Two forty-year old Australian drag racing legacies collided last weekend as fifteen time national champion Gary Phillips celebrated four decades in the sport at the 40th Annual Westernationals at the Perth Motorplex.
Turn back the clock forty years, and on opposite sides of the nation, two drag racing icons were being birthed simultaneously, with the advent of a young apprentice radio and television technician from Townsville taking his first looks at the quarter mile on the eastern seaboard, while a courageous group of racers in the west were at the same time forming a fledgling event that would be boldly titled “The Westernationals.”
The Lucas Oils Studebaker sustained a cracked chassis as a result of violent tyre shake in the first round of qualifying, but despite the abrupt end to the team’s racing, the weekend wasn’t over, with Phillips honoured by the West Australian Drag Racing community prior to the Sunday night eliminations show with a commemorative 40th anniversary framed photo collage, thanking him for all the wonderful memories he’d given to the fans in the west.
“To see my career packaged onto a photo collage like that just made me realise how far we’ve come. The bug for racing bit me so bad back at the start that I ended up having dozens of jobs because I wouldn’t have worked up enough annual leave to get time-off to go racing, so I had to quit, then go racing and then find a new job after I got home!” said a reflective Phillips.
Motorplex Drag Racing Manager, Peter Pike was delighted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to who he referred to as “a true legend of the sport.”
“You only have to look at his championship tally to see how much impact he has had on our sport, and that doesn’t even take into account the countless records and match race wins he has amassed over that forty years,” he said. “His career is really quite astounding.”