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389 Ryan Santry Interview

Interview: Mark Paulson

Photos: Kevin Wickham

1st meeting 2009 xmas (2)

First meeting Christmas, 2009.

The battle for the Saloon Stock Car silver roof begins when King’s Lynn hosts the first round of the National Series this weekend. The six-round series, which visits the leading tracks around the country, returns after a year’s hiatus having successfully emulated BriSCA F1’s Shootout series in 2018 and ’19. It features the formula’s top drivers who have qualified either by winning one of the major championship titles or through their position in the national points standings.


No.1 seed and leading the national points standings is #389 Ryan Santry. The Cambridgeshire-born, Diss-based driver is in the form of his life as he seeks his first major championship.


“I always look forward to the racing, but it’ll be nice to get the Shootout started,” he says. “It’s quite a long way for the Scottish people to be coming down for all these meetings, so I can see why they may not want to do it, but for us lot down here it’s a good thing.”

2019 superbowl

Ready for the Superbowl 2019


Santry credits his fine form in 2021, which has also put him top of the King’s Lynn track championship standings after a terrific showing at the Adrian Flux Arena a couple of weeks ago, to the new Luke Grief-built car he has campaigned this year.


“I’ve never really had the best of cars on the track so we had the opportunity to buy a new car this year and, to be fair, it’s been faultless all year,” says the 27-year-old. “There’s a couple of times where there’s been so many meetings I’ve struggled to keep on top of the car, and then results reflect the amount of work you put into the car, and it was off the pace. That’s my own fault really, not anything else. But it’s nice to be somewhere in the running, and standing a chance, rather than being in the middle most of the time – that’s where I used to be!


 “It’s been one of those where you get a new car and you think, ‘Why have I wasted all my time racing rubbish?’ I’ll be honest, Diggy [Smith, the three-time world champion] brought his old car back – the car that he won the European in when he first came back – for me for last year and the year before, and that made a lot of difference. But then going from that into the new car, that was the next step up.


21 new car

The new car for 2021

“It’s just the one car for both surfaces. I think it’s a personal preference if you want to have two. Michael Allard [#349, British and ORC champion], I think he’s only got the one car as well. As long as you’ve got the time to keep on top of them, you can use one car on both surfaces. If you’ve got a tarmac car it’s much easier to keep on top of if you’re just using it on tarmac because they do get a little bit of abuse on the shale!”


Although he’s been a star-graded driver since September 2019, this weekend will mark the first time that Santry has had to start at the very back of the grid, effectively in the champions’ grade. Will that, and the prize that’s on offer, mean he approaches the racing differently?


“I’m not fortunate enough to have won a championship yet but I think at Lynn on Saturday I’ve literally got to start stone-cold last,” confirms the top-seeded driver.

 21 yarmouth

In victory lane at Yarmouth earlier this year

“I don’t think it can be a different approach to any other race that you’re in,” he adds. “You’re there, you pass the cars you can, you finish where you finish. Your main aim really is try and keep the car pointing the right way and you’re half-way there really.


“I think you can waste too much time focusing on the other people around you that before you know it, none of you will be in the top 10 because the front ones are just running away with it. I think you’ve just got to get on and treat it like a normal race.”


With the National Series drivers dominated by East Anglians, Santry knows the opposition well. There are no previous winners in the line-up and Santry believes the contest is wide open, but does pick out one man who many might consider the favourite.


“Everybody’s earned their place in there,” Santry states. “There’s nobody who you’d say, ‘Oh, they’re not going to win it.’ Everybody has qualified for it for a reason so I don’t think there’s anybody you’ll be able to rule out. Obviously Allard has been majorly consistent all year – he’s won championships and he has been fast on both surfaces – so he’s maybe one of the favourites but you can’t count anybody out because everybody has been fast and everybody has earned their place.”

 21 world (1)

On track, ready for the World Final

Around the time of the World Final in August, Santry’s form began to dip a little, and it reached a nadir in the ORC Championship weekend at Skegness a few weeks ago. But putting in the hours off-track has since reversed the slide, with his stellar performance at the Bumper Trophy meeting at the Adrian Flux Arena a fortnight ago yielding a win and two second places. It sets him up nicely for this weekend.


“We went to Skegness for the ORC weekend and the car was... you know, when you haven’t got enough time and you think you’ve done enough to the car and you get there and the car is absolutely terrible,” he recalls. “So I spent a couple of days on it, went right through the whole car, suspension and everything, and I found quite a few things wrong with it. I came to Lynn and it was really good last time there, probably the best it’s been on shale.


“I always like a Lynn meeting with 40 cars. Lynn is such a good track for the stock cars, and it tends to always get the numbers – you’ve always got 35/40 cars there, and that’s stock cars. That’s some good racing there.

 2013 British

Battling at the 2013 British Championship


“It’s nice to get some results before the National Series. Diggy always tells me, half the battle with these stock cars is in your head. If you go there thinking your car’s going to be good, you’ll do all right. If you go there and you’re doubting your car and you’re not sure what the car’s going to do, you’re probably not going to have the best of the nights. As long as you’ve got a bit of confidence and you know where your car’s at then there’s no reason you shouldn’t do all right.”


The World Final at Mildenhall didn’t go to plan for Santry who had qualified third on the grid via the unloaded7.3 World Rankings. He spun in the opening quarter of the race, then was unfortunate to suffer with some lap-scoring confusion during the race stoppages which left him unable to make up ground. But he has been knocking on the door of a major championship win, with top-three placings in this year’s National, British and European Championships. That would suggest major honours are just around the corner for the full-time mechanic who spends his days tending to the circuit racing machinery of fellow Saloon racer #386 Daniel Petters.


