It has been twelve months since one of the most dramatic two car accidents the sport has seen involving Supercharged Outlaws racers Paul Stephen and Neil Murphy.
What is more remarkable was the speed with which Paul Stephen, the innocent party in the accident, returned to the track thanks to a lot of helping hands.
Recalling the accident, Stephen explained what happened from his perspective.
“We probably should never have made the run, during the warm up in the morning we had a problem with an oil leak from the new rocker covers,” he said.
“Dearne (Paul’s wife and co driver) suggested we sit this one out, it was only qualifying and we were already in the field but we made it just in time.
“During the burnout the main fuel line came loose, I was about to shut the car off when Ralph the starter told me to wait and crewman Stuey appeared with spanner in hand and problem solved. Moving into stage when Stuey appears again in front of me, in the confusion the throttle stop had not been removed.
“I think someone was trying to tell us something.
“Lights green, stand on loud pedal, straight away wheels up and tyre shake then no drive (broken input shaft) so i moved over to the wall and was just coasting down the track.
“After a few seconds I heard Neil (Murphy) leave the line and then all hell broke loose. Neil had real bad tyre shake, got loose and turned hard right and the rest is history. Lucky there were no major injuries to Neil or myself just a broken tooth and some bruising.”
The team salvaged what they could and the rebuild began in earnest, offers from the smallest items to complete chassis came from everywhere.
“The car was a complete write off, we did manage to salvage the motor, gearbox and one wheel after the hit,” said Stephen.
“When we got back to Sydney to check out the damage we knew it was a throw away, but with the help of some of the greatest people you will ever meet the rebuild began with a deadline of ten weeks (the Nationals), and with the help and generosity of the following people we made it.
Alan Odgers and John Willard – Chassis, Joe Lipari – Hi Speed Auto Electrical, Craigs Automatics – Gearbox, Justin Walsh – Harts Custom Paints), Phil – Austrac Motorsports, Mark Hinchelwood – Motorsport Connections, Victor Bray – Tyres, Marsden Motorsport – Wheels, Cool Customs – Paint & Bodywork, Damian Scully – Dash & Gauges and Jimmy from ET Racing Fuels for getting the car home.
Since the rebuild the team achieved a goal they were chasing at the Winternationals, a six second ET, however it was wife Dearne achieving the feat, and to date Paul is still without a six second timeslip.
“After the Nationals where a small problem caused us to miss eliminations we took the car to the Sydney Dragway Track Championship round,” said Stephen.
“I took the drive on the Saturday still setting up the new chassis, first pass was a 7.1 and the second 7.0, time for Dearne to get back in for a skid.
“She was a bit nervous at first but a 7.0 at only 176MPH soon calmed things down. Then after two years of trying to run a 6 second pass, Dearne reeled off a 6.92 at 196MPH and followed that up with a 6.92 at 195MPH.
“I have been getting a hard time from everyone, I was supposed to do that, not her. Ah well she must be a better driver! I’ll just have to be the first to 200mph or I’ll never hear the end of it.
“But again I would really like to thank all those people who helped get Dearne and I back on track so soon we will never forget.”
This weekend Paul Stephen will return to the Winternationals in a bid for that six second, 200MPH run as well as a Gold Christmas tree which would see a just comeback, not dissimilar to fellow Supercharged Outlaws competitor John Trinder who had redemption at the recent Nitro Champs in similar circumstances. Coincidentally the event will also see the return of Neil Murphy’s Mustang, though with a substitute driver with Murphy unavailable due to National Service commitments.