After a fifteen championship winning career spanning forty years, Gary Phillips made his first appearance in Tasmania last weekend claiming Top Qualifier honours in the third round of Slamfest at Powranna Raceway.
“We’re rapt to top qualify with a 4.222 at 176.47mph. The team here have put in a huge effort getting the track up to spec for eighth mile racing and I reckon we could have sold a tanker-load of Lucas products out of the boot of the Studebaker after the amount of enquiries we’ve had!”
“It’s so good to take the Lucas name to a market where the people may have see the name on the shelf at the shop, but now they have seen a 3000 horsepower race car actually use the product. I think that makes us all happy,” he said.
Despite the threatening clouds, rain avoided the raceway until just after the final pass, giving the 6000 strong methanol starved crowd a rare taste of a legitimate Doorslammer elimination competition, with Phillips advancing to the semi finals (after a 4.17 182mph run in first round) only to be pipped at the stripe by series points leader, Peter Kapiris (4.15 to 4.26).
Claiming the top qualifier spot and reaching the semis in Tasmania was a carbon copy of the team’s results sheet from their race day at Heathcote just three weeks earlier, proving the car has the goods to continue going rounds.
“The last time we raced at Heathcote was January 25, 1992, so it was almost exactly twenty years. The venue has still got that same family friendly feel it had way back then, when we racing the blown funny car,” Phillips said, unsure if the delayed return to the Victorian venue made him feel nostalgic or ‘just plain old.’
“And this track in Tassie is very similar. It’s so great to race in front of crowds that haven’t had the chance to see much doorslammer racing, so everything has a “wow factor” for them and their appreciation at the end of the meet was overwhelming.”
Gary with his wife Debbie and son Cheyne fell in love with the famed Apple Isle falling for the fabled charm of the fantastic weather, relaxed lifestyle and the unique fauna that has elevated the cartooned “Tassie Devil” to international cult status.
“This is a beautiful place and we’ve been fortunate to take in some of the sites but we’d love to make a bit more time to look around if we can come back again,” Phillips said, as pleased with his sightseeing as he was with the performance of the Lucas Oils Studebaker.
However, the “Holiday Isle” served the Lucas Oils team anything but a relaxing break, with the championship winning Studebaker quickly sailed across the Bass Strait to start its five day journey to the western side of the nation to contest the ANDRA Pro Series Top Doorslammer Championship at the Perth Motorplex this weekend.
“The Westernationals is special for us as it has been around as long as we have in this sport,” Phillips said, matching the 41st running of the event with his forty-first year in racing.
“I’m really comfortable with the car again and so we’re confident that we’ll make a good showing over there making the switch to the full quarter mile again. We can’t wait!”
The Lucas Oils Studebaker will take to the Motorplex for qualifying at 6, 8 and 10pm on Saturday March 3, with eliminations starting at 6pm on the Sunday.