The British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Gala dinner took place on 20th November 2021 at Oatlands Park Hotel, Weybridge, Surrey and was another star-studded occasion with acceptance speeches that were well considered, humorous and at times emotional.
We thank Eurodragster.com photographer and BDRHoF sponsor Julian Hunt for posting a gallery of pictures from the evening which you can view from the following link: http://www.eurodragster.com/news/features/2021bdrhofgala/pictures/feature/default.asp.
Honorary Chair Lesley Wright commenced the formal part of the evening by reflecting on events since the last Gala dinner in November 2019. “It’s been a tough 2 years for all; however thanks to the amazing efforts by our tracks, I am pleased to say that Drag Racing is alive and kicking!
“The dogged determination of Keith and the staff at Santa Pod Raceway to re-open the track last year, despite all the authorities’ objections, was amazing. Also, the generosity of people and the efforts of volunteers in establishing a great series of events at Melbourne Raceway was outstanding.
“Sadly, we’ve lost a lot of people from the Drag Racing community since our last Gala and their loss is heartfelt. In particular, we miss our members Lawrie Gatehouse, Dennis Priddle and Stuart Bradbury. I always appreciated how hard Stuart worked for the Hall of Fame, but never more so since taking over the reins last year. I’m proud to say that Stuart’s name will be forever associated with the Hall of Fame through the naming of the Junior Awards after him. A fitting tribute to ensure that his legacy will continue.”
Photography © Julian Hunt
Compere Tony Thacker continued by announcing the inaugural Stuart Bradbury Junior Drag Racing Awards which were presented by his wife Bev Bradbury. The awards went to the Junior Covid Cup winners of 2020 Liam Holgate (Junior Dragbike) and Luke Fulton (Junior Dragster) alongside 2021 champions Hollie King (Junior Dragbike) and Harry Redshaw (Junior Dragster).
Earlier, Tom Davis of BDRHoF and Eurodragster.com sponsor VP Racing Fuels made presentations to the 2020 and 2021 Junior Drag Racing champions in the drinks reception sponsored by Santa Pod Raceway.
The inductees at the Gala have had to wait patiently for 21 whole months for their moment in the limelight, but were all present and keen to be formally inducted. Each inductee received the Bootsie trophy in memory of the late, great Allan ‘Bootsie’ Herridge, the trophies sponsored by the Santa Pod Racers Club, the Hall of Fame being indebted to Ian Marshall, Philip Evans, Kathy Taylor and the SPRC committee for this continued support.
You can see the full citations on our members’ page by clicking the following link on http://www. https://www.britishdragracinghof.co.uk/inducted-members/. Here are the acceptance speeches for each inductee and their presenters, following the reading of the citations by SPR announcer Colin Theobald.
Jeff Byne: Land Speed Racer and former Pro Stock Bike racer Geoff Stilwell presented the trophy to Jeff, who said: I’m a man of small words all I can say is Thank You to the Hall of Fame team just to put on tonight after what we’ve been through, and inducting me. It’s an honour and a privilege.
Dave Wilson: Former Editor of Eurodragster.com Tog presented Dave Wilson’s trophy and said: Dave was very supportive of Eurodragster.com from day one and as the site’s popularity snowballed he always credited me with more foresight than I had actually exercised. In the late 1990s, when I first knew the cheerful chap always laughing and joking with me in his pit, I couldn’t understand his handle so I asked a fellow journalist “Why do they call him Grumpy?”. “Because “You could hear him at the other end of the pits” was too long for a nickname” was the reply.
The citation has told you about the record of Dave and his team but I would like to share one story with you, from the days when I did as much photography as writing. Dave asked for a copy of a particular launch shot of the Top Alcohol Dragster. Now, I’m sure that Julian and [Andy] Willsheer and all the photographers in the room will agree with me that it doesn’t matter how many requests you get for pictures, it always feels good. I took the print to Grumpy’s pit and he called David to take a look. “Look at that”, he said and I started to preen. “Those butterflies aren’t all the way open”. So I unpreened.
I have to say that it is an honour and a privilege to present you. Hopefully you and your family and team realise just how popular you all were and are with the fans and just how fitting we consider your induction.
Dave said: I would like to thank Tog for making this presentation; he is a man who has contributed an enormous amount to European Drag Racing.
