The Quarter Mile Foundation was fortunate to receive a donation from Beech Underwriting (Maidstone, Kent, UK) to allow the filming of interviews of seven British pioneers of drag racing and the performance aftermarket prior to the Installation Gala Dinner of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame on November 21, 2015. The interviews took place at the famed Savill Court Hotel in Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, UK.
Interviewer John Price, long-time announcer at Santa Pod Raceway and presenter of many hot rod shows and drag racing related TV programs in the UK, drew out some of the early history of drag racing in Great Britain and how the racers from the United States and the aftermarket companies, influenced the sport and assisted the its transplantation into Britain and Europe.
Price’s subjects included racers, track officials, and a warehouse distributor.
The interviewees were (in alphabetical order):
Stu Bradbury – Longtime Chief Starter (starting in 1967) at the famed Santa Pod Raceway (Wellingborough, Bedfordshire, UK), and serves as the current Chairman of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Russ Carpenter – Developed the Daimler hemi engine to run on nitro and ran it in a rear engined dragster.
John Hobbs – A popular drag bike rider who competed in 1960s and 1970s on the “Olympus,” “Olympus 2” and “Hobbitt” bikes, capturing many wins and establishing many records. The popular “Olympus 2” and “Hobbitt” were radical twin-engined machines.
Gary Page – A versatile racer who raced Altereds, Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters from the 1970s to the present.
Roy Phelps – Founder of Santa Pod Raceway, who took an old Royal Air Force (RAF) bomber base and converted it into a world-class dragstrip. He promoted many events at the track, and Europe, bringing in many big names from the U.S.
Barry Sheavills – Another very talented and diversified racer in the Altered, Top Methanol Dragster and Top Fuel Dragster classes. He was the FIA European Champion in 1998 and first driver to break the four second barrier in the UK. He was also the first European racer to exceed 300 mph in the quarter mile. Andy Carter also ran 300mph in the other lane, but Sheavills was credited with being the first, since he was faster than Carter.
Steve Trice – Director of US Automotive, is a major warehouse distributor for U.S. performance parts brands in the U.K. and the European continent. US Automotive is one of the major sponsors of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
The Foundation also received a digital recording of the racing bench racing session later in the afternoon with a number of the U.S. contingent participating in front of a select audience. The participants were: Eileen Daniels – NHRA Nostalgia Series administrator, Ron Hope – Rat Trap Fuel Altered racer, Fred Larsen – the Sundance Kid team, Norway’s first drag racing team, Bruce Larson – USA-1 Funny Car and 1989 NHRA/Winston Champion, now a Nostalgia Funny Car racer, ‘Waterbed’ Fred Miller of the Blue Max Funny Car team and Bob Muravez (aka Floyd Lippincote, Jr.) driver of the legendary twin-engined Freight Train Top Gas dragster.
The stories which were told regaled the audience for nearly two hours, and set the tone for the Induction Gala to follow.
The seven interviews added to the international history of the sport in the Foundation’s interview inventory. The inclusion of these seven interviews increased the total interviews collected to 240 interviews, before the addition of interviews done at the 2015 Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis, Ind., and Detroit, Mich. in December.
Traci Hrudka, Chairman of the Quarter Mile Foundation said, “The inclusion of these interviews, along with the ‘bench racing’ session is a significant step to expand the Foundation’s interview process to include the international aspect of the sport and industry outside of North America.
The Foundation would like to extend its sincere thanks to Beech Underwriting, and its Managing Director, Geoff Stillwell, for the welcome contribution that allowed the interviews to be captured.”
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The Quarter Mile Foundation is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit foundation, which is producing PROJECT 1320, a for-television documentary film series about the history of drag racing and the parallel growth of the performance automotive aftermarket.