There are a few different championships in the UK, but the BriSCA F1 series, in which Smith races, is the daddy.
At first glance F1 stock cars can look pretty primitive, and the pits rings to the sound of sledgehammers and welding torches, not 10mm sockets. But there’s more to them than you might think.
Their geometry is set up to turn them left, brakes are bigger on one side than the other, and the body is offset on the chassis for optimised weight distribution.
There are strict ground clearance rules too, and minimum and maximum weight limits (because light is good on Tarmac and heavy is good on gravel, across which surfaces the series is split about 50:50).
But, refreshingly, engines are unlimited. You can use any sized naturally-aspirated engine you like. Everybody uses a massive V8 because, well, you would, wouldn’t you?
The motor in Smith’s car measures about eight-litres and makes getting on for 100bhp per litre. There’s no need to go bigger because there’s only so much power you can put through the fairly rudimentary GoodYear outside and cheap rally-spec inside rear tyre.
The V8 – ostensibly a small block Chevy, but one which owes precisely none of its parts to General Motors – drives the rear wheels through a bespoke two-speed gearbox and, the only ‘stock’ bit of a stock car these days, a modified Ford Transit axle.
The axle modifications include removing the diff, hence the smaller inside rear tyre, which pitches the car towards the corner.
Now, not too many racing teams would let muggins here have a steer in a car that they were going to race an hour later, but most racing cars aren’t built to drive away if they’ve just been pitched hard into a barrier.
So Smith is very relaxed as I head out onto the quarter-mile asphalt oval at Birmingham Wheels Park.
A decent lap time is a touch over 15 seconds in the dry. It’s wet and I haven’t – sensibly I thought - wired the car up to our VBox datalogger.
Nonetheless the circuit feels pretty small in a car like this. When I get in it I think it might be the most intimidating thing I’m ever likely to drive.
It’s very claustrophobic, the big steering wheel is set high and close and your legs straddle the transmission tunnel – to the right of which is the throttle and brake pedal, the clutch and a second brake pedal (linked to the first, in case you fancy left-foot braking) to the left. As soon as you’re rolling, you select second, and leave it there.