BDRHoF 2023 Gala Review

Special thanks to for this transcription of the evening.

We present below the presentation and acceptance speeches from the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Gala held last Saturday. Thanks to all those who supplied copies of their speeches to Editor Simon. You can see Julian’s gallery of 160 photos from the Gala by clicking HERE and Andy Willsheer’s gallery of photos by clicking HERE.

Santa Pod Raceway CEO Keith Bartlett spoke at the reception prior to the dinner and induction ceremony: “Santa Pod has managed to make a small profit in 2023 which was very welcome given we had projected a loss for 2023. The economy and huge increase in costs to run events has made the whole business quite challenging to say the least. “Turning to Nostalgia events in 2024 which totals three events, the Nostalgia Nats, the Hot Rod Drags and the big on one -Dragstalgia. For Dragstagia we wanted to bring back ‘Havoc’ with Nick Davis and Rob Loaring – but who could we get them to race? Well Ladies and Gentlemen I am pleased to announce that we have found a solution – we are bringing over Randy Bradford with his famed Topolino altered. We are also hoping to have all the nitro funny cars from the Janne Johansson collection at Dragstalgia next year.”

“Speaking of cars, with our future museum in mind, we have been on the acquisition trail. We have purchased ‘Rat Trap’from my good friend Ron Hope and I am hopeful of concluding a deal with Don Garlits to have Swamp Rat 21 at Santa Pod for a long period. But tonight, we have a more interesting car to present and unveil to you and one which will have great appeal to Lesley Wright – that being the Allan Herridge dragster “Motovation’ almost as in the same condition as Allan stepped out of it for the last time.”

BDRHoF Chair Lesley Wright commenced the ceremony by saying “We are honoured to have guests from three continents this evening and thank them for travelling so far to make this a special evening for us. We have Ron Hope in the audience fulfilling his promise to return – welcome back Ron – so good to see you.

“Sadly since last year’s Gala we have lost many friends from the Drag Racing world and their loss is hard to bear. Our Hall of Fame members – John Bennett, Harold Bull, Nobby Hills, Dennis Norman and Brian Sparrow contributed greatly to the sport and we mourn their passing. “Tonight however is about celebrating our new Inductees and our Junior Drag Racers. We shall also honour the 60th anniversary of Mooneyes which lit the fire in the belly of those pioneers bringing us to this great sport we have today.”

Photojournalist Andy Willsheer spoke before presenting his colleague Roger Gorringe, the first inductee of the evening, with his Bootsie Award. He said: “I first bumped in Roger quite a few years ago as we have both been stalwarts at Santa Pod for over half a century. I think he should have grown up by now, but one of the things that’s so good about this sport is that you never have to grow up. He started coming with me to the States just after the turn of the Millennium and accompanied me for many years. We have very many entertaining tales to tell but we won’t go into those here! It’s very unfortunate that Roger is no longer at Santa Pod and I miss him down on the line, but for the many years that we roamed Europe and America together we had some good times, and I’m very pleased that he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s well deserved and long may he continue. Well done mate!”

Roger said “Many thanks. That was a bit of a surprise. I was told the awards were to be presented by a well-known, attractive young lady. What do I get? – Andy Willsheer. Cheers Andy, a true and great friend. “Thank you to the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame for this prestigious award and congratulations to the other inductees. Also, thanks to all who sent congrats to Face Book. I don’t do FB but was shown a short copy.”It’s been 50 years – more than half a lifetime of involvement in the sport I love and dedicated my life to. What a privilege it has been to photograph and write about racers,teams, sponsors and race tracks, often published pretty much around the world. I have been lucky to have travelled to a lot of tracks around Europe, Scandinavia and America over the years, many with Andy Willsheer, involving many adventures, scenic visits and too many eye-watering laughs to mention.”

“For 10 years I was Publisher and Editor of Drag Racing News here in Britain, then for over 20 years, Editor of SPR’s FIA/FIM event programmes, each of which I could not have operated without a dedicated team of writers and photojournalists. I’d like to thank those people again, most of which worked for free.”I also started as the Media Marshal, writing the rules and regulations based on the industry standard NHRA regulations together with common sense and a duty of care. These rules I’m pleased to say were adopted by most tracks across Europe and Scandinavia.

