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After competing in a street car for four years Tony Thornton built this blown gas Volkswagen for the then Modified bracket.

: On the other side of the coin, what do you feel were the low points of that term – no track in Sydney for instance, bad publicity from street racing et al.

TT: The losses of Eastern Creek in 1997 and the southern tracks (Melbourne and Adelaide) around 2001 were certainly low points, particularly in terms of the opportunities Melbourne had before it. The public liability insurance crisis of 2002 was also a dark time but the whole ANDRA organisation including the member tracks responded in a positive way.

Street racing is a problem at community level and all drag racing can do is continue provide and promote options, and demonstrate what “real” drag racing is. Access to affordable high performance cars is relatively easy and the culture that’s developed is not as compatible with drag racing as it once was. The sport needs to be more user friendly on that front.

In terms of calling street racing drag racing, the immediacy of the media and the need for a catchy headline have made our problem harder but there are a number of responsible journos who present things in a balanced way. ANDRA has put a lot of work into making news agencies more aware over many years.

: Can you outline a bit about your own racing career. Did you build your cars, have any records and wins etc. With this in mind were you happy with the rise of the sport compact side of things – where do you think the future lies for that type of racing?

TT: I started racing at the first street meeting in Adelaide (South Australia) in 1973 – in a Volkswagen of course. I planned to go off-road racing but after looking at the investment, and hooking up with Ken and Glen Virgin, the first car was built by me in 1977. After building a supercharged engine I started running in the Gas classes and enjoyed much success. The first roof chop car was built in 1978. It had a full tube chassis with struts and the body was built by Keith Burgan. That car was awarded the Best Engineered Vehicle Trophy at the 1979 Nationals and was picked by the ANDRA National Director of the day, Dennis Syrmis. That has always remained a very special memory. We held National Records for elapsed time and speed over a five-year period.

In 1981 that car crashed in Adelaide and Burgan again built another body. At the next event at Calder Park in August 1982 the new car crashed after exiting the top end lights and I decided to look at other ways of being involved in the sport. (Tony’s crash was simply huge and it was just due to the fact that the car was built so well that he didn’t sustain permanent injuries – see www.youtube.com - Ed) With a 116 cubic inch four cylinder and 32 pound of boost I suppose the concept of sport compact started a long time ago for me. Around ten years ago I sat with Tony Wedlock and Bruce Agate watching the Jamboree at Willowbank and we agreed that we were watching part of the future of the sport. Those guys were leaders in Australian Pro Stock, but now they’re running a six-cylinder Toyota Solara.

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