“I think I’ve probably swapped with Allard this year,” Santry jokes, in reference to the Great Yarmouth racer’s reputation for regularly finishing as runner-up in the major championships. “He’s done his thing, been good all year, and it’s been the same [for me] in every championship.


“For some reason, qualifying just never goes my way in championships. The furthest I’ve started up the grid was the World Final and that was obviously qualifying all year. But the rest of the year, for actually qualifying [at the event], I think the best starting position I got was eighth or ninth row. It’s not been great. In the championship races, you can get up there [towards the front] but the drivers who have qualified at the front and earned their place at the front, you can’t quite get to [challenge].


“I tend to try not to treat any race any different. Go out there, you want to win, you have a go, you do what you do. It’s just everybody’s a bit more fierce with championships, everybody’s driving a bit harder and I seem to  always be the one that gets caught up in the crashes rather than managing to sneak through. But that’s stock car racing – one day that’ll go your way and the next day you could not finish a race.



In the middle of the action May Bank Holiday 2021


“The World Final definitely didn’t go my way. I got spun out lap five or lap six, something like that, and I got spun over the start/finish line so I think it missed my transponder for a lap. I did kick up a little bit of a fuss and it was, ‘No, you’re not there.’ Then I came from the back, when I should have been near the front, all the way back up to fourth for the last restart and they still had me as another lap down somehow. So it definitely didn’t go my way but, to be fair to the people up in the box that day, I did get an apology for that. But it’s just one of them, once it’s gone it’s gone, you can’t do anything about it so there’s no point keeping on about it really.”


Winning the silver roof would be an ideal way to overcome that disappointment. But either way, Santry looks set to end the year at the top of the World Rankings, of which he is justifiably proud. It takes an awful lot of effort and commitment to race at around seven or eight meetings each month, including trips to Smeatharpe Stadium in Devon and Cowdenbeath’s Racewall in Scotland, even if the man himself plays down his travelling efforts this year.


“Because there isn’t a [season-long] race for the silver roof – it’s not who can do the most meetings and who can score the most points – people aren’t doing the meetings,” he reckons. “So I think I’ve done 32 or 33 up until now. The first meeting of the year at Taunton was a Monday night and obviously we had the National on the [following] weekend so we went and did the Taunton on the Monday. Then I had one weekend where I did Cowdie Saturday night and then went down to Taunton Monday night. But, to be honest with you, it’s only really those three meetings that I’ve done that are out of the ordinary. The rest of them have all been championships so you’re up to Scotland or down south, and we’ve had a lot of Skegnesses this year. As far as travelling goes, I’ve travelled to three or four meetings I wouldn’t normally do but that’s it really, it’s not been too full on. There’s just so many [relatively local] meetings that you can do, and when they’re only a couple of hours down the road you do them.


“Top of the World Rankings – I never thought I’d see my number through the middle of that page in unloaded. I remember looking at that page as a kid and thinking that’s pretty cool, you wouldn’t mind that one day. There’s not loads of people who have done that so it’s nice but you’d sooner have a colour on your roof than your number through the middle there! But it’s still a good achievement to get that.”


2011 with dad

Father and Son on track, King's Lynn 2011



Santry grew up around racing, with father Andy a successful Saloon driver and uncle Steve the 2001 world champion. It wasn’t always on the cards that he would follow in their wheel tracks though, and Ryan never raced in junior formulae – but we’ll leave that for another time. He’s now immersed in another stock car racing dynasty, as partner Mandy is the daughter of Diggy Smith, widely acclaimed as one of the greatest of all time.


Santry, who enjoys the social side of racing as much as the on-track action, is quick to praise Diggy and his son Billy (#161) for taking him under their wing and helping him climb through the grades prior to becoming a fixture among the red-tops a couple of years ago.


“I’ll be completely honest, as far as my racing goes, I was a yellow top at best when I came into the Saloons and I was for years,” he says. “Obviously I got involved with my partner Mandy and [got to know] Diggy and Billy. Diggy’s knowledge of racing and Diggy’s driving ability, him and Billy, if it weren’t for them I would probably still be a yellow top. Diggy will drill you and he’ll make sure your car is right. He will not let a car leave the yard unless it is bang on, and the same with Billy with his set-ups. Billy sets up all my cars and they’re faultless. They are the reason we’re doing what we’re doing, and if it weren’t for them we definitely wouldn’t be doing as well as we are.”


Santry in 2015

In addition to Diggy and Billy Smith, there’s a lot of people and businesses who’ve helped Santry reach the position of being able to fight for the silver roof.


He says: “Massive thank you to my amazing partner Mandy & my little boy Albie for supporting me and not missing a meeting all year, and dealing with the late nights on the car. Without them I could not do what I do.

“Massive thanks to Arbus Ltd (Petters Racing) for their help and support with the car all year.


“BS Set-ups and D. Smith Fabrications (without them we’d still be on the infield!). Roy at Elbourn Engines – he helps me massively with not just my engines but the racing altogether. 


“And all my other sponsors: LDP Electrical, Fitzakerley Construction, Reliable Rentals, G&A Car Spares, Thetford Autoparts, SMR, TJ Barnes Autos, Triple C Accident Repair Centre and Pearce Property Solutions.”


Every single one is appreciated and could just make the difference for Santry in his bid for the silver roof. Can he do it?


“That would be nice,” Santry admits. “That would be a good end to the season but, like I say, there’s 10 drivers in it, everybody’s as capable, so we’ll see what happens.”


Come along to the Adrian Flux Arena, King’s Lynn, on Saturday night to see which of the National Series contenders draws first blood.


In victory lane 2009 at the first meeting and just a few weeks ago at King's Lynn.


1st meeting 2009 xmas (1)IMG_7227


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