After 32 years as Willowbank Raceway’s President, John ‘Stomper’ Winterburn has announced he will stand down from the position while remaining on the track’s board of management.
Winterburn has endured a number of health issues across the past year, and while recent surgery has left him with a positive outlook ahead, he said he felt this decision was in the best interest of Willowbank Raceway.
“While the outlook is good, it is going to take some time to get back up to speed with my health,’’ said Winterburn.
“I have thought long and hard about this and as I believe the position of President needs a lot more put into it than what I have been able to give of late, I have decided to step down from the position while remaining a board member.’’
Winterburn is the longest serving official of Australian drag racing, with a total of 47 years spent in service of the sport so far.
His involvement in drag racing began when the then 17-year-old assisted at the opening event at Surfers Paradise International Raceway on April 10, 1966.
He went on to become Meeting Director at the Surfers Paradise and Willowbank venues, and became President of the Willowbank Raceway committee when it was formed in 1981.
Willowbank Raceway Acting President Tony Wedlock said he wanted to emphasise that ‘Stomper’ was not stepping away from Willowbank or drag racing, but was simply standing aside from the time-consuming and rather taxing responsibilities of the role of President so that he could focus on his recovery.
“It is difficult to put into words the full value of Stomper’s contribution as President of Willowbank Raceway,’’ said Wedlock.
“Stomper has been involved in Willowbank through every facet of its existence, from the early planning stages to the creation of the facility, through to his efforts in the ongoing management of the facility.
“His dedication, length of service and ability to go above and beyond, in my opinion, will remain unsurpassed.
“It has been my honour to serve on the board with him, and I have taken great pride in getting to know the man behind the persona. For a bigger-than-Ben Hur personality, his warmth and loyalty is a side not everyone gets to see. I respect his integrity immensely and whoever takes over the president role will definitely have big shoes to fill.
“We are coming to the end of era, when the responsibility for the track will be passed on to the next generation. I only hope that we can do as good a job as he has. While we alI understand that Stomper’s health is his priority, I am glad to see that in the interim, he wants to remain on the board.
“Thank you doesn’t seem enough, but from myself, members of the board and all those at Willowbank, there is a deep appreciation for what Stomper has achieved here.
“This applies equally to Sue Syrmis, who stood down from the board earlier this year. Sue was on the board from the very early days and, like Stomper, helped build the place and has worked tirelessly ever since. Fortunately, for us, Sue has remained an employee of Willowbank and her skills remain a great asset to the race track.’’
In the wake of the decision, Tony Wedlock will remain as acting president ahead of an appointment process for the position of President.