Team Readspeed started in 1972 with Jim Read’s first foray into the world of drag racing, in a slingshot dragster called Auto Frog. Jim used to live on Frog Island, hence the name of the car. It wasn’t really an island, but the site of the family sawmill, Jim being a tree surgeon. Many of the visiting racers from Scandinavia used to stay or leave their trailers there between meetings and spend time chilling out with Jim and his family.
Glen Read’s Production class Volvo from 1972 became a 1780cc Volvo powered slingshot dragster The Graduate in the next year. But in 1975 the team stepped up into the new Pro Comp class by acquiring the former Priddle-Riswick-Gane-Stanford slingshot and renaming it Le Patron, reflecting his funding of the team. He broke into the sevens in Easter 1976 and raced at Mantorp Parkfor the first time in May 1977. Meanwhile son Steve Read had got a taste for driving and made his debut in Le Patron at the Silver Jubilee 1977 Big Go event, winning the event. A new rear-engined car built by Dennis Priddle made its first unpainted appearance at the 1978 Spring Bank Holiday Big Go and got into the sevens at its début meeting, raced at Mantorp Park the following May and won the 1979 Big Go and October Winternationals as well as making racing appearances at Snetterton and York.
The start of 1980 saw the Le Patron car run into the 7.1s and at the Firework meeting ran its first six, a 6.86/202. In 1981 Steve Read had another chance to race at the Easter Meeting – and lost in the first round to Jim. Later that season the team travelled to the Circuit Paul Ricard in France and in 1982 made a return to York. Steve took the cockpit at the Sko Uno Drag Festival in 1982 and was runner-up.
In 1984 Robin brought out Bad Habit, a 2.5 litre blown Daimler mini-fueller which started in the nines in Comp but which got down into the six second bracket by 1989 and which still holds the quickest-ever ET by a Daimler Hemi engine. Robin did move up into the world of Top Fuel in one year and ran 5.0s.
Steve’s first big win came later in 1984 over a thirteen-car Pro Comp field. Steve continued to race Pro Comp during the remainder of the 1980s. A new car in 1988 put even more pressure on the competition. But in 1989 the family sadly lost its father figure when Jim died just four days short of his sixty fourth birthday. After Jim handed over driving duties to Steve, he had concentrated his attention on the BDRA where he held the positions of Chairman for both the Executive and Competition Committees and was their International Liaison Officer. With his passing the sport lost one of its pivotal figures.
1990 saw more wins with Steve running the Readspeed Top Alcohol car into the mid-sixes. He also had a number of forays into nitro with Stu Vallance’s Top Fuel dragster but kept loyal to Top Alcohol for the meantime.
In February 1992 Steve visited Australia where he drove Adrian Pozzebon’s Bob Meyer-built Top Alcohol dragster. He won the title and re-set the Australian ET record at 6.02. Back in the UK, using some of the tricks he had seen in Australia, Steve got the Readspeed car down into the six-teens immediately. Then in July 1992 at Avon Park Steve ran a historic 5.97 to become the first UK Top Alcohol driver, and the first in Europe, to break the six-second barrier.
Racing in Europe from 1982-92, Steve won the UK Championship six times and the European Championship five times in the Readspeed Top Alcohol Dragster. But in 1993 Steve emigrated to Australia taking the Readspeed car where he won two further Championships in Top Alcohol. He then moved to Top Fuel where in June 1995 he became the first European to run a four second pass in a Top Fuel Dragster when he ran 4.966/280.72 at Eastern Creek Raceway, NSW Australia and raced with success in the Australian Top Fuel Championship, winning the Top Fuel Championship in 2001 and 2002 and achieving runner-up spot no fewer than seven times before becoming a team owner.
Tim Read serves on the UK Tech Crew travelling the country to inspect race cars and attending SFI Days. He is also a member of Krister Johansson’s crew, and helped tune his A/Fuel Dragster to a best of 5.45 at 261 mph.