A week late perhaps, but I’ve been busier than a cat trying to bury a turd on a frozen pond recently, so I’ve only just managed to watch the season finale of Gears and Tears, BBC 1’s docu-soap about BriSCA F1 stock car racing.
Avid readers will know that I wasn’t overly impressed with the first instalment of the series, describing it as a wasted opportunity to promote short circuit oval racing to the general public, which can be read here.
As a consequence of appearing on the first page of a Google search for the term ‘Gears and Tears’, my missives attracted an unprecedented amount of attention, along with a healthy number of comments. It was these that made me persevere with the series for its entirety, in the hope that things improved for the better.
Well they did, thankfully, but I still feel the producers of the programme chose the wrong angle when it came to covering this particular branch of motor racing.
Week after week we would have to sit through twenty minutes of two women throwing insults at each other, while their partners took cover underneath the bonnets of their vehicles, preparing them for the next meeting. Had the focus of the series been exclusively on how committed the drivers and fans are for stock car racing, it would have been a darn sight more interesting.
At times it was like accidentally tuning into an episode of EastEnders, when in reality, they all seemed like nice enough people, who had (grudging) respect for their rivals. Not quite the bitter rivalry voice-over man Ralph ‘Finchey’ Ineson would have you believe.
It was nice to see then, that the final episode adopted a different approach and featured more racing footage than normal. The showdown in this 40-year-old war between the Lancashire Smith family and Yorkshire Wainmans for the silver roof title (points champion) took centre stage. All the while title holder Frankie Wainman Jr’s race preparations took a bit of a backseat, distracted by teaching his son, the imaginatively titled Frankie Jr Jr, how to drive his Ministox car.
There was no jealousy or the hurling of abuse on show, as the wives were relegated to small bit parts. Instead we had a father teaching his son the ropes, or how to apply the brake pedal at least, followed by an epic finale as Stuart Smith won the coveted silver roof.
I completely understand that if Gears and Tears was pure racing footage, then fewer than the two million or so that regularly watched would have tuned in. But I would have liked to have seen more of the other successful competitors. I found it odd that some characters were randomly introduced one minute, like the hairdresser and his son, or the blonde bombshell, only to disappear into thin air the next.
As an outsider, I also found the lack of explanation of some of the rules and regulations, along with the actual gravitas of each championship the drivers participated in, somewhat frustrating. But, but…
Strangely Monday nights won’t be the same without the hilarious dialogue bantered around in either Camp Smith or Camp Wainman. Particularly from the Lancashire mob, who all sound a bit like relatives of Peter Kay. “I bet Jenson Button doesn’t have to do this, he just gets on his yacht,” said Andy Smith while hoisting his new engine into his car. “With his fit missus,” his cheeky mechanic piped in.
Whether Gears and Tears was television of a high standard doesn’t really matter. What is important is that, if comments on my previous article are anything to go by, it seems to have had a positive effect, with attendance figures on the increase at circuits up and down the country. An excellent by-product of a programme that could have been better, I’m sure you’ll agree.