I always wondered what would make anyone
race something like a Fire Arrow when BMWs,
Hondas and Volvos seemed like a better way to
waste a little money!
Last week, August 14th I am pretty sure, we received
a call that Doug Smith had died. At fi rst, it
really didn’t sink in. The only Doug Smith I knew
was a younger guy with an amazing smile and a delightfully wry
sense of humor. He and his Side-Kick Wayne would seem to be
lurking in Pull-a-Part the same time Trey and I were. Didn’t matter:
Buford on Saturday or Conley on Sunday… they were there. Every
once-in-a-while Steve would complete the Trio.
Their brain trust ranged from IT-Class-to-Class: fast cars on a
budget! Nice stuff….
Secrets of a Club Racer
A few years ago I wrote about Pull-A-Part and Doug
cautioned me not to tell everyone about “our secret”.
The RX-7 had one of those niggling repair issues: a bolt
that held a rear brake caliper stripped out. It could have
been easily repaired and run for a couple of races with JBWeld
as a “poor-man’s heli-coil.” Finding the part was the
issue: few rear disc brakes on 1st Gen RX-7. All of IT-7 had
been to Buford, Conley Charlotte and Birmingham!!!
On this Sunday race morning, Doug and Wayne showed
up with a possible replacement from an MX-3: they had
been to Buford and back to Road Atlanta during the quiet
time. It didn’t fi t: the JB Weld was working fi ne enough. It
was 7-8 months before we would see Doug again so we
could give him the $16. Racing people are that way.
Secrets of a Good Guy
Doug Smith was an IT-B Champion from the time when
IT-B was as hotly contested, as any class in the series is
this year. His Plymouth (that’s right) Fire Arrow is fast: he
enjoyed the mind-game and had the engineering-talent to
make it that way. It’s like a Pinto or AMC or TR-7 in the
midst of someone’s dream afternoon!
Like so many people we meet on a weekend of fun or
weekend of hell, we don’t seem to know that much about
each other. Heaven knows I never would have imagined
that Doug was ill and I would think he really didn’t care to
talk about it. I do not blame him, I don’t.
Doug had not been on the track recently … not that we
have either. High fuel costs, bloated costs of prep and stunning
entry fees make short work of a Club Racer’s anticipations
and hopes, dreams and best plans and schemes. I
do know there is an amazing rumor that there is a new Fire
Arrow or two that Doug, Wayne and Steve were planning
to launch on an unsuspecting IT-World. Dreams should
Doug Smith will remain a delightful memory along the
way of SCCA. He was not a “track star” nor did he clamor
for stardom. He is the best-of-the-best whose only desire
was to build, drive and design his own idea of what it would
take to ruin the weekend of someone else.
A Club Racer, a Class Champion against all odds, in a
Fire Arrow, imagine!
More than that: we lost a really great guy.
God Speed, Doug.
I was numb as I read the e-mail from Doug’s sister that he had passed away and that she was trying to sell all his racecars. Pushing myself back from the computer, I took a deep breath. What made the news more difficult to take was that it had been almost a year that he had passed away and I was just now hearing about it.
It had been several years since my contact with Doug, ironically, he had placed his cars on e-bay and I was able to e-mail him about the status of the stuff. Little did I know that he was ill and that it would be my last contact with him.
My passion for Fire Arrows and Colts was fueled by my friendship with Doug. I purchased a regular Arrow from Ray Brooks to run in ITC. Knowing nothing about Arrows, Ray recommended that I call Doug Smith, who raced Fire Arrows. That first phone call was just the beginning of a great friendship and that fueled the passion for Colts and Arrows.
Doug and I would talk for hours on the phone about racing and particularly building and racing Mitsubishi stuff. He had a vast knowledge of these cars and would allow me to pick his brain on tricks and tips that he had learned over the years. Yet, he was always keeping a few secrets to himself and that was the reason he was a great racer and champion.
My first visit to his house was an interesting one to say the least. I walked in and there was rear-end out of a Fire Arrow sitting in his living room. The thing was so clean that you could have eaten off it. The master bedroom had no bed in; it was a machine shop. Fire Arrow parts were in abundance and I guess you could say he slept and ate this stuff.
I recall shopping at Racers Wholesale and the salesperson telling me a story about Doug. Apparently, Doug had a credit card that he used strictly for racing. When he presented the card to the salesperson, he had a piece of tape over it written, "For Racing Only". He wanted to make sure that the card was for that purpose and according to the salesperson; Doug was the only person who had his own personal racing credit card.
Doug was always willing to lend a hand or a part at the track. One year he and Steve took the tires off their car, brought them to the track, and placed them on my car. Another time he brought a set of scales to the track and set my car up. He wanted more than anything to see an Arrow run up front. Unfortunately, I blew the motor after five laps.
At one of the ARRC endurance races Doug shared the driving time in my car. After he drove his segment, he got out the car and said that my car scared him to death and wondered how in the world I drove it as well as I did. Doug was a clean racer and those that raced with him knew that. He was never one to stick his car in a questionable position on the track, he was always able to keep his car in one piece and win championships.
I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to drive a Fire Arrow racecar let alone own more than one. It was so surreal as I loaded up the cars to take them back North Carolina, it seemed that any minute Doug was going to come walking out the house asking what I was doing. It will be a tremendous challenge trying to duplicate his successes. If I am to come close it will be with the new Fire Arrow that he was building. I hope I have the money, time and the talent that will continue to keep Doug’s legacy alive..