Barry Sheavills has been part of UK drag racing since 1970 and there are not many four wheel classes in which he has not competed. A leading light for many years he has several firsts to his name – debuting the UK’s first purpose-built Super Gasser, running the first Alcohol dragster 5 at Santa Pod, the first Top Fuel dragster 4 in the UK and the first Top Fuel dragster 300 mph by a European. It is for his long career at the top of drag racing and his constant work in promoting the sport that he has been inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Barry Sheavills caught the drag racing bug after witnessing the Commuter Top Fuel Dragster smoking down the quarter mile at Santa Pod in 1970. Immediately, racing a Top Fuel dragster became his goal, but you have to start somewhere and he was soon shifting gears down the drag strip in his street driven Ford Cortina.
A Jag powered ’37 Austin Ruby came up for sale in 1972 and Barry along with his brother Dave snapped it up, debuting it as their first purpose built race car. It was already a well-known Competition Altered having been run by many teams since 1967 with the name ‘Stagecoach’. They took it in turns behind the wheel at first before Barry took over as driver with Dave twisting the wrenches. From that moment on the name ‘Stagecoach’ remained linked to Barry Sheavills.
In 1976 he moved up a gear with ‘Stagecoach II’ featuring a tube chassis, chopped ‘n’ channeled fibreglass Austin Ruby body and an injected Pontiac V8. This put him up into the Senior Competition Altered class and they raced it all over Europe running against the likes of Dorset Horn, Panic and The Devil.
Barry and Dave started their own business ‘Anglo American Auto & Parts Service’ and began construction of a door slammer that was to become the UK’s first purpose built Super Gasser, a 454 powered ’81 Camaro known as ‘The A Team’ which debuted in 1985. The following year saw Barry in an Altered again, ‘Stagecoach III’, an eight second ’33 Plymouth coupe fitted with injected Rat power, the chassis previously owned by Keith Potter and run as The Devil.
At the 1988 Santa Pod May Meet Barry debuted his first Top Alcohol Dragster ‘Stagecoach IV’. Using a Priddle-built chassis, Donovan motor and Wynn’s sponsorship he was soon in the sixes at over 200mph. Another car followed with Keith Black power and times tumbled to 6.30 at 219 mph, then in 1993 a brand new state of the art Geof Hauser built Top Alcohol Dragster was unveiled, running 6.20s straight out of the box.
1994 was a fantastic year for Barry. He was undefeated on a green light start all season and took the win at the European Finals over the newly crowned European Champion Anita Makela, with the first five second run ever at Santa Pod by an Alcohol car, a 5.97. He also won the British Championship that year, as he would for the following two years, and finished 4th in Europe.
For 1997 Barry realized his goal and moved up to Top Fuel Dragster, teaming up with championship winning owner and crew chief Rune Fjeld from Norway. It didn’t take long for Barry to master the art of nitro power and in Finland at only his second Top Fuel race he won the event, putting seasoned regulars Tommi Happanen and Viveca Averstedt back on the trailer while upping his best speed to 287mph. The year also finished on a high with Barry recording his personal best ET of 5.08 during the European Finals at Santa Pod. He won the Top Fuel Rookie of the Year award and finished 4th in the F.I.A. European Top Fuel Championship – not bad for his first season.
Things got even better in 1998 when Barry won his first European F.I.A. Top Fuel Championship and also became the first driver to break the four second barrier in the UK. Barry was also the first European racer to achieve a terminal speed on the quarter mile of more than 300 with a 304.71 mph blast at the FIA Main Event at Santa Pod in 2002 alongside fellow Brit Andy Carter. This reset the record books as the first side-by-side four and the first side-by-side 300mph run in Europe.