The name Tony Murray crops up regularly in the history of drag racing in the North of England. Starting with the development of the Crosland Moor drag strip in the mid-1970s he remained a leading PDRC organiser until his untimely death in 1992. Whether it was digging holes for Armco barriers or acting as Clerk of the Course, Tony Murray was a true club man. Without his passion the establishment of a viable drag strip in the North might not have been achieved and it is for this that he has been inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
It was early in 1974 that the newly formed Pennine Drag Racing Club (PDRC) led by Steve Murty, embarked on work to re-configure a moor-top airfield near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, into the North’s first drag strip. As well as adding suitable barriers along the spectator areas of the quarter mile tarmac runway, there were large areas of grass and rubble to be cleared and levelled to provide pit and parking areas. A daunting amount of hard work was required to prepare for the eighth mile racing scheduled for early July that year.
Tony Murray had been involved in various forms of traditional British motor sport, both organising and officiating at club level. Being from the area, he was enthused by the club’s aspirations to help bring the new exciting sport of drag racing to Crosland Moor. He had become disenchanted with the established local motor clubs, whose outlook he viewed as too traditional. From the initial organised work party dates, he became the first worker on site in the morning and the last to leave at night; this from a man maintaining an engineering job by day. He took on the role of unofficial foreman for the work parties, and turned his hand to pick and shovel, as well as mechanised machinery and demonstrated the hard ‘graft’ needed for PDRC to succeed in bringing drag racing to the North.
And it was only a short time before he took on the chairmanship of the club, taking on the important duty of writing official club rules to enable PDRC to gain permits from the RAC MSA to hold events at the track. He became the first Clerk of the Course at Crosland Moor. Sadly, history reveals how the Crosland Moor adventure was short lived. However Tony applied his dedication to help make events at Aintree, Liverpool, take place at this temporary venue, ensuring the momentum was not lost for the club. Again he became Clerk of the Course.
In 1977 Melbourne in East Yorkshire was the new venue sought out and acquired by Steve Murty to promote quarter mile drag racing in the North, and one of the first people on site with shovel in hand was Tony. Work and home life took a back seat for a month while the ‘grafter’ organised work parties, and supervised tasks to turn another, this time much larger, airfield into a workable permanent drag racing venue. Tony and the other volunteers became adept with mechanical hole borers to erect barriers, and working weekends and evenings saw the venue useable for the inaugural meeting in June that year.
Undeniably a cornerstone of Northern drag racing, Tony led from the front by example. He maintained his indomitable Clerk of the Course work at Melbourne, and became one of the most skilled drag race officials in the sport. Racers knew they were unlikely to get away with bending the rules and there weren’t many came out on top in discussing their indiscretions with Tony.
Another passion held by Tony was trucks and truck racing. It was through Tony’s journalistic contributions to national and American trucking magazines that the link was established between the British Truck Racing Association and PDRC, enabling Melbourne to feature the cream of the International and British truck racers competing on the track during the height of the Truck Grand Prix series’ popularity on television. The spectacle of thirty racing trucks parading down the track at Melbourne, orchestrated by Tony was a sight unique to British Drag Racing and proved immensely popular with fans and organisers alike.