John and Lesley Wright have substantially influenced the direction of drag racing in the UK. In 1985, after racing a series of cars since 1973, John commenced his involvement with the sport’s organisational side. As Chairman of the Midland Drag Racing Association he helped overhaul the safety rules, race licence procedures and the introduction of log books for cars. In 1988 he joined Anthony Hodges as track manager at Long Marston. The track was renamed Avon Park Raceway in 1989 and in the same year John published Fire Up Magazine, which became an international journal of the sport. In 1991, with Ron Clark, John promoted the Pro Comp Classic.
He was an active committee member of the Avon Park International Racers Association (APIRA) and around the same time was a founding member of the SPRC, representing APIRA and sat on the RAC sub-committee. After a period working with Stu Vallance, Jonathan Lovett and Oyver Jacobsen, he commenced a successful period as crew chief for Swedish racer Viveca Averstedt which culminated in 1998 with two events in the USA running a best of 4.88 at 271mph – at that time, the quickest run ever by a European team. He went on to work with Alan Jackson, Knut Soderquist, Tony Betts and Smax Smith. Between 2002 and 2005, with Darryl Bradford, he owned and tuned the Wildside Top Fuel car. Following this from 2006 to 2009, he was crew chief and driver of the Chaos Fuel Altered, recording a 6.195, then Europe’s quickest Fuel Altered pass.
Lesley Wright (nee Digby) grew up locally to Santa Pod. She and Allan Herridge became partners during the period when Allan was track manager at Santa Pod, and her job was to hand out the pit gate money to racers. After Allan’s passing, Lesley joined the BDR & HRA committee to represent street classes and with Al O’Connor, undertook a tour of the US in 1988, attending 17 NHRA events. After a further US tour in 1990, which was documented in Fire Up Magazine and seeing bracket racing first hand, Lesley promoted it in the UK, joining the newly formed SPRC committee. She also gained sponsorship for the Super Gas Drag Racers Association.
By the mid-1990s Lesley was full time SPRC Secretary and she masterminded its formation into a Limited Liability Company to protect its members. She worked with the Technical Committee to revise the drag racing rule book that John had worked on a decade previously which introduced SFI safety measures to Europe. In 1997 she and John were married and Lesley became the lynchpin of the Wildside and Chaos crews. Lesley was also involved at the start of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame. It is for John’s and Lesley’s work in helping to create a stable and safe platform for drag racers that has lasted over 20 years, their achievements in promoting the sport and competing at the highest level, that John and Lesley Wright are inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Profile by Simon Groves
Photos by Simon Groves, Eurodragster.com