Gerry Cookson first became aware of drag racing when his brother in law David bought Hot Rod Magazine and showed it to him in the early 1960s. They, and Gerry’s wife Joan and son Jeremy, travelled together from their home in Sutton Coldfield to the 1965 Dragfest.
Enthused by the spectacle they saw, Gerry decided to build a slingshot dragster powered by a Morris Minor engine. The car was almost ready for the track at the same time that Santa Pod opened in 1966. Tuition in welding the chassis came from Ken Cooper, and Gerry did all his own work on the car. The slingshot, first known as Minor Leaguer, evolved into Trouble Shooter after new bodywork, engine and chassis changes to enhance performance.
In 1969 when wife Joan was pushing the car down the fire up road, the dragster’s push bar collapsed, resulting in the car going into the guardrail and rolling. Undeterred, Gerry built a new chassis as he had previously done. By 1973, using a 1071cc Mini Cooper engine with a Godfrey cabin blower on methanol, the car was recording times in the mid 10 second zone and had many wins in the Junior Dragster class. Gerry then built a Berkeley Sports and entered it in the Modified Street division. By the early 1990s he was racing a MG Midget which he won the Four Pot challenge with, and, in the early 2000s, ran at RWYBs at Shakespeare County Raceway forty years after his track debut.
Whilst Jeremy helped his dad prepare his car for racing, he soon joined the junior section of the Midlands Drag Racing Association and helped Gerry edit the club magazine, the original Fire -Up. Jeremy was soon writing race reports for various motorsport and drag racing publications. A job at a local printer helped him gain the printing work for the club. At the end of the 1980s, he started editing a new version of Fire-Up magazine published by Avon Park manager John Wright and, after that closed, he embarked on editing European Dragster with promoter and publisher Keith Bartlett. These magazines got Jerry known to other journalists and racers.
Jeremy started commentating at Avon Park in the early 1990s, and his comprehensive knowledge soon resulted in him being widely engaged within the sport. He also publicised Avon Park and its associated track safety operators FAST. In 2006 when the then external promoter of Avon Park departed, Long Marston airfield owner Anthony Hodges decided to bring the function in-house and employed Jeremy as head of marketing and promotions. With Anthony’s goodwill, Jeremy relied mainly on voluntary work for help with the various functions around the track until it was sold for development and closed early in 2018.
For over forty years, Gerry Cookson was an active and winning participant in UK drag racing, and for nearly as long, Jeremy Cookson has been closely involved in media and marketing of the sport, and for these reasons we are delighted to induct the Cookson family into the BDRHoF.
Profile By Simon Groves
Photo Credit : Keith Lee Images