For me it’s been a long journey. On my table tonight there are people who were with me at the beginning of that journey and remarkably still with me at the end. Rod George got me involved, taught me many things at the beginning, mostly to open my mind and find answers to problems.It was a very big learning experience. Raymond White was there as crew in the beginning and back again after 20 years, bringing support in from Playstation, and I also got great support from Anthony Cohen from American Car Imports who unfortunately can’t be here tonight. My first experience of drag racing along with many people was the Drag Fests at Blackbushe. I actually came across Allan and his straight eight Buick at that meeting and little did I imagine that years later I’d be collecting an award with his name on it.
There have been many people who have helped and taken part in this journey and I’m going to name a few. Steve Martyn and Dave Fletcher, helped build the Krypton car after we made a mess of the Stormbringer, Charlie Jarrett and Bob Vaughan who crewed on it for many years – invaluable. Later Ricky Packham, Harry Palmer, Mike Nichols, Fred Willbanks, Andy and Jennifer Bissett, all involved with the American Car Imports car and the FIA Championships.
Andy and Jennifer actually took a whole year off to chase after the first FIA Championship with me and then faithfully followed our truck for many miles and hours and hours on our tour across the USA. They must have got really bored at the sight of the back door of that trailer. Andy of course shared the crew chief duties with my son David during that period and the one thing that has enabled me to complete this journey is the unwavering support of my family.
Anne and David have been trucked around Europe to different races from when they were little children David worked on the car from a young age and Anne was always cleaning and polishing and helping Mum. Which brings me to my biggest asset – Linda, team mum. Without any doubt my greatest support without which none of this would have been possible. So I want to share this honour with all of them. I also want to pay tribute to Stu Bradbury for what he started and to the people who carry it on today. Thank you all.
Nick Davies: Fuel Altered racer Ron Hope presented Nick with his trophy and said: For the last thirteen sessions of this meeting, I’ve been honoured to attend so I feel as if I know each and every one of you and I consider you all to be great friends. You’re always welcome in Tennessee, anywhere in the US actually. As was pointed out, Rob and Nick came to the US a few years ago and beat us all up everywhere we went, so I’ve reluctantly invited them back as we’d like another shot at them. I had the great honour some years ago of inducting Rob into the Hall of Fame and now it is truly an honour to introduce Nick Davies into the Hall of Fame.
Nick said: About thirty years ago I parachuted way into a purple patch in British Drag Racing in the 1990s in Super Gas with the era of such luminaries as Al O’Connor, Brian Pateman, Terry Gibbs, Terry Gransden, Timmy Adam and Ray White. It was a real blessing and cemented my love for the sport.
Five years later I gave up work in what some considered to be a fairly promising career, certainly a lucrative one, in the City and made the jump. From a financial perspective it wasn’t the wisest move in the world but there is more to life, as the older generation here will probably tell you, than purely financial stuff – it’s about family, friends and making memories, and I’ve made a lot of memories along the way, some of which were the first six, the first five which was this year, first 200mph run, first 250mph – almost, we ran 400kph but not quite 250mph but I’m sure that’s coming.
The first Pro Mod championship, the first time into the field at the end of the track, that became pretty dull by the fourth or fifth time. Also with customers, the Ugly Sister’s first six, the Apache’s first five, all huge. Then taking the car out to America, it was an amazing experience pulling round to the start line at Bakersfield strapped into your own car, it was an emotional moment and winning the Hot Rod Reunion, it was just the icing on the cake. To cap it all to celebrate it with the people that were there that came out to support us and watch the racing was truly memorable.
It is about friends and people, there’s a few people I’d like to thank, firstly all the people at Santa Pod on and off the track who have given me the platform and opportunity to make these memories. Stuart Bradbury, he did a lot of things behind the scenes before we went to the US in 2017, to my great friend Lawrie Gatehouse who backed and helped me unwaveringly through the time and gave me the opportunity to drive a nitro car for the first time, to Geoff Stilwell of BUA Motorsports, thank you for giving us the opportunity to go out to Bonneville, to go out to El Mirage this last weekend, I think the memories have not quite finished in that book yet, to Stewart and US Automotive thanks very much indeed, to Ron for the US Tour which wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the logistics and support that Ron gave us in 2017 and not just that, I suspect the Bantam would still be sitting in my garage with an alcohol Chevy in it with mothballs and covered in dust.
To my family, Jo and the kids, I couldn’t have done it without the patience and support you’ve given, amazing. And lastly to my racing and business partners – Scott where would we have been without you? You provide the engineering when Rob and I have been lagging and does so much behind the scenes that everything seems to run smoothly at the track largely because of you. And Rob thank you very much, 20 years and counting, I think we’ve got a few more to go, it hasn’t been the easiest times recently but we work towards a common goal. Everyone thanks very much indeed.
