Long-serving Willowbank board member honoured with Pioneer Award

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The Australian Nostalgia Fuel Association has honoured Willowbank Raceway board member Lex Swayn for his 35-year contribution to the sport of drag racing by awarding him one of their six Pioneer Awards.


Swayn has been a member of Willowbank Raceway’s Management Committee since 1983 and became a full board member in 1992. He was also the editor of the track’s magazine The Elapsed Times for 27 years and has been the South Queensland correspondent for Dragster Australia magazine since 1979.


Other drag racers honoured by the ANFA Awards at Sydney Dragway over the weekend were Queenslander “Pommie Pete’’ Allen, Victorians Jim Walton and Ian Splatt, and NSW’s Ron and Alan Moore and Bob Honeybrook.


Previous recipients of the ANFA Pioneer Award include Willowbank’s first manager Dennis Syrmis and Queensland racing icons Jim and Nelma Reed.


When accepting the award, Swayn acknowledged two people who had paved the way for his success as a journalist in Australian drag racing.


“In the late 1970s, when I kept breaking the gearbox and diff in my Falcon at Surfers Raceway, I decided to take a break from racing and accepted an invitation by David Cook, the first publisher of Dragster Australia, to be the South Queensland correspondent for his magazine,” said Swayn, who was introduced by Cook at the award ceremony as the “best drag racing writer in Australia.”


“That opportunity led to me being able to cover the sport, not just from this state, but all over Australia. It meant I got to know people from every category in racing and became friends with many of them. It’s been a great privilege to have been able to do this.


“The second person I want to acknowledge is Willowbank Raceway’s manager from 1983 to 2002, Dennis Syrmis. When Willowbank was being built in the early 1980s, Dennis had a vision that we would have a track magazine called The Elapsed Times and he wanted me to be the editor. That publication grew from a 12-page newspaper in 1985 to a 64-page, full colour, glossy magazine and I’m very proud of the fact that The Elapsed Times was generally acknowledged as the best track magazine in the world.


“My contribution to the sport has not only been in print. Another thing I have found extremely rewarding is funding the reconstruction of the Goodnight, Keith and Williamson AA/Gas Dragster which toured this country in 1966. Preserving the history of our sport is vital and this car played a huge part in the emergence of drag racing in Australia in the ‘60s. It was a special moment when we fired up the Courtesy Chevrolet Special on the start line at the 2011 Winternationals.


“I have put a lot of passion, and time, into drag racing. I’ve spent countless hours writing about and working for Willowbank. It was like having two full-time jobs, but it has certainly been a labour of love and I don’t regret one moment. To be able to mingle with race drivers of all descriptions, from Top Fuel all the way to Junior Dragster, as well as fans, officials, photographers, stewards and management has been a very enriching experience and I feel honoured to have had my contributions recognised with this award.”  


Willowbank Raceway Chief Executive Officer Tony Manson was pleased to congratulate Swayn on his award on behalf of the entire Willowbank Raceway community.


“Willowbank Raceway was built and set on its path to success by people who were at the forefront of drag racing in Australia and one of those people was and still is Lex Swayn,” said Manson.


“A large part of the reason Lex received this award is for the work he does for Willowbank – his contributions to our facility and to the sport overall are undeniable and so everyone here at Willowbank Raceway is extremely pleased to see him honoured with this award.”


For more information on the awards or the Australian Nostalgia Fuel Association, go to www.anfa.com.au


Photo by Steve Thomas Photography

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