“A number of people have asked why I retired back in early 2022. Unfortunately, I had no alternative, and it was the end of an era. Finally, I’d like to dedicate this award to the memory of a very good, loyal, and much missed friend – Steve Moxley. To Moxy.”

Drag racing historian Jerry Cookson presented the ‘Bootsie’ award to the next inductee Roy Wilding and said: “It’s been both a privilege and a pleasure to know our next inductee ‘Little Daddy’ Roy Wilding. I can’t think of anyone who has a true, infectious and enthusiastic spirit for drag racing that Roy has. From a very early age in building his own cars through to the many customer cars which have adored the Wild Bunch and Supercharged Outlaw classes, his attention to detail, styling and paint is simply outstanding. “Roy has a very special determination to excel in everything he does, and believe me that 6 second pass will come with the team you have round you.”Even on non-race weekend’s he’s building trailers, fabricating parts for customers, restoring old race cars – the list goes on. Dedication is second to none. I’ve lost count now as to how many cars Roy has been involved with! But he does relax, when he’s told, with a spot of fishing. I suspect that’s the time when all the creative spirit comes to a head!”

“But to me his love and passion for his local drag strip over the years, Long Marston, Avon Park or Shakespeare County Raceway, call it what you will. But whenever you speak to Roy about the good old days in Warwickshire the place will always be referred to as ‘Marston’ or the ‘Park’, never its real names.”Now that the Chariot is tucked up for the winter all the hours that god sends will be spent on either customer builds or his own special project; a Rover V8 powered Citroen 2CV, and I bet you this will also be painted in his trade mark green and purple, and I for one can’t wait to see it. But tonight, Roy it’s your night along with Elaine and your team. Enjoy it mate … “

Roy said in his acceptance speech: “Firstly when I got the call from Lesley Wright, this award was totally unexpected. My reasons for this were that I was fortunate and proud to receive the award on behalf of the Wild Bunch Nostalgia Race cars, as I was one of the Wild Bunch founders. I believe this was the only association to be inducted up to that point. I truly thought that was the highest accolade I could ever receive in drag racing, and blow me – here I am! Again, totally unexpected.

“I now have a few minutes to sum up over 55 years of involvement with cars during my lifetime. It all started as a kid building a soap box with my dad. It had big wheels at the back, little ones at the front. It had a state-of-the-art pram handle to steer it, instead of the expected piece of string. Plus, it was articulated with another set of wheels and a plank (times 2).

“Things moved on. My best school mate was Steven Braidley, who’s dad owned a scrap yard right next door to open fields and country lanes. You can guess what a group of young lads go up to. My backside still bears the scars from the Headmaster’s cane, but that’s how things were then.”As I grew up I got into street racing and Mini Cooper S’s. I admit that on my first driving licence I got a speeding ticket for 62mph in Smethick High Street, with a trailer onthe back, racing my mate. I then got involved with a Hot Rod club. I started building my first Hot Rod at the age of 19, finishing it when I was 21. That same car is still on the road to this day.

“From Hot Rodding I began to attend Drag Racing, and that got into my blood. Behind the scenes I got involved with helping out at Avon Park, particularly building the clubhouse, wheelchair ramp and jet drier. Over the years I built and raced various vehicles for various classes. My most memorable times have been with the Wild Bunch, but “It’s true to say that running a vehicle like the one I now race does take more than one person to make it happen. To this end I would like to pay tribute to my team. So in no particular order:

“I have Andy Burgess who has recently joined the team, and is learning the ropes. Harry Beazer, whom I originally worked with at Futura Design. He joined the team about three years ago. Kevin Tearell whom I have known for 17 or 18 years, initially helping on the S&K Super Pro car, and then happily for me, migrating over to my team. Tony Brace whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for over 35 years; Tony has crewed on virtually all the cars I have driven.

Elaine Southworth with whom I got together more recently, over the past five years. Elaine supports me and my team 100%, however I am most grateful to her for kicking me out of the house to play with my toys. Last but not least, my Crew Chief Mark Luton. I have known Mark since he was 14, with a full head of hair – and now look at the effect years of drag racing has had on him! But with all seriousness, without Mark I wouldn’t be as competitive as I am. He’s been at my side throughout my best times, and my worst times. For that I am extremely grateful to him.

