent result. Instead I was limping down the pits after putting my broken car in the trailer!”

He continued: “I was spun on the opening lap of the European Championship this year and restarted but had a quiet race, and didn’t finish in the top ten. There was plenty of drama at the front of the field which thankfully I missed it.

"The Gordon Ross Memorial race was good! I led the race from the start but with only a couple of laps to go I was held up trying to lap a back marker, by the time I got through I had lost the lead and in the end had to settle for second place. One of my successes came when I finally won the Turner Trophy, which was a bright spot.”

Looking at his driving career Leon said: “I started going to the racing as a child with my family. My dad Kenny had a saloon which he raced at Newtongrange and then at the Racewall until he retired in 1991.

"I used to meet up with Gregor Turner, sharing his peanut butter sandwiches. Although I never raced ministox, my younger sister, Kirsty did during late 90’s. I missed out watching for a few years but when I returned I got interested in the Stock Rods and that is where I have been ever since.

“I have always seemed to have bad luck throughout my career, which began in 2001. When we built a new car for 2008 I had changed the colour scheme to red/and blue, similar to my dad's saloons. I must admit that he wasn’t too pleased at me doing that, and within a couple of meetings I rolled the car and broke my back in three places. I was off work for six months and had to have physio for three.

“Last year, 2018, was reasonably good for me. I won the track points down at Barford and ended up well placed in the Racewall one as well.

“The main race was the World Championship, at the Racewall, but was run by the Autospeed promotion. Qualifying was in groups and I was in group three but somehow the car didn’t feel right.

"The conditions weren’t too good and the track was wet and greasy. I made a good start but got caught out by the conditions and crashed out early. However, the 'British' was at Barford and I had good qualifying runs which saw me and Stephen McCready equal on points.

"He won the toss and started from pole! When the race started, he beat me into the first bend but I latched on to his back bumper. I just couldn’t stay with him so I had to settle for the runners-up spot. When we got home we found that the back axle was bent!

“Towards the end of that season we had the Scottish and in the public draw I drew one of the high numbers so I had to start from the back. I made steady progress in the wet conditions but near the end I tangled with Cameron Doak and James Matson. Somehow I was able to carry on and finished the race.”

Looking at the season before Leon added: “I thought that 2017 was going to be my season but how wrong was I? I had just finished a great run in 2016 and had chased the GMP National Points with Mickey Bethune. He just got the upper hand in the very last meeting!

“I had gained sponsorship from Crawftune Engines and Falkland Performance Centre and the car was very competitive. We had gone over to Ballymena for the Yokohama Championship in April. I qualified very well and finished in fifth – could have been better but the tyres went off towards the end of the race.”

“The main race at the Racewall that year was the European Championship and we made massive changes to the car and as a result I qualified the car on the second row of the grid. I had formed a plan for the race and while I was able to do what I wanted, the race was plagued with numerous stoppages. I managed to get into the lead early but had Jack Patchett on my back bumper.

"We ran nose to tail for most of the time but there were so many stoppages that we never caught back markers. Jack managed to get ahead of me and I got a bit riled as I tried to retake the lead but when I settled down and closed I began to close the gap. I could see that he was having issues and on the last lap I took the lead and went through to take the win. I was looking for my family and remember getting a big hug from dad when he came onto the track. I was on a high as I was presented with the trophy and on the parade lap.

“Then it all started to fall to pieces in the post race scrutineering. My car ended up in bits and there was suddenly a query about a valve cut. The debate went on for a few days or so before they decided that the engine was legal and awarded the title. A protest was lodged and the part deemed to be illegal. I was given the mandatory year ban. We didn’t let it go due to many discrepancies and protested the findings. My ban was suddenly reduced to three months but I wasn’t given my title back! I truly experienced the highs and lows during 2017.”

Leon told me: "I returned for the British Championship at Ringwood and finished in only three of my five heats. In the race itself I was running strongly when the drive shaft broke. At the Scottish that season I had a good draw and was racing against James Gray for the win, I was quicker on the straights but he would catch me on the bends.

"With only a couple of laps remaining we tangled and I crashed heavily into a marker tyre. Once again I was injured with my car written off and to make matters worse my engine was also damaged.

“As always everything is for sale if the money is right and I may build a new one. I have a Tigra B which I am slowly working on but it might not be ready for March 2020. We have always raced within the budget we have and as a result have had to spend our funds wisely.

"I have a good bunch of people who help me a lot including Gary and Jimmy Hogg, Aaron Cuthill, Peter Law, my niece Zoe Mann, John Crawford, Russell, Trevor and Jimmy among many others. I very much appreciate the help that anyone has ever given in any way but mostly to those closest to me who sacrifice so much to allow me to go racing, So a big thank you to dad and mum, fiancé Claire and daughter Chloe.

“Thanks also to all my present sponsors KG Stewart Plant Hire, Autocare Solutions, John Leslie and Sons - Garage Services, Crawftune Race Engines, ASD, Falkland Performance Centre, WMH Material and Handling, BWR Machinery, CMS Services, JP Fabrications, Heroes Drinks.com and ArtFe. I am always pleased to hear from any new sponsors.”