ANDRA Fastlane ANDRA_FASTLANEED26 - Page 8

last ten years or so of his life that he told me to call him Eddie – I still always called him Mr Thomas or Mr T, it was a special thing for all of us kids.” In mid-1965 as Eddie closed in on the ten- second barrier, it became obvious that a new dragster was needed to keep up with the demands of better slicks and ever- increasing horsepower, and so he built one from a set of plans he saw advertised in a US hot rodding magazine and went on to be the first racer in the country to go into the tens, and then the nines and the eights. At the same time, he was also the first man to break through the 150mph barrier. “I remember when we went out to Calder Park Dragway to test the old car before he built the new one and the four of us were out there just before Christmas in the boiling heat with no shade, and there were Dad and Eddie both in their collars and ties, Eddie driving the dragster,” Robbie said. “We push started him down the main straight going the wrong way and he was smoking the tyres and going through the ‘esses’ sideways, he never had forgotten his speedway background! I was sitting in the car watching and I wish now that we had had a camera!” Come 1966, a US drag racing team visited Australia for Dragfest, a time which many credit as a huge advancement and coming of age for the Australian drag racing industry. Unlike today, where top Australian drag teams are up to speed with American developments, in the 1960s Australian racers were many years behind. Despite this, Eddie proved himself to be highly competitive against the US visitors despite running methanol, an achievement which is fondly remembered by many who knew him even today. With the close of Riverside in late 1966, Eddie went on to have a quiet period until Calder Park opened in 1968, but once he came back to face the new breed of Top Fuelers – including Graham Withers’ ‘Ampol GT’ and Ash Marshall’s ‘Scorcher’ – he showed that his old style car still had plenty of merit with a best time of 8.55 seconds. Unfortunately, the car would break its crankshaft on that run and with the building pressures of an expanding business, Eddie decided that it was time for retirement following a remarkable four year career on the track which many say changed Australian drag racing forever. GREATNESS LARRY ‘BIG O’ ORMSBY From on-track success to playing key roles in the development of the sport from behind the scenes, the ‘Big O’ is a legend of Australian drag racing. Larry Ormsby rose to prominence in the late 1960s with a series of GT and GT HO Falcons in Street, Stock and Pro Stock – with his performances bringing him to the attention of the legendary Al Turner and earning him full Ford Motor Company factory support – before moving on to a series of rear engine dragsters.