Ian King was presented with his trophy by SPRC director and race secretary Kathy Taylor. Ian said: I’m still kind of embarrassed because a few years ago when Stu Bradbury contacted me and asked if I was willing to be inducted I was embarrassed to say I was racing in the US the same weekend all the time and it was unfortunate I couldn’t do it, he said could it be presented from the outside but I really wanted to be here because doing the remote thing doesn’t work. I was lucky that two years ago I was able to accept it and I was really looking forward to meeting Stu and it’s such a sad and poignant moment for me that Stu isn’t here now, but I’d just love to say Bev, thank you for continuing the work that Stu did and to the BDRHoF guys and girls who work hard behind the scenes to make sure that this all works.
When I first started going to Santa Pod at their Run What Ya Brungs and seeing all the guys going up and down in their bikes and cars I thought maybe I’d like to do that sort of thing in the future but I never believed I could actually do it. It’s turned out to be the best thing I ever did.
I’ve made so many lifelong friends, all my guys on the two tables we have, of course my family supports me, my long suffering wife Debbie who’s sacrificed so much and she’s been the person who’s enabled me to do what I want to do so thank you Debbie. My two girls Alex and Georgina, who’ve grown up in drag racing, I have to say they’ve turned out to be such wonderful people and part of that is the drag racing family, they’ve been brought up within this fantastic family of people and learned so much from everyone , how people should be with each other how people should treat each other, nicely and fairly, so that’s the main thing I got from drag racing, thank you for making my family what it is now.
Us racers, we’re always in the front getting accolades but we can’t be here without our team, and I have such a fantastic team behind me that have been with me for so many years now, over 20 years, they’ve stuck with me through thick and thin actually it’s been their input that made me race, my part of this has been very small, because you can’t do anything without your team.
It’s a genuine thing that I’m the guy whose sitting on the bike and it’s all about them, not about me, especially my crew chief for 20 years Michael Beaumont, it was a bit of an accident that he became my crew chief, he was meant to be Jon Morton’s crew chief, actually I stole him, I was going to train him but it didn’t work out that way. The people behind the scenes are the main people, the backroom staff at Santa Pod, the guys and girls who do the tickets, the entries and everything else, I’m so honoured that Kathy Taylor who’s such a wonderful person is the person who is presenting me as she is for me Santa Pod, when I turn up she is the first person I see, Kathy, please don’t ever give in.
I want to reflect on absent friends at this point, there’s been a number of friends of ours in the motorcycle community who’ve tragically left us for various reasons. Unfortunately we have family ties between our team and those that have gone.
Can I start with Paul Giddings, some of us used to race with Paul and I’m very sad he’s not here with us tonight; he used to come to the Santa Pod Dinner Dance to take the mick out of me, dropping his ash into my cups when I won. We tragically lost BDRHoF member Brian Johnson and then Anne which is such a sad story. Then Chris Hampson, I hope no-one ever forgets Chris when I was running against him when he tragically lost his life at SP in one of my early Top Fuel Bike rides. And then more recently Paul Willis who was obviously very connected with our team with Jemma and Julie, he’ll never be forgotten, and then more recently Barry Eastman who was a great friend to all of us.
Finally thank you to the BDRHoF for running this fantastic event and remembering all the people that may be forgotten sometimes like myself, I’m very blessed to be remembered in this way and I just hope your work continues and what a great event you put on for us. Thank you everyone.
Pelle Lindelöw and Gunnar Elmqvist: Santa Pod CEO Keith Bartlett presented Pelle and Gunnar with their trophies and said: I’ve known Pelle for a very long time, I knew of Pelle’s exploits before I met Pelle and Gunnar and I really got to know Pelle very well from 1991 when he had the Budweiser car but was also Vice President behind me as President of the European Top Fuel Association. They were a very dedicated team, they became quite infamous and won lots of races and were quite feared.
But what none of you know about Pelle is for all their professionalism they were quite a family unit to the point of they were quite stubborn, most would come to the race track, would put their awning up, would get the car ready and service it. Not P&G! The first thing that happened was out came the barbecue, out came the coffee pots and they had coffee. You could chase them up, you’ve got to be ready but coffee always came first. Between rounds – coffee. If the engine was blown to pieces – let’s have a cup of coffee. It was a Swedish tradition – and that was P&G.
