“I SUPPOSE I shocked a lot of people when I brought out my car at the start to the 2023 season,” Leon Stewart told our Cowdenbeath Racewall reporter, Jim Turner, in this week’s interview.

“Gone was my usual blue and red livery to be replaced by a black and grey one!”

Leon comes from Kirknewton and works as a Motor Technician and MOT Tester at Autocare Solutions.

Asked about his 2023 season, Leon smiled, and said: “I started the season as the National Champion and as a result had to start my races from the very back of the grid beside the other champions. It was a step up for me and I had to work harder to get through the fields, but I think that I proved that winning the National Championship was no fluke.

“Due to other commitments, I missed the opening meeting of the season, but when I had my first outing my car ran well and I was pleased to finish third in the final. My next race was at Nutts Corner, in Northern Ireland, where we race for the Irish Open and then the Masters the following day. Callum Hosie won both, but whilst my car was alright, I never managed to get into challenging positions on either day.

“Back at the Racewall, the car was consistent and kept picking up top ten places. We were then off to Skegness for the UK Championship – it’s a track that I like. In the qualifying heats I had a puncture in heat one, didn’t finish heat two, but was fourth in heat three. I started too far back to really challenge and finished up in seventh place.

The next championship was the European and the ORCi Championship weekend, at the Racewall. The weather was hot and Leon was pleased with his practice sessions, but had mixed results on both days, which meant he started further down the grid than he would have liked.

“On both days I made up a lot of ground and in both of the championships and over the closing laps, I was dicing with Stewart Paterson for fourth. I just couldn’t find the line to get ahead of him, whilst keeping a wary eye out on those behind,“ recalled Leon.

“I haven’t won the Gordon Ross Memorial Trophy meeting as yet - I would like to be the first driver to win all the trophy meetings at some point. I had another good race with Cameron Doak and ended up in third spot.

“We had a holiday break and my next outing was at Bristol, for a domestic meeting. I want to race at every track at some point. Bristol is a unique track. with a dip at one bend and it was midweek meeting. I was second in the opening heat, but had clashed with another driver and in the next tangled with him again. The result was that I hit the kerb, then veered across the track and hit the wall which shattered the gearbox. We just loaded up and headed home, getting there around 6.30 am!”

Added Leon: “When we went to check the car in the daylight there was a lot more damage to it than first thought, so it was a case of getting the old car ready to race and a couple of days later, we were racing it at the Racewall in the Turner Trophy meeting. It was horrendous so when we got back after the meeting, we started to pull the car to bits and found quite a few things needing to be altered.

“We set off for our trip to the south west without too much confidence, but over the two days I experienced the lows and then the highs! The low came at St Day, in Cornwall, where on more of a D shaped track I lost my National Championship coming home in fifth place.

“We then headed to Taunton for Monday's British Championship, which became the high! The tracks are so different with Taunton having tight bends. I had two good heats and started the final from the inside of row two.

“The leading duo tangled on the opening lap, leaving a gap for me to dive through into the lead. I soon had Rhys Langdown on my tail and for the next 25 laps he harried me lap after lap. I kept a tight line, so if he wanted the win he would have to drive around me to do so. He tried once or twice, but couldn't do so and I went on to win. Speak about changing fortunes. I stopped my car at the pit gate where my family were and jumped onto.my roof and celebrated with them. It was a great feeling.

"The World Final at Nutts Corner, in Northern Ireland, was best forgotten about but next up was the one all the Scots want to win - the Scottish Championship.

“I had drawn third on the grid but just got there by the skin of my teeth. For some reason my car was binding and on the warm-up lap I had to hold onto the steering wheel to keep the car straight. Surprisingly I found myself in the lead and on a great surface soon had a big lead which disappeared after a shunt suspended the race.

“My lead had disappeared but I knew that I needed to make a good restart, which I managed to do. I saw in my mirror that Davy (Philp Jnr) had moved into second and was beginning to close the gap. Instead of keeping my racing line, I began to try other lines to see if I could find grip.

“I couldn’t and soon we were nose to tail. The last five laps were something else! Davy and I raced hard, side by side, and swapping places with no quarter given or asked for! At the start to the last lap, I was second thinking my Scottish luck was going to strike again. Then uncharacteristically, Davy made a mistake going into the last bend and drifted wide.

“That was the break that I needed and I was able to dive through on the inside to win. I clambered onto my roof to celebrate after the race finished and to be fair Davy was the first to congratulate me in victory lane. My family were there to celebrate although my wife Claire wasn’t by my daughter Chloe was. My family met up on the Sunday to celebrate – it was a good time!

“I had to get another roof change, the Saltire denotes the Scottish Champion and between then and the end of the season it was a case of scoring points. I was third in the ‘track points’ and in with an outside chance but was the leader in the National Points. At one of our meetings, we had passenger seats fitted and had a charity night where we raised over £500 for Forth 1 Cash for Kids.

“On the last day of the season we raced in the Si Laing Memorial Trophy, which is another race I haven’t won. The rain was torrential at times, the track was wet and greasy and whilst I did pick up top ten results that secured the National Points championship, I had to settle for third in the track points. It also means that I have to fit silver onto my roof for the 2024 season!”

Looking to the 2024 season he added: “My car is still on the trailer and it looks as if it will not be getting used next year.

“I think I will leave it in the garage and keep it as a trophy car, after all it has won me four titles. I intend to build a new one and if I have time might start another.

“One added complication is that my niece Zoe wants to race a Prostock Basic so will have to get started on that. Basically, I do most of the work on the cars myself with my dad, Kenny Stewart and Peter Law, who helps at the track. To them, and to my sponsors, I am grateful for their contribution into making it a season to remember. It wouldn’t have happened without them”.