Early drag racers will know the name Brian Sparrow, even though it may not be familiar to those who are relatively new to the sport. Through his efforts, Brian can rightly be regarded as one of the founding fathers of drag racing in this country.
He is a true motor sport enthusiast in the broadest sense – both 2 and 4 wheeled – with a wide ranging love of all things to do with speed and power. Make that no wheels as well, for in his teens he raced hydroplanes for a couple of years.
Brian served an apprenticeship at Heathway Engineering before doing National Service, and then embarking on a career in technical writing. Heathway was a feature in a number of early drag racers lives, but Brian’s time there did not coincide with that of Allan Herridge or Peter Bartlett.
It is very appropriate for Brian to be awarded a ‘Bootsie’. He was one of the three founders of Dragster Developments, along with Allan Herridge and John Harrison. They produced one of the first dragsters seen in this country, a straight 8 Buick in 1962, and made parts for many early racers.
Originally interested in hill climbs and motorcycle sprints, Brian was an early Competition Secretary of the National Sprint Association. Interestingly, it was at a regular NSA social meeting that Brian and Allan were first introduced to each other by the late NSA club founder, Len Cole.
There was a general feeling of antipathy towards the car racers in those times, and yet in the 1960s Brian managed to combine being on the committees of the NSA, British Hot Rod Association, and the British Drag Racing Association all at the same time! It says much for his diplomacy skills that he was able to pull that one off and emerge unscathed, and was acknowledged as an honest broker. His organisational involment extended well into the 1970s, when the sport was well and truly established.
In the new Drag Racing and Hot Rod magazine of the mid 1960s, he contributed regularly with news and pictures from the pits at race meetings. Despite only claiming to being a happy snapper, his pictures provide a great record of past times, which have been appreciated by later book writers – as has his encyclopaedic memory.
When the US team came to Santa Pod in 1966, Brian was instrumental in choosing the participants. Sadly, one of his choices – Art Arfons – was not approved by the promoter due to noise worries at the fledgling track!
All these year later, Brian can still be found in the grandstands for at least a couple of drag races a year – along with attending his favourite hill climbs. Like many other race fans, Brian enjoys the fact that bikes and cars race at the same meetings.
Now in his seventies, he still talks with real enthusiasm about the sport he helped develop over those formative years.