The other thing that none of you know is they were dedicated not just at the race track but in the week. Every single Tuesday from 1981 until they retired, they met at the workshop, they always looked at the car and decided what they think should be done on it. What do you think was the first thing they did when they arrived? They put the coffee on! Sometimes they worked a lot, sometimes they drunk a lot of coffee.
I travelled a lot with Pelle in the ETFA Championship I ran from 1991 to 1996. One round was in the North of Sweden at Pitea and it was called the Midnight Sun Nationals. It doesn’t get dark until midnight which is why they called it that. Again P&G Racing turned up, they were very serious – coffee. On Sunday nights when the racing finished the Swedes became Swedes. We had others there, German drivers, British racers, but there were Swedes, Danny Soderberg, Monica, Pelle, Gunnar the whole team. What would happen is that the race would finish at 10 or 11pm and then they would go back to their hotel and the Swedes would come into their own. So when you realise that those guys over there are dedicated serious racers when you see them at 6am on Monday morning laying on the floor of their hotel reception all drunk, you would not call them professional.
However, they are very professional and I’m delighted that Pelle and Gunnar’s wives are here. Gunnar’s wife Suzanne had quite a serious accident in 1991 and I’m delighted she’s been able to come tonight, she’s been handicapped ever since and I don’t think she minds me saying the Tuesday after the accident, Gunnar was very worried about Susanne but they still made the coffee!
They’ve been part of drag racing since 1972, they’ve stepped up and stepped up and supported drag racing, Pelle went on to work for Speedgroup, he’s now helping out in nostalgia racing in Sweden, and P&G are thoroughly deserved of this award.
Pelle said: (starts acceptance speech in Swedish) I didn’t prepare something to say but next time could you give us some more notice? People say that bumblebees couldn’t fly and that’s what we say to each other sometimes but in 1972 when we were at Santa Pod for the first time, if anyone had told us that some years later we would be here with all our friends we should have never believed it because we have had so much fun and so many friends in Europe also in the States, it’s been fantastic.
Gunnar said: I’m the G in P&G Racing. For 20 years Pelle is the guy in the front line – I’m not. I’ve been in the background. Pelle is the talker, I’m not. Today I must thank you, this is a great moment for me, Pelle and P&G Racing. I’m glad, I’m proud and I’m humbled to be a member of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame. I want to thank the members of the jury for connecting us. In racing we have made a lot of friendships on the strip over the years. It’s 20 years since we ended our racing career and yet we are still remembered. Once again, thank you very much.
John Price: Keith Bartlett presented John with his trophy and said: We all know John very well, he’s been seen as the voice of Santa Pod and I’m sure one day Colin will also be seen as the voice of Santa Pod.
What a lot of you don’t know is how much he promotes Drag Racing when is was away from the sport. You know John is involved in a lot of Hot Rod shows and airplane shows, throughout all of those shows John is always promoting and pushing Santa Pod which I’m very proud of. He was, and is still, infatuated with the sport of Drag Racing to the point at which I started to use John as a voice over on all the TV shows we produced.
John is also very good on television, we started on the FIA shows and one round I developed was in Hungary where we did some exhibition races. I said to John why don’t we go into Budapest and interview the ordinary public and ask them have you heard of drag racing and do you know there’s a big drag racing event on this weekend? And we thought that was a good idea.
We chose a big tourist area and started interviewing with a cameraman there, most said no, we haven’t heard about drag racing. John is very professional, he’s got to get it right, he wants a script and if he knows what he wants to do, he does it very well. But this was outside his comfort zone, I was flipping backwards and forwards, and these two American girls came up, they answered my question ‘It’s not as exciting as what we’re going to do’, I said ‘What’s that?’ and they said ‘We’re not going to tell you, we’re going now’ and I said ‘no, I’m coming with you’ and they jumped on to a tram, I followed and John said ‘What’s going on?’ I said ‘I’m going with them’, John said ‘Where’s the car?’ I said ‘I’ve got the keys and I’m going with them’. We climbed on the tram and John was quite mortified. But on the other hand that same event John was the ultimate professional with his commentary and interviews.
Here tonight from John’s day job in Flint Insurance is David Taylor, one of the co-owners with his brother is here tonight. John would always like to prepare and he would take Thursday and Friday off and want to recover on Monday, so every meeting he would have three days off, this went on for thirty years. I want to thank you David and if John had stayed with us I’m sure that I’ll be coming to you and saying ‘We’ve given you three days off!’ It’s well deserved.
John said: I’m only a little bit excited! It’s easier being on that side, I’m quite good at dishing stuff out not quite so clever at receiving it. Thank you for all your kind words guys, I just wanted to check a few things with you (brings out huge list). There’s some people of my age here, you may remember lots of things happened when I came to Drag Racing.
It was 1981, the place was, no matter what people say to me Santa Pod is exactly the same as it was 40 years ago, it isn’t, it’s nothing like the place that I first went to when there were tufts of grass growing through the track – totally different now. I was interviewed by Roy Phelps at Fibreglass Repairs. Roy was on his milling machine, and he didn’t stop. He just turned to me and said ‘Son you want to be a commentator?’
I got the job and I really thought I’d made the big time. I was going to be the voice of Santa Pod. When I got there – whole different ball game, this is what led to most of my early commentaries being ‘Red car, blue car, going 100mph on the circuit.’ Two of my teachers were John and Liz Ledster. Well, Liz was more virulent than John, he was the strong silent type and Liz was the mouthy one, she gave me a hard time for calling the track a circuit.
It would have been natural for everyone there to have got fed up with me and to kick me out. But for some unknown reason, here was a South London boy who knew nothing about drag racing so we’ll teach him, and so everyone took me under their wing and I learned. This was the days when I started to say we had a playpen where Bootsie would always try to break the chains on a jet car when it was chained up in the playpen, we had the VIP area – two London Transport buses joined back to back with a sponsor’s name on the side (B.F. Goodrich – Editor). Bob had gone across them with a blowtorch welding them, people used to go up them and had soup!
It was just a few of them running Santa Pod, Bob Phelps, Roy Phelps, Eileen, Bootsie and a few others. Do you remember Whack on the gate? You paid him money I remember. When I first went to Santa Pod a bit before 1981 I was DJ at Gary’s Picnic. So I turned up there in my Transit with the aircraft seats in it and all the kit in the back and this old man threw us out of the truck, climbed all over it, looked behind the seats went in the back – Bob Phelps.
Quite extraordinary – but that was my introduction to Santa Pod, then I met Roy and got used to him, and then we had Bo and Don, then we got this guy and from then on, it all changed. Life is so much better. The racing – I was explaining the other day to someone who hadn’t been to Santa Pod for years, ‘It’s unbelievable now, we’ve got Top Fuel Motorcycles running fives’, I remember being with Ian in Ultimate Street Bike going all over the country at crazy old airfields. We’ve got Top Fuel cars running three seconds, your wife Susanne is here, Keith, she’s done three second runs. And then we have street cars and Ford Pops running sixes. What a sport we’re in, I’m so lucky I’m part of it.
I want to say thank you to my family it’s quite true, the families back you up the whole time, without them we’d be lost. You’ve heard about my mate Dave who I’ve worked for thirty years, really it’s only about twenty days I’ve worked for him. Most of all my mate Mike Knowles who’s here tonight, he’s not been to a Hall of Fame thing before but we started DJing together in 1968.
Thanks very much to Stu and Bev, I went out to lunch with them just about two years ago, Stuart very quietly passed me an envelope under the table, I thought, Christ, he’s passing me a writ or something. It actually said ‘You are invited to join the Hall of Fame’. It was delightful but I’m sorry he’s not here. I used to enjoy his company so much, especially when it was raining at the track. In those days we’d all go in the control tower and all the crew would be in there smoking fags and talking about who had the biggest…well you know the story, but I’d like to say thank you to the BDRHoF it was totally unexpected thank you to all the people who I worked with and who I’ve worked for. I can honestly say ‘I’ve had a great life!’ Thank you very much!
Lesley concluded this year’s formalities with thanks to everyone who has made this possible –sponsors US Automotive, Santa Pod Raceway, Santa Pod Racers Club and National Street Rod Association with sponsors Atlantic Fluid Tech, BUA Motorsport, Chair Office, Custom Car, Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, Eurodragster.com, Jeff Bull Performance Engines, 55+Equity Release, Institute of Professional Drivers, IRH Assessors Ltd, Julian Hunt Drag Racing Photography, Paul Whitehouse Art, Shakespeare County Relics, Straightliners, VP Racing Fuels, AMH Air Conditioning and Matthew Dowdy Racing.
Lesley also thanked the Directors, Advisers and Selectors of the BDRHoF for all their hard work, in particular Robin Jackson and Bev Bradbury for their guidance and support. Also mentioned were Master of Ceremonies Paul ‘Oz’ Wright, Jordan Payne, Andy Wheeler and AMP Audio for their help with the event.