“All my team members are my true friends. They give of their time freely and I couldn’t be more proud of them all. Thank you for my accolade and recognition of my involvement in British drag racing.”

Keith Lee introduced Rod and Anne Pallant, Rod sadly not being able to attend. Keith said “It gives me great pleasure to be asked to present this award. It was a wonderful time when Rod and Anne were involved in the sport. The double engined bikes added something to it. They were a big draw for the crowds, you could try almost anything. Rod was one of those mad guys who had three double engined bikes. Who in their right mind …? “There was really something about those machines. Drag racing has moved on, Rod really helped bring in the fans, always putting on massive burnouts and a great show, because drag racing is show and go. I was talking earlier on to Nick Davies, Havoc is one of those machines you’ve got to see. It’s not that ultimate time, it’s providing the spectacle. Some of those bikes really had it back then and it was really great to see. So, it is a privilege to be up here, nice to see Anne here after so many years and a shame Rod can’t make it, he is a great character.”

Rod’s response was via video: “Sorry I can’t be with you all tonight but old age and health issues mean I can’t travel. Number one son Carl is here on my behalf along with my wife Anne to accept the award. Thanks to the BDRHoF committee for inducting Anne and I. It’s good to be remembered and recognised by your peers for our contribution to our sport. I’ve said it before, Anne and I are a team, 50 years wed says it all. Well done wifey for putting up with me.

“Drag racing is a team family sport, you can’t do it without the support of your team members and mates. So thanks to all those who rose to the challenge, mainly Barry Townsend, Jon Morton, Tony Edwards, Chris Tea, Trevor Gardiner, Nobby Clark and Allan Herridge. Many other mates were helpers along the way, too many to remember but you know who you are, and congratulations to fellow inductees Eric, Roger and Roy. I have great memories of travel all over our country, Europe and Scandinavia with our drag racing family and made friends for life. So thanks everyone for your memories and enjoy the evening. Cheers, Rod.”

Keith Bartlett presented Eric Teboul with his Bootside award. He said: “We all know of Eric Teobul’s Top Fuel records and wins but let me say that i had many problems over the years with the FIM Championship and the rules that we were bringing in. In discussions with Eric we had to get over the language issues and i quoted my dad and uncles who said to me that during WW2 they found that if you could get a French Chap to understand you – and if you could understand him, that was never easy – and they got what you were saying and finally understood you, then if they thought your view was right then they had a loyal commitment to honour what was agreed. I can say once Eric got what I was saying he became loyal to Santa Pod and stayed committed to us for the next 12 years ….. and became a major attraction at Santa Pod. “Its no wonder that Eric retired after the 4sec pass at the European Finals this year – i saw him go over the finish line with his legs our vertically off the back of the bike – now that is scary shit no matter how good a rider you are!”

“We are going to miss Eric very much as Santa Pod in the coming seasons, but at least the track crews and VIP guests on the balconies will not have to be concerned about hydrogen peroxide fumes in their faces when the wind blows the wrong way because now we have Graham Sykes with his Steam Rocket bike performing at Santa Pod. Also, I might add all that happens after Graham has run is the track is covered in boiling hot water to which all the track crews can make a nice hot cup of tea! Every cloud has a silver lining!”

In his acceptance speech, Eric said “Thank you all for this award after 37 years of passion in drag racing, including 26 years in Top Fuel Bike in Europe and 20 years showing off with the quickest motorcycle in the world since 2002, the Rocket Bike. “In its first year in 2003 the Rocket Bike was the first motorcycle under 6 seconds at Santa Pod. Then later in 2003 I set the first of my world records at Hockenheim with a 5.654. In every year we set new world records, until my world record set in the USA of 5.12. And finally, after some modifications on the bike, on the last run of my career, I was the first to complete a run in the fours with a 4.97 at 290mph.

“For that, I would like to thank a few people. First of all, the person who gave me this passion for drag racing, helped me in the construction of my rocket bike, who himself was a great rider in Top Fuel Motorcycle, and then moved to Top Alcohol where he was at the top level with drivers like Anita Makela, Barry Sheavills, Rico Anthes, Urs Erbacher etc.

