Although my first contact with drag racing came about after my father and uncle dragged Mom and I to Blackbushe Airport to see the 2nd International Dragfest in 1965, my first real involvement with the sport came in 1973.  To be more precise September 9th 1973 when the National Drag Racing Club held their first ever drag race at Long Marston on the old market runway.

I can remember the day as if it were yesterday.
  The one day event was the fifth and penultimate round of the Castrol/RAC National Drag Racing Championship – a series of races which had already visited Blackbushe, Wroughton, Fulbeck and Silverstone.  I got involved through my father Gerry Cookson who then raced an F/Class Dragster with a blown 1071 cc BMC engine called 'The Joker'.

Much earlier after attending the first ever drag race at Santa Pod in 1966, my father raced normally aspirated BMC powered dragsters under the racing name of 'Trouble Shooter', but that changed after an unfortunate incident in the fire-up road at Santa Pod in 1969 when the push bar broke. There were no self starters in those days. If you wanted it to go, you push started it.

Back to Long Marston, while dad was racing I pitched a small display of my most treasured drag racing models in the local club tent which included a scratch-built start line featuring a Christmas tree and the dragsters of Don Garlits and Tom McEwen.

Attracting a lot of attention under canvas, the bigger more powerful stuff was attracting a spectator attendance of over 5,000.
  The strip used is the runway used today for the pits and the Sunday Market.  In fact, the start line was opposite the field which is now home to the airfield's aircraft museum.

The big attraction was a three-way round robin Top Fuel match up between the ex Kuhl & Olson Castrol dragster of Clive Skilton, Dennis Priddle in the history making Mr Six, and Roland Pratt driving the Accles & Pollock entry; the former ride of Clive Skilton.

National Drag Racer reporter Kevin Rees wrote, “to see Priddle blast off the line in the front engined car, slicks smoking just like the ‘good old days’ was a treat for all long time Top Fuel fans, but times have changed and it was the more conventional back motored car which fared better under the conditions”.
  Skilton was judged to be the quickest for the win at 7.23 seconds at 208 mph.'

As to my dad's performance, well he carried on his winning ways by taking the Middle Dragster eliminator win over Malcolm Locker's Midi-Witch dragster with a brace of mid eleven second runs at 120 mph. Not bad for a four cylinder powered dragster on rock hard circuit tyres!

At the end of the day, and at most meetings, while Mom and Dad packed up the trailer I helped the marshals pack away the makeshift drag strip into their customary NDRC tour Commer bus which, as a heavy goods hauler, doubled up on the day as race control.
  I made a lot of good friends in that time. Guys like start line marshals John Fordham, big Pete, and top end jockey Bomber, many of whom featured in the Castrol film 'Drag On A Summer Day' from Silverstone.

Since then I have written race reports and features for various club magazines as well as being a field reporter for Motoring News (today's Motorsport News), UK Drag Racer, Drag Racing News, Street Rod & Machine Monthly, and many others including the NHRA's house magazine National Dragster.

As you will see from my first page I also edited, as well as printed it, the much loved 'Fire Up' magazine, and after that 'European Dragster'. Together with taking up commentary duties at Avon Park, working alongside notable voices like John Price, Graham Beckwith and Steve Young from Santa Pod and York Raceways, the last thirty or so years have been very busy for me hence why I thought I would share some of my lasting memories of drag racing with a few of my photos as well as some never before published gems taken by a bunch of good mates of mine who, like me, are still very much active with the sport they love so much snapping images at Santa Pod and Shakespeare County.

I owe a great deal of thanks to Mom and Dad for allowing me get involved as I did at such an early age, to all the marshals I have known over the years, friends of teams and racers, and to the late Alan Wigmore for letting it all happen - the original commentating voice of Long Marston - thanks.  It's been a blast.

 

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