For over half a century Lawrie Gatehouse has contributed much to drag racing in the UK. His story started with sprinting a Triumph Bonneville, however things changed after his first contact with drag racing at the Blackbushe DragFest meeting in 1964. He had learned of the American racers coming over and was ‘amazed and dumbfounded’ at what he witnessed. He became one of drag racing’s regular photographers contributing to magazines like Autocar, Motor, Autosport, Custom Car and National Drag Racer. He then took a few years away from drag racing to start his own company – Process Systems International. His training as a professional mechanical engineer provided the foundations for business success and this gave him the resources to return to the sport with some bold new ideas.
He initially sponsored a few teams but in 2004 he renewed his acquaintance with Ollie Burn, whom he knew from the 1970s. Ollie inspired him to get more closely involved with a class that he always had a passion for – Fuel Altereds. Lawrie conceived and formed the Nostalgia Fuel Altered Association (NFAA) with the prime aim to put on a show like it used to be when he was in the US. The first meeting for the NFAA was Easter 2005 and, later, as many as fourteen teams competed, with Lawrie providing run money to contribute to the teams’ running costs.
He then turned to race car ownership and had the legendary Chaos Fuel Altered built from scratch in twelve weeks at the start of 2006. John Wright was the original driver and crew chief, experiencing the car’s evil handling. It usually ran mid to high sixes, but got away from John at Shakey and a new chassis was in order – with which John recorded even quicker runs. Gary Page was the next driver of Chaos but the aerodynamics of the car still made it a handful with it rolling twice more, each accident requiring a new chassis.
The turning point came with the involvement of Jason and Roy Phelps in constructing a lighter body with improved aerodynamics. Nick Davies drove the car until it was retired at the end of 2015. Its PBs were 6.08/232.76mph. It is for his contribution to photo journalism both here and in the US, the formation and running of the NFAA, and creation of the quickest Fuel Altered in Europe of its day, that Lawrie Gatehouse is inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Profile by Simon Groves
Photos by Simon Groves, Ivan Sansom and Rose Hughes