Then he was Sammy Miller’s successor by driving the Rocket Car Vanishing Point before selling that car to David Pertue. That person is my brother Bob Feeler, aka Philippe Teboul.

“I would also like to thank those who allowed me and trusted me to ride with a peroxide machine, Keith Bartlett, Darren Prentice, Jerry Lackey and all the staff at Santa Pod. “With this 4.97 and 290mph run, I am putting an end to my career and my biggest loss will be leaving all my family of drivers and all the public who have been following and sharing my story over 37 years. Now I’m a part of the history of this great sport and I thank you all for that.

“Finally, a lot of people have asked me where this bike is! I think this run at 290mph is the limit on 2 wheels and I almost got thrown off the bike at that speed on this last run. So, I don’t want to learn about an accident with this bike and I hope that Santa Pod will open a museum on day and this bike will have its place in it.”

Ian Marshall said (in French) “Eric from the FIM Europe we thank you for your accomplishment on a motorcycle as they are known worldwide and for your outstanding 4.976 at 467.53 kph which is totally outstanding on a motorcycle. Personally, and the FIM Europe salute your accomplishments and we wish you the very best in your retirement, but who knows, you may come back with something else completely ludicrous!”

In introducing Mooneyes’ Shige Suganuma and Chico Kodama, Colin Theobald said “In 1963, the fledgling British drag racing scene received a seminal boost to its fortunes when a Las Vegas speedshop owner, Dante Duce, read about Sydney Allard‘s exploits driving his Allard Chrysler dragster and challenged Allard to a drag race here in Britain. Dean Moon, owner of the Moon Equipment Company, offered Dante Duce the use of his car. And so the dragster, known as`Mooneyes’, was shipped to England and, with Dante Duce at the wheel, took on the Allard Chrysler. “A series of races began at Silverstone, where ‘Mooneyes’ clocked the first sub-10-second run on UK soil, and went on to Church Lawford and Debden airfields and to the Brighton Speed Trials, drawing spectators in their thousands.

Leading motorsport journalist Denis Jenkinson called it “the most earth-shattering and exciting thing I have seen … the noise and smoke from the tyres being more than a whole Grand Prix field can put together at a start”. Drag racing’s smoke and thunder had arrived and the Mooneyes team had created a sound signature that would resonate through the decades to this day.”

“Dean Moon died in 1987 and the company languished until it was bought in 1992 by Shige Sugunama and Chico Kodama who restored its fortunes under the brand name ‘Mooneyes’.”To mark this 60th anniversary of Mooneyes’ ground-breaking arrival in Britain, the Hall of Fame’s directors have chosen to present the Global Achievement Award to Shige and Chico to recognise their company’s special place in the history of British drag racing. We are delighted that VP Racing Fuels has elected to sponsor this most prestigious award.

“Welcome VP Racing’s representative, Nic Williams of Williams Brothers Racing to present the award. And we are truly delighted that Shige and Chico have flown in specially from Japan and California to join us for this occasion.”

In accepting the award Shige said “It’s a honour to receive such a great award. Mooneyes was all started by Dean Moon and we have just taken over his legacy and have tried to run Mooneyes in the same location with the same phone number. I will inform everybody when we get home, I didn’t even imagine we would be getting the award, thank you very much and I would like to say thank you to British Drag Racing Hall of Fame and everyone for having us here. We’re over the Moon!”

BDRHoF Chair Lesley Wright said in concluding the Gala “Our thanks go to those who make this evening possible, in particular our sponsors and those who continue to support our fund-raising each year. “This evening has triggered some special memories for me and I hope for you too. Thank you to those who have worked behind the scenes to make this evening possible – our Directors, Selectors & Advisers. In particular I would like to thank Julian Parsons and his team from AMP Audio for putting together such a brilliant presentation for us.

“A special thanks also goes to Bev Bradbury who once again has done her usual, excellent job collating all our dining arrangements, alongside the hotel. “Drag Racing at every level and in every way, whether to get a car or bike down that quarter mile, or to stage and organise an event, is all about teamwork. We all do our bit individually and we hope it all comes together for that perfect run, that unforgettable event or, for us tonight – a great evening.”

You can also view this event on our fledging YouTube channel